The Stanley Cup playoffs are a great time for hockey minutiae.
When the same teams play again and again, trends start to develop. Matchups are exposed. Coaches’ decisions, such as who to play together or who to play against, become paramount.
The biggest decision comes in the construction of lines, and the success of a few lines in particular have changed the course of the early action.
Here’s my ranking of the most successful lines, using data from the fantastic Corsica.hockey analytics database:
The Predators’ top line has been great against the Chicago Blackhawks, wiping out concerns the Predators didn’t have enough depth up front to compete with the Blackhawks. Depth isn’t an issue when your top line is so dominant. At even strength, these three have combined for five goals while allowing none, according to Corsica. Their goals for per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time is 7.18, best in the playoffs.
“You have a guy who is probably one of the hardest-working guys in Arvidsson,” an NHL scout said of this line. “Johansen is a great player, and Forsberg has one of the best releases in the league. He backs guys off.”
The trio is controlling 63.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts.
“Johansen drives the possession game,” the scout said. “He can hold on to the puck for 10 minutes if he wants to.”
They’re not scoring a ton as a line, but they’ve done a good job controlling possession against the more experienced Capitals.
According to Corsica, this line had the best possession numbers of the playoffs entering Game 4 and, even after the loss, sit at 63.3 percent. When they’re on the ice at even strength, they have a 7-4 scoring-chance edge on the Capitals.
“It’s a good combination of skills they have on that line,” the scout said. “It’s so hard to get that puck off Auston Matthews’ stick and they’re all so smart. It’s almost like they have set plays in the offensive zone. They really read well off each other.”
This line is outscoring the Blue Jackets 4-1 at even strength and has capitalized on its opportunities, as is often the case for Kessel. He has one of the best shots in the game, and this is the time of year it shines. “He gets it off quick, and it’s hard,” teammate