It was the Penguins teams of recent Cup years that really cemented home to me the necessity of depth in the playoffs. This is very rudimentary, but this is roughly how I see playoff teams at the outset of every year:
- One good line: playoff contender
- Two good lines: may win a round or two
- Three or four good lines: Cup contender
Just look at Cup Finalists in recent seasons: St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Vegas. Most of those teams had reliable third lines, and the ones that didn’t generally had good depth to cobble one together.
It's a little cheat I use when trying to figure out before any season starts to separate the contenders from the non-contenders. Now, teams change at the deadline, and Tampa adding players like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman wildly changed their fortunes.
The Vancouver Canucks have a fantastic core of Pettersson-Horvat-Hughes that any team would covet. They have a nice pair of wingers in J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser, and pending re-signings with guys like Tyler Toffoli, and Jacob Markstrom. That's a great group of players to build around. But the difference we're seeing in the series with Vegas isn't necessarily the difference between Pettersson-Horvat-Miller-Boeser-Hughes and Karlsson-Stastny-Stone-Pacioretty -Theodore. The difference is between Alex Tuch, Nick Cousins, and William Carrier over Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, and Adam Gaudette.
This isn't to pick on Vancouver, it just happens to be a series going on now where the conversation revolves around depth. Chicago had the same issue with Vegas, as Columbus did with Tampa Bay. We saw that play out between Tampa/Boston. [These stats were all going into Monday’s game.] Tampa's third line of Goodrow-Gourde-Coleman had three goals in the first four games at 5-on-5 while each player was