Ramblings: New CBA; odds; play-in schedule; line combinations – July 9

Michael Clifford


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It came out late Tuesday night that the new NHL CBA has now been passed on to the players. It will be a full NHLPA membership vote on the CBA and requires a majority to pass. It sure seems like we'll get some labour peace for the next several seasons, which is always nice. I'd like to thank the NHL Board of Governors for not cancelling an entire season because they're greedy a*$#(^@& for the second time, nor cancelling half a season for the second time. I'd like to thank both sides for (likely) coming to terms on this so quickly. It's nice to see people getting along.


I'm not a sports bettor. I do play fantasy and DFS, but actual sports betting is something I've generally eschewed. Not sure why, honestly. I just haven't gotten into it.

All the same, as of yesterday afternoon on Pinnacle, both the Leafs and Penguins had better Cup odds than Dallas. Those first two teams are playing the play-ins, Dallas is not. Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic published his Cup odds several weeks ago. Bettor beware.


It seems like the NHL, at least for the play-ins, is going to look for three games a day at each site. If you're in the East, that would basically mean hockey games starting at noon (or maybe 1 PM) every day, and then a game starting every two hours until 10-11 at night. Or, put another way, 12+ hours of playoff hockey every day.

If a game starts at 12 PM and another a 4 PM, what do they do about overtime? There could easily be a triple overtime game somewhere. Does that mean one game gets pushed to like midnight local time? Also, if a game starts at 12 PM and goes to 3 PM, can they sanitize the hallways/rink/benches in 30 minutes? There are still questions that need answering, and, really, time is running out. Teams report to their hubs in about two weeks.


Yesterday's Ramblings talked about some of the teams that are getting first-round byes this year. (Is that what we're calling it? A first-round bye? Play-in bye? Wild-card bye? Bye bye bye?) More specifically, I wanted to get into the line combinations these teams were using when the league was suspended. We're going to have limited information once teams get in the bubble due to limited media access, so let's get familiar with these now, and adjust as needed. Cool? Cool. Like yesterday, we're going to use Dobber Tools for our line combinations and we're going to focus on the final 10 games before the break hit.



There were a few teams that were just decimated by injury this year, and Colorado was certainly among them. In their final game heading into the break, they were missing Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Nazem Kadri. (I'm sure there were others; it was just a cursory look at the box score.) All the same, each of Makar, Landeskog, Rantanen, Burakovsky, and Kadri all missed at least 10 games this year, some closer to 20. That meant a lot of line shuffling and juggling, which is also why reading into just the line combinations of the final 10 games may not be our only timeframe.

Heading into the break, Colorado's top PP unit was almost exclusively MacKinnon, Landeskog, J.T. Compher, and Tyson Jost. That was without Rantanen, Kadri, and Burakovsky around, though. I would assume both Compher and Jost come off with Rantanen and one of Kadri/Burakovsky. In fact, the two most popular PP combinations for Colorado this year were:

  • Big Three plus Kadri
  • MacKinnon-Donskoi-Kadri-Burakovsky

Were I to guess, I think we get Big Three plus Kadri out of the gate, but Burakovsky is the next man up, and could be the first man up by the time their playoffs actually begin.

One interesting tidbit about the even-strength lines heading into the playoffs was that Vladislav Namestnikov (yes, he's in Colorado now) was on the top line with Landeskog and MacKinnon. We have seen one of Rantanen or Landeskog drop down to the second line before. One reason for that is the trio of Donskoi-Kadri-Burakovsky weren't great as a line this year (Bura, particularly, was good elsewhere), but were the beneficiaries of great goaltending behind them. Dropping Landeskog down a line, then dropping one of Bura/Donskoi to the third line would help spread things out a bit more.

Everyone knows the Big Three and Makar, but don't forget about someone like Kadri. If he ends up on PP1 (I think he will), he could be in for a big postseason.


St. Louis

The big news here is the return of Vladimir Tarasenko. He hasn't played since October, so using recent line combinations won't help a ton.

Out of the gate, I want to mention the rise of Robert Thomas's ice time. The first two quarters of the season saw TOI rates of 13:43 and 13:59. The latter two quarters rose to 15:22 and 15:47. In fact, in their five games in March, Thomas was fifth among the team's forwards in 5-on-5 TOI per game, and he had often been skating on a line with David Perron and Zach Sanford, or down on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Alex Steen.

My hope is that Thomas stays on the second line and they run something like Schwartz-O'Reilly-Tarasenko and Schenn-Thomas-Perron. Thomas has really picked up his game since he entered the league and I think he's on the cusp of a breakout playoff performance.

The power play was something that was fairly regular: Schenn-Schwartz-O'Reilly-Perron. That particular quartet comprised over half the team's PP combinations. The question is which guy gets removed for Tarasenko. Earlier in the season, they either ran 3-forward PP units with Tarasenko, or four-forward units with Tarasenko and Robby Fabbri. Fabbri is now in Detroit, so there's not much that we can tell. My guess is Schwartz is taken off, but I feel fairly certain saying it's him or Perron.

Just one final small note: if memory serves, Vince Dunn got a bit of solo power-play time at times this year. Alex Pietrangelo is obviously still the PP1QB, but if they falter, I would expect Dunn to pick up some slack.



There's honestly just not a lot to cover here. We know the Perfection Line, and Krejci/DeBrusk have been largely joined at the hip for three years now. My assumption is that the newly-acquired Ondrej Kase (yes, he's in Boston) is the second-line right winger. Maybe Kase drops to the third line for someone like Charlie Coyle or even Brett Ritchie.

The real question is the power play, because it's a four-forward unit, and there's one spot left.

After Kase was acquired, he only played six games for Boston. In those games, though, he never got to the top PP unit. Rather, he was stapled to the second unit with Krejci and Nick Ritchie. Instead, it was both DeBrusk and Coyle that got the final PP slot on the top unit.

To me, Charlie Coyle has the potential of being a big playoff performer. He had 17 points in his final 27 games, which is over a 50-point pace. That might not seem great, but he was playing often with the top PP unit towards the end of the season, and he averaged 18:34 of total TOI in his final 10 games. I don't care what line he's playing on at even strength, if he's playing over 18 minutes a night and is on the top PP unit for Boston, he has a lot of production potential.



Earlier in the season, Jakub Vrana flat-out replaced Evgeny Kuznetsov on the top PP unit for a handful of games. In the final 10 tilts before the break, Kuzy was sent to the second unit again, but it was a split of Tom Wilson and Vrana on the top PP unit. The consistent trio was Backstrom-Ovechkin-Oshie, with one of Wilson or Vrana.

That really doesn't help us. Vrana could be a point-per-game player with top PP slotting. If he doesn't, he's a lot less. Wilson doesn't have that kind of raw points upside. Seems like this is going to be a headache once playoff drafts roll around.

Final note on the power play: remember that Ilya Kovalchuk is in the fold now. He was pretty consistently on the second PP unit, but that temptation is always there. He was a staple of the third line, too, by the way.

They had often been running an Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson line down the stretch, which seems pretty bad defensively, all told.


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