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Ranking the defensemen groups of all 16 Stanley Cup playoff teams

Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs starting this week, we're taking a slightly different tack to get you ready for Round 1. In this column, we're going to rank the defensive corps of all 16 qualifying teams, similar to how we did with ranking the forward groups as well.

These lists generate plenty of quality discussion and passionate debate. Everyone loves a good list, after all. But bear in mind that this is ultimately meant to serve as a fun thought exercise rather than some sort of scientific ranking. All of these teams made the playoffs for a reason, after all, so even the club in the No. 16 slot is doing something right. If there's criticism, it's just relative to the competition.

So with those caveats out of the way, let's count down from 16 to 1:


16. New York Islanders

The Islanders are going to be hard-pressed to generate enough offense to keep up with the Penguins in the opening round regardless of what they do, considering the personnel they have. One potential solution for that is to start playing Devon Toews more. Of the seven defensemen New York has regularly used this season, he's currently at the very bottom of that list in terms of average 5-on-5 usage, which will need to change.

The combination of his skating ability and offensive creativity are something this team sorely needs, and the fact that he doesn't take any penalties -- being whistled for just one infraction in more than 700 total 5-on-5 minutes -- is of immense value against a team with as potent a power play as the Penguins have. It's come in relatively sheltered minutes, but 53.3 percent shot share and 57.2 percent expected goal rate that the combination of Toews and Scott Mayfield have generated together is a pleasant departure from the underlying numbers of the majority of the Isles' other pairings.