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The Devils Have a Legitimate Shutdown Pair

One of the biggest concerns for the Devils this season has been their inability to defend. While this remains a big concern, this weakness is mitigated somewhat by the play of Jonas Siegenthaler and Damon Severson, who have formed an excellent shutdown pairing capable of defending the league’s best players.

NHL: DEC 08 Flyers at Devils Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week I wrote about how the Devils center depth and how that will likely continue to be one of the few enjoyable things to watch throughout the rest of this season. Since that time, the Devils have managed a 3 game winning streak and now have almost doubled their playoff odds to 2.6% (note that this from January 1st and doesn’t account for their last two games). So they’re turning things around, right? Doubtful, but I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to remain delusional wildly optimistic about this season. That said, today I am going to continue my focus on the journey instead of the end results as we look for positives to take out of this season. The subject of today’s post, the Devils “shutdown” pair of Jonas Siegenthaler and Damon Severson.

Since being paired together on 11/26 against Nashville, the two defenders have played nearly 260 minutes together at 5 on 5. In that time, the two have put together a 52.62 CF% and a xGF% of 55.46, the latter of which tops all NJ defensive pairings with over 20 minutes played at 5 on 5. They also lead all Devils defensive pairings in scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) and high danger corsi for percentage (HDCF%) at 56.25% and 58.75%, respectively. Where they really shine is in shot and scoring chance suppression. Topping the charts in almost every single defensive metric according to Natural Stattrick.

Data from table via natural stat trick

The Veteren

Damon Severson has been the one constant on the Devils blue-line over the last 8 seasons. In most years, particularly once Greene entered his decline he’s been the team’s best blue-liner, despite occasional blunders that leave fans shaking their heads. I’ve stressed this point before and I know I’m basically just beating my head against the wall trying to convince his critics of his value at this point, but I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment. While his net-front presence may leave something to be desired, he kills so many plays through anticipation of the play and makes so many smart, quick reads with the puck in the defensive zone to allow for effective transitions that it more than makes up for what warts he does have. On top of that, every once in a while, he’ll make plays like this...

There’s a reason he’s led the Devils roster (not including goalies) in average TOI the last 4 seasons.

Severson has consistently been a play-driver throughout his career as well, posting positive CF% rel almost every season of his career. This season, Severson has continued his solid 2-way play. He is currently second on the team in xGAR (via evolving hockey), just behind Jesper Bratt, with 5 xGAR. For Severson, this number comes from nearly equal contributions offensively and defensively at even strength. In fact, his even strength defense contribution is second on the team. This is corroborated with the data from TopDownHockey in the graphic below. Severson has continued to grow into a bigger, 2-way role over the last few seasons and will hopefully remain a part of this team for years to come.

The Newcomer

Severson’s partner, Jonas Siegenthaler, is starting to open up some eyes in recent weeks with his superb defensive play. About 6 weeks ago, I wrote about how the Siegenthaler trade was looking like a win for Tom Fitzgerald, and how the blueliner deserved a bigger role. A little over a week later he was promoted to the second pairing with Severson and since then he’s emerged as a key defensive player for New Jersey. In this time, his ATOI has climbed almost 2 minutes to nearly 20 min/game. While his offensive toolkit is very limited, he more than makes up for this with his ability to shut down the other team’s offensive players, and when paired with someone like Severson who is capable of handling the offensive responsibilities on the blue-line, he is in his element.

Siegenthaler has easily been the Devils best shutdown defenseman. He leads the blueline in CA/60 at 5 on 5 (fewest attempts allowed) and is second only to Colton White (who’s only played 75 minutes) in xGA/60 at 2.14 per hour. His xEVD value leads the team at 4.8, which is 3 more than Severson, who is second in this category. His overall xDef leads the Devils as well, at 5.7. By the way, those numbers also lead the entire league, ahead of names like Jaccob Slavin, Miro Heiskanen, Charlie McAvoy, etc. Top down Hockey thinks slightly less of his defensive contributions, only putting him in the 95 percentile defensively. Siegenthaler, at just 24 should be a big part of the future for the Devils if he can continue his current level of play.

As a quick aside, isn’t it really nice to have one of these low risk trades for a defenseman actually pay off?

Each of Severson and Siegenthaler have been effective in their roles this season. Together, they have formed a shutdown pair that can be relied on to ease the defensive burden from the top pair of Graves and Hamilton. I know I will enjoy watching these two continue to play excellent hockey, this year and hopefully in future seasons as well.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts about the Siegenthaler-Severson pairing. Has Siegenthaler’s strong defensive play surprised you? Do you think Siegenthaler should get a look with Hamilton instead? What do you think the Devils blue-line looks like in a few years? Are these two defensemen a part of the future for New Jersey? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!