Lining Up: Deep Playoff Pool Targets from Top Playoff Teams

by Brennan Des on April 2, 2019
  • Lining Up
  • Lining Up: Deep Playoff Pool Targets from Top Playoff Teams

 

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs just around the corner, you’re probably getting ready to assemble the ultimate roster for your playoff pool. Luckily for you, I’ve done a ‘quick’ lineup review for the top-8 qualifying teams. Stay tuned for next week’s article where we’ll cover the remaining eight playoff teams! Follow me on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza for line combinations and injury updates as they playoffs approach!

 

Western Conference

 

Winnipeg Jets (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

 Nikolaj EhlersMark ScheifeleBlake Wheeler

23

13

51.68

403:58

Kyle ConnorKevin HayesPatrik Laine 

5

2

44.87

37:54

Adam LowryBryan Little – Brandon Tanev  

5

3

41.70

145:07

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

Last year, the Winnipeg Jets put up an impressive 52-20-10 record, winning nine of their last ten regular season games. This season, their 46-29-4 record is much less impressive, and it isn’t reassuring to see that they’ve lost four of their last six games. One of the biggest differences between this season and last season for the Jets has been Connor Hellebuyck’s play. Last year he went 44-11-9, with a .924 SV% and 2.36 GAA – numbers which got him nominated for the Vezina. He hasn’t been nearly as good this season, with a rather pedestrian 33-23-2 record alongside a .913 SV% and 2.91 GAA. While Winnipeg’s lineup features many scoring threats, it’s hard to imagine the team makes a deep run into the playoffs without solid play from Hellebuyck.

While the line combinations I listed above feature Nikolaj Ehlers beside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, it’s important to note that both Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor have also seen significant time beside Scheifele and Wheeler. However, when Connor is on the top line, they’ve been outscored 27 to 36 and when Laine is on the top line, they’ve been outscored 14 to 20.

 

St. Louis Blues (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

Brayden SchennRyan O’ReillyVladimir Tarasenko  

20

12

54.01

283:27

Jaden Schwartz – Oskar Sundqvist – David Perron   

6

4

51.57

86:43

Pat MaroonTyler BozakRobert Thomas   

12

11

52.08

250:42

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

I don’t think we truly appreciate just how good the St. Louis Blues have been in the second half of the season. Since the beginning of 2019, the Blues have played 42 games and sport a 28-10-4 record. In that timeframe they’ve accumulated the most points (60) in the league – tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning who have an impressive 29-8-2 record in that span. Jordan Binnington has been integral in St. Louis’ turnaround, winning 22 of the 30 games he’s played while sporting a .928 SV% and 1.85 GAA. How many times have we seen a hot goalie take a team to the Stanley Cup Final? I mean Marc-Andre Fleury almost single-handedly won it all for Vegas last year! I mention all this so you can give the Blues the respect they deserve when it comes time for your playoff pool draft. If you underestimate St Louis, they’ll give you the Blues.

 

Calgary Flames (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanElias Lindholm

59

42

54.47

855:19

Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik 

32

15

59.18

422:28

Sam BennettMark JankowskiJames Neal  

6

10

50.65

154:22

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

Calgary is one of a very few teams with two excellent forward lines that have been together for the duration of the season. The top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm has been in the conversation for one of the league’s best lines, as each member has the ability to take over a game. Lindholm has complemented Monahan and Gaudreau extremely well and the trio has established a level of chemistry that is rare to find between three players in the NHL. What’s even more impressive to me is the fact that the team’s second line has absolutely dominated opponents – outscoring them by a tally of 32 to 15! While James Neal has struggled to produce in his first year with the Flames, he does have 100 games of playoff experience. So, he might be someone you consider drafting in your playoff pool if you think Calgary is going to make a deep run this season. The team will likely face off against the Avalanche or Coyotes in round one of the playoffs and will be favoured to win in either matchup.

 

San Jose Sharks (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

Tomas HertlLogan CoutureTimo Meier

19

16

55.07

243:39

Evander KaneJoe PavelskiGustav Nyquist

0

0

0

0

  Marcus SorensenJoe ThorntonKevin Labanc

20

12

53:36

369:30

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

Since Gustav Nyquist arrived in San Jose, we haven’t had a chance to see where he fits into a fully healthy Sharks’ roster. Nyquist played his first game as a member of the Sharks on February 26th against the Bruins, a game in which Evander Kane suffered an injury. In the same game that Kane made his return (March 16th against the Predators), Joe Pavelski left with an injury and hasn’t played since. While we don’t know exactly what San Jose’s top two lines will look like come playoff time, it appears the third line is set in stone. Marcus Sorensen, Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc have played very well together all season and provide an element of ‘depth-scoring’ that every Cup contender needs. Couture and Meier have also played most of the season on the same line and will probably be linemates when postseason action begins. While I personally want to see San Jose win a cup for Jumbo Joe, their goaltending has struggled all season and they have a difficult first round matchup against the Golden Knights. If you do believe the Sharks have what it takes to make a long run, they have a deep forward roster that you should be drafting in your playoff pool.

 

Eastern Conference

 

Washington Capitals (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson

24

16

52.50

328:28

Jakub VranaNicklas Backstrom – T. J. Oshie

22

13

52.68

351:34

Carl HagelinLars EllerBrett Connolly

8

3

60.54

101:30

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

Did someone say back-to-back? The Washington Capitals will try to be the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Pittsburgh Penguins, who did it all the way back in 2016 and 2017. At this point in time, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which team the Caps will face in the first round of the playoffs. If they win the division, they can face any one of the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes or Canadiens. If they fall to second in the Metro and the Islanders win the division, we’ll be seeing a classic Sid vs. Ovi matchup as the Capitals will face off against the Penguins. In any case, Washington is capable of winning any one of those matchups. They also have the luxury of avoiding any potential matchup with the Lightning until the third round.

If you think Washington is going to make another run or the Cup this season, I recommend targeting their third line as you draft your playoff roster. Sure, you can go after the obvious names like Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Backstrom, but depth scoring is so important for any team that hopes to win the Stanley Cup. Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller and Brett Connolly have played extremely well together since Hagelin arrived in Washington. 

 

New York Islanders (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

Anders LeeMathew BarzalJordan Eberle

10

13

57.72

187:58

Michael Dal Cole – Brock NelsonJosh Bailey

1

3

55.88

44:24

Anthony BeauvillierLeo KomarovTom Kuhnhackl

1

0

46.34

16:28

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

It’s hard to have a lot of faith in the Islanders making a deep run this postseason, but not many people had faith that New York would make the playoffs at all. Throughout this season, the team has received stellar goaltending from both Robin Lehner (2.18 GAA & .928 SV%) and Thomas Greiss (2.32 GAA & .926 SV%). We all know how impactful a strong goaltending performance can be during the playoffs, and they Isles have two guys capable of providing that. We haven’t seen a lot of playoff success from this roster in recent years, so it’s hard to pinpoint many guys that you should target in your playoff pool. Jordan Eberle has two points in 13 playoff games – all of which were played during Edmonton’s 2016-2017 postseason run. Brock Nelson has seven points in 18 playoff games with the Isles, Josh Bailey has 11 in 22 and Anders Lee has one point in five. Michael Dal Colle, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier will be getting their first taste of NHL playoff action. I’d personally stay away from the Islanders in a playoff pool, but this team has a knack for exceeding our expectations.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

Nikita KucherovBrayden PointTyler Johnson

37

27

53.94

572:24

Ondrej PalatSteven StamkosJ.T. Miller 

7

4

55.47

135:22

Alex KillornAnthony CirelliMathieu Joseph 

16

12

57.14

284:22

Adam Erne – Yanni GourdeCedric Paquette

2

2

50.00

46:42

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

Okay, I cheated a bit on this one and included Tampa’s ‘fourth’ line because of how deep this team is. I figured someone like Yanni Gourde might be valuable in a playoff pool if Tampa makes a deep run this year. I personally love the unpredictability of playoff hockey, so even though the Lightning have the best roster and have steamrolled through the league during the regular season, I’m not convinced they’re going to win the Cup. However, it’s hard to argue with how dominant each of their lines have been. While Tampa has experimented with alternate combinations recently, the ones listed above have been used frequently and successful when deployed. If you’re looking for a great under-the-radar player on Tampa, Anthony Cirelli fits the bill. To the average Joe, Cirelli’s 37 points in 79 games this season aren’t very impressive, but he’s been great lately with 13 points in his last 17 games.

 

Boston Bruins (Most Frequent Line Combinations)

 

Line Combination

Goals

For

Goals

Against

CF%

TOI

Brad Marchand – Partice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

33

28

57.94

472:16

Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciMarcus Johansson 

1

1

55.56

46:48

Danton HeinenCharlie Coyle – Chris Wagner 

2

2

35.62

44:04

Stats retrieved from NaturalStatTrick

 

If you think the Bruins are primed to make a run at the Stanley Cup this postseason, you should probably target Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci in your playoff draft. Boston will face off against Toronto in round one, a rematch of last season’s first-round matchup. You might remember how well DeBrusk played in that series, registering seven points in seven games as the Bruins defeated the Leafs. The duo of Krejci and DeBrusk has been excellent during the 2018-2019 regular season, as they’ve had a chance to build chemistry through over 700 minutes of ice-time together. They’ve outscored opponents 34-25 while controlling an impressive 56% of the shot-share. I included Marcus Johansson on their line in the combinations above, but he hasn’t really found his spot in the lineup since arriving in Boston and dealing with injury. Coach Bruce Cassidy might shuffle his lines as he tries to find a fit for Johansson, but ultimately, I think he ends up on the second line. By now, it’s common knowledge that the Bruins’ top line is one of the best in the league and they probably won’t be split up come playoff time.