Eastern Edge: Early returns from the East’s top lines

Brennan Des

2019-10-29

 

In this week’s Eastern Edge, we’ll take a look at how top lines in the Eastern Conference have been performing so far this season. I used our Line Combination Tool to determine which players have been deployed together most frequently since the beginning of the year. As a result, some of the combinations you see below may have since been altered, but keep in mind that they have been used quite often during the young 2019-2020 campaign. The table below displays each line, how many goals they’ve scored and allowed at even strength, as well as their Corsi For percentage (shot attempt share) and time on ice (TOI). All advanced stats were retrieved from NaturalStatTrick.com.                                                                                                                                                                                       

Team

Line

GF

GA

CF%

TOI

BOS

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

 

12

5

60.45

117:31

BUF

Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart

 

8

7

45.34

160:54

CAR

Teuvo Teravainen – Sebastian Aho – Nino Niederreiter

 

4

3

64.29

85:10

CBJ

Gustav Nyquist – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cam Atkinson

 

4

2

52.50

79:09

DET

Tyler Bertuzzi – Dylan Larkin – Anthony Mantha

 

10

9

54.72

122:54

FLA

Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Evgenii Dadonov

 

11

14

58.17

117:09

MTL

Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher

 

8

7

60.48

109.03

NJ

Taylor Hall – Nico Hischier – Kyle Palmieri

 

4

4

53.49

56:34

NYI

Anders Lee – Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle

 

1

2

47.22

66:12

NYR

Artemi Panarin – Mika Zibanejad – Pavel Buchnevich

 

4

4

46.49

55:19

OTT

Brady Tkachuk – Colin White – Tyler Ennis

 

0

1

55.29

38:06

PHI

James van Riemsdyk – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek

 

6

2

64.36

46:51

PIT

Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Dominik Simon

 

9

5

54.09

156:40

TB

Nikita Kucherov – Brayden Point – Steven Stamkos

 

5

2

49.12

54:52

TOR

Andreas Johnsson – Auston Matthews – William Nylander

 

8

5

61.64

135:11

WSH

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

 

8

5

51.02

92:37

 

One thing that stands out immediately is the dominance of Boston’s top line, as the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio is outscoring opponents by the widest margin on this list. They’ve been thoroughly outplaying the opposition, controlling 59% of all scoring chances and 61.5% of all high danger opportunities created while they’re on the ice. Nobody in the league has more goals or points than Pastrnak as he’s lit the lamp 11 times and collected 23 points through 11 games. While he probably won’t score on 30% of his shots all year, a 50-goal season is certainly in the cards if he can stay healthy.

 

It looks like coach Rod Brind’Amour is opting to stack his top line with young talent as Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov were skating together in Monday’s practice. That leaves Nino Niederreiter with Jordan Staal and Warren Foegele. The Hurricanes snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 4-0 win against the Blackhawks. In that game, Aho and Svechnikov were playing with Foegele, while Nino and Teravainen were playing with Staal. Aho and Niederreiter – whose slow starts to the season have been well documented – each managed two points against Chicago, so I’m quite surprised that the lines are being shaken up ahead of Tuesday’s clash with the Flames. Brind’Amour has plenty of talent at his disposal in Carolina, so expect frequent changes to the forward units until the team is firing on all cylinders.

 

Here’s your daily reminder that Montreal’s top line of Tatar, Danault, and Gallagher continue to be one of the most underrated trios in the league. Through nearly 700 minutes of even-strength action last year, they managed to outscore opponents 42 to 22 while controlling 61.2% of the shot-share. Each member of the line exhibits a diligent attitude as they fight for every puck. That strong work ethic has translated to plenty of successful assignments in the defensive zone as they’ve gained coach Claude Julien’s trust on both ends of the ice. The strong two-way play of the Tatar-Danault-Gallagher unit has allowed Julien to experiment with a more offensive-minded trio that includes Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi and Joel Armia. Now don’t get me wrong, Drouin and Armia have played well defensively this season, but their goal-scoring abilities have been especially noticeable; through 32 minutes of ice-time this year, the Drouin-Domi-Armia line has controlled 63.9% of the shot-share, 76.9% of scoring chances and 71.4% of high danger opportunities. Sure, the sample size is small, but it’s encouraging to see strong possession numbers support a favorable eye test. Some might be scared that Drouin is scoring on 18.5% of his shots when his shooting percentage has been closer to 10% in recent years, but I’m telling you this is a different player than we’ve seen before. Sure, he also had a hot start to the 2018-2019 campaign with 17 points in 20 games, but I can promise you he wasn’t playing as well as he is now. He seems to be making the right play on almost every shift while displaying an element of determination that was absent from his game in years past. Perhaps a rigorous review of his game with assistant coach Dominique Ducharme during the offseason is responsible for his evolution into the elite player he was projected to be back in the 2013 draft.  

 

 

Jack Hughes was recently moved to New Jersey’s top line between Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri and has five points in his last three games. While it’s tempting to believe the promotion has sparked Hughes’ production, it doesn’t seem to be that simple. Through 26 minutes of ice-time this season, the Hall-Hughes-Palmieri trio hasn’t scored a goal at even strength. With that being said, their possession numbers are fine and they’re creating a fair amount of scoring chances (keep in mind the sample size is still small). I anticipate Hall will be reunited with Nico Hischier sooner rather than later as the two of them have had great success in the past. Since the 2017-2018 campaign, Hall and Hischier have played nearly 1300 minutes together and have controlled 52% of the shot-share, 57.4% of high-danger opportunities and outscored opponents 87 to 65. New Jersey’s line combinations will be in flux until the team starts meeting the expectations that were outlined for them following a number of big-name offseason acquisitions.

 

Mika Zibanejad will be out of the lineup on Tuesday when the Rangers host the Lightning, so New York’s lines will be shuffled accordingly. As I write this, coach David Quinn has revealed that Filip Chytil (called up from Hartford) will center Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich, but the other lines are up in the air. Don’t be surprised to see Ryan Strome play between Artemi Panarin and Kaapo Kakko on Tuesday night. Strome has been excellent recently with seven points in his last seven games.

 

I feel like Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel aren’t mentioned enough when we discuss the league’s best duos. Through 12 games, Crosby has 14 points and Guentzel has 12. It’s remarkable that they’ve been able to produce at such a high level even while guys like Evgeni Malkin and Alex Galchenyuk are out with injuries. You’d expect that opposing teams devote most of their time and energy into shutting down Pittsburgh’s first line without Malkin in the lineup, but somehow Crosby and Guentzel are still able to overcome the opposition. Dominik Simon is currently the third member of Pittsburgh’s top line and has impressed with five points in his last seven games. Last season, the Guentzel-Crosby-Simon trio saw 200 minutes of action and outscored opponents 18 to 9 at even strength. In the process, they controlled 61.5% of the shot-share, 63.4% of all scoring chances and 70% of the high danger opportunities created while they were on the ice. With that being said, Bryan Rust saw the most time beside Crosby and Guentzel last year and he also fared quite well. With Rust’s recent return to the lineup, don’t be surprised to see him reclaim his spot on the top line.

 

 

T.J Oshie and Tom Wilson have seen an equal share of time beside Backstrom and Ovi this season, with the line boasting better possession numbers when Wilson is on it but scoring more goals when Oshie is on it.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency BUF Players
30.4% JACK EICHEL SAM REINHART JEFF SKINNER
24.2% ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS JOHAN LARSSON KYLE OKPOSO
20.1% CURTIS LAZAR WAYNE SIMMONDS JIMMY VESEY

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