A look at the top lines in the league, including Namestnikov, Stamkos and Kucherov; Vesey, Brown, Buchnevich and more in Scott Cullen’s Statistically Speaking.
It’s early in the NHL season, with teams sitting in the teens for games played, so any statistical measures are being offered up with the caveat of small sample sizes.
However, after the top line on the Tampa Bay Lightning had another brilliant game, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the top lines in the league early in the 2017-2018 season.
My expectation was that the Lightning trio of Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov would clearly be the top line in the league thus far. They might be, but I don’t think it’s as obvious as might have been expected.
So, looking at forward trios, here are all of the forward lines that have been on the ice for at least six goals together during 5-on-5 play. If players have missed time with injuries, or a coach has done any line shuffling, it’s tough enough for a unit to stay together long enough to qualify for this list.
But, in the early returns, Tampa’s top line looks pretty great, as expected, but so too do the top lines in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.
TOP PERFORMING LINES
Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay’s top line did serious damage in a 5-1 win at San Jose, with each member of the trio picking up three points. Namestnikov scored two goals and added a helper, giving him six points (3 G, 3 A) in the past four games. Stamkos had three assists and has a league-leading 21 assists and 28 points in 16 games. Kucherov scored a goal and added two assists, giving him a league-leading 15 goals and 26 points.
Jimmy Vesey – The second-year Rangers winger scored two goals in 29 seconds in a 4-2 win against Boston, matching his goal production from the first 16 games of the season.
Austin Czarnik – The Bruins centre had a tough night (4 for, 15 against, 21.1 CF%, 2-8 scoring chances) and was on the ice for two goals against in a 4-2 loss at the Rangers.
Martin Jones – The San Jose netminder was pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots in a 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay. He had a .949 save percentage in his previous eight starts.
Tyler Bozak – Toronto’s veteran centre was on the wrong side of the puck (6 for, 17 against, 26.1 CF%, 4-8 scoring chances) in a 4-2 win over Minnesota.
Chris Kunitz – The veteran Lightning winger was buried in the defensive zone (5 for, 20 against, 20.0 CF%, 2-9 scoring chances) and was on for the only goal against in a 5-1 win at San Jose.
Auston Matthews – Oh, you didn’t hear? Toronto’s franchise centre didn’t play against Minnesota due to an upper-body injury, the first game that he’s missed in his NHL career.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – San Jose’s shutdown defender returned to the lineup after a week off due to a concussion.
Maple Leafs RW Connor Brown scored a goal and added an assist in a 4-2 win over Minnesota; he has five points (4 G, 1 A) in the past five games…Wild LW Jason Zucker scored both Minnesota goals in a 4-2 loss at Toronto. He had two points (1 G, 1 A) in his previous eight games…Wild C Eric Staal assisted on both of Zucker’s goals, and has six points (2 G, 4 A) in the past seven games…Bruins C Patrice Bergeron and RW David Pastrnak both had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 loss at the Rangers. Bergeron has 10 points (3 G, 7 A) in nine games, and Pastrnak has 15 points (8 G, 7 A) in the past 11 games…Rangers RW Pavel Buchnevich contributed a goal and an assist against Boston, and has 10 points (6 G, 4 A) in the past eight games…Rangers D Ryan McDonagh added a pair of assists, giving him eight assists in the past seven games…Lightning RW Yanni Gourde contributed a couple of assists in a 5-1 win at San Jose, and has six points (3 G, 3 A) during a four-game point streak…Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy turned away 32 of 33 shots in a 5-1 win at San Jose. He has a .941 save percentage in his past 10 starts.
Scott Cullen can be reached at email@example.com