Defending against the Connor McDavids, Auston Matthews, and Nathan MacKinnons of the world isn't easy, but hey, someone has to do it.

It probably gets a little easier if you have one of these six pairs on your blue line, though.

From already established duos to new partners on the scene, here are the top defensive pairs heading into the 2022-23 campaign.

All stats are from the 2021-22 season at five-on-five:
TOI = time on ice together
CF% = corsi for percentage
GF% = goals for percentage
xGF% = expected goals for percentage

 

6. Jaccob Slavin-Brent Burns

We won't know how a Slavin-Burns pairing will actually work until we see it in action. But on paper, this potential dynamic duo looks pretty damn good, which warrants giving Slavin and Burns a spot on this list.

After being the guy and averaging 26 minutes per game for the struggling San Jose Sharks, Burns will now have one of the league's best defensemen in Slavin to fall back on. He's no longer the blue-liner who won the Norris Trophy in 2017, but Burns will have more time and space to lean on his strengths while playing with the Carolina Hurricanes' dynamite defense corps.

Plus, Burns can still bring it offensively. He boasts a devastating shot, and he chipped in with 10 tallies and 44 assists in 82 games last season on a Sharks squad that mustered the third-fewest goals in the league. In all likelihood, the 37-year-old will thrive within a structured Hurricanes system that loves shooting the puck from anywhere and everywhere.

Even visually - especially with their beard game - the 6-foot-3 Slavin and the 6-foot-5 Burns make quite the pair. They also ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, among all defensemen in takeaways last season, they aren't afraid to block a shot, and they eat up a lot of tough minutes. Slavin also has a knack for making his partner look better, while Burns should more than make up for the loss of Tony DeAngelo. Look for these new teammates to make a ruckus in Raleigh.

 

5. Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox

At first glance, Lindgren's and Fox's underlying stats this past season aren't anything to write home about, especially when you compare them to the 2020-21 campaign when Fox won the Norris Trophy.

However, New York had a wacky season analytically in 2021-22. The Rangers only ranked 14th in the league in GF% and 24th in xGF% despite a 52-win campaign. Much of that team's success can be chalked up to stud goaltender Igor Shesterkin, but Lindgren and Fox also played a part: New York's GF% (50.3) and xGF% (45.4) at five-on-five dipped by nearly 5% each without them on the ice.