Keith Yandle

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

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USA TODAY Sports photo

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

Being an NHL defenseman is not an easy task. There are the obvious responsibilities at the defensive end where these players must block shots, win battles, break pucks out cleanly and efficiently and keep the puck out of their net at all costs. 

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Then there are the requirements for the truly special D-man that also impacts the game at the offensive end. That's what separates John Carlson, Roman Josi and Alex Pietrangelo from the run-of-the-mill NHL defensemen. The top four or five names on this list should be the names you see on the Norris Trophy ballots as they check off just about every box and that makes them the league's best defensemen right now.

NHL Positional Rankings: Ranking the league's top 10 defensemen

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Positional Rankings: Ranking the league's top 10 defensemen

Look at the NHL's top five scorers this season and you'll see that it includes two pairs of teammates — Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, along with the Bruins' Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

All of those players are also forwards, but the player occupying the No. 5 spot is a defenseman: Washington's John Carlson.

The Massachusetts native has racked up 36 points so far this season, and he's already more than halfway to last year's career-high total of 70.

While the offensive numbers are eye-popping, do they add up to him being the top blueliner in the league?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's ranking of the Top 10 defensemen in the NHL right now.>>>>>

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 shootout loss to the Panthers: Rough night for Tuukka Rask

Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 shootout loss to the Panthers: Rough night for Tuukka Rask

GOLD STAR: Keith Yandle has enjoyed games at both ends of the spectrum against his hometown Bruins team and he had a spectacular effort against the Black and Gold on Tuesday night. Yandle jumped up to score the tying goal with 1:29 left in the third period and finished with a goal and three points along with a plus-1 rating in a team-leading 25:48 of ice time while spearheading the third-period comeback for Florida. Yandle also finished with five shot attempts and four blocked shots in a gutsy win for Florida. His celebration after his tying goal said it all for a kid playing with a group of local hockey players on the Panthers roster.

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask coughed up four goals on 12 shots in the third period and was one of the main culprits behind a collapse of epic proportions. The first goal allowed came less than a minute into the third and that allowed the Panthers to start gathering some momentum. Rask then allowed a third goal that was as leaky as they come. Mike Hoffman tucked it inside the short-side post when he was late covering the crease. That makes two rough games for Rask in his past three and a big, big role for the Bruins goaltender in a pair of bad divisional losses to the Canadiens and the Panthers.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were up by four goals and had limited the Panthers to just 12 shots on net in the first two periods, so nobody could have predicted what was going to happen to them in the final 20 minutes. The Bruins totally caved in while allowing four unanswered goals and were outshot 12-9 while taking a pair of penalties that allowed the Panthers to get some life on the power play. The entire third period was a problem for the Black and Gold where Florida kept gathering momentum and the Bruins could do little to stop things whether by scoring another goal or by Rask stepping up and making some key saves. Instead, the Bruins folded and then predictably lost in the shootout as they have a couple of times this season. The result was a fourth consecutive loss. 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak brought his A-game to the table on Tuesday night even if many of his teammates didn’t. The 23-year-old scored his 16th goal of the season as part of a four-goal barrage in the second period. He also registered a game-high eight shots on net in his 21:55 of ice time. Pastrnak finished with 11 shot attempts and was okay even after he got clocked with a careless elbow from Vincent Trocheck that elicited a quick response from Brad Marchand sticking up for his linemate in the third period. Unfortunately for Pastrnak and the Bruins, the B’s explosive winger was never chosen to take part in the shootout after. Bruce Cassidy opted for Chris Wagner and Charlie McAvoy among his four shooters instead of No. 88.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – The number of road teams that have come back from a four-goal deficit in the third period in NHL history. Home or road, it's only happened 19 times. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's on us. We played solid hockey in the first two periods and made some strong plays. Obviously, in the third period, we gave them too much space and time. We need to look at it and we need to play the same way for 60 minutes.” –Zdeno Chara, on the Bruins blowing a four-goal lead in the third period en route to the 5-4 shootout loss.

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