Is The Capitals Top Line Good Enough? Comparing Contenders Top Lines


Hockey is a team sport. When teams have a lot of success in both the regular season and in the playoffs, they need a lot of depth – A team where you have contributions up and down the lineup. From the top player on the first line to the last defenseman, to the goalie, you need everyone to do their part.

Yet there is a common saying in hockey, and that is, “You need your best players to be your best players.”

With names like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, the Capitals undeniably have one of the best lines in both name recognition, popularity, and production. Most of the time, fans don’t need to worry about this line. You have Ovechkin, who is usually good for 50 goals a season, Backstrom, one of the best passers the game has, and Oshie, who is in the process of setting a career high in goals this season; he is currently at 26, tied for a career best.

On the other hand, when you look at other contending teams’ top lines, the Caps’ top trio doesn’t really stack up too well in some statistical categories. Consider this a warning: we are going to use some “advanced” stats here, so if you’re one of the people who isn’t a big fan of these stats….well you should read anyways cause why not?

We pulled numbers from nine top lines from nine different contending teams across the NHL, and Washington’s top line has some trouble keeping up.

Washington’s top line: 48.53 Corsi rating, 49.54 Scoring Chance %, and 60.53 Goals For %.

Scoring chances and goals for % are chances for and against per 60 minutes of play. Players don’t player 60 minutes a game, so maybe not the best stat to look at, but interesting to keep an eye on at the same time. As you can see from the Capitals’ top line, two of the three numbers are on the wrong side of 50%. Before we decide if this is a problem or not, let’s take a look at some contending teams’ top lines.

We’ll start with the two teams that participated in the Stanley Cup Final last season, the defending Cup champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the San Jose Sharks. Frankly, neither of these teams has a top line that have been together consistently like last season, SO we’ll look at last season for both of these teams.

Pittsburgh’s top line of Patric Hornqvist-Sidney Crosby-Chris Kunitz: 61.15 Corsi rating, 61.70 SCF%, and 76.74 GF%.

San Jose’s top line of Joe Pavelski-Joe Thornton-Tomas Hertl: 56.70 Corsi rating, 55.17 SCF%, and 72.34 GF%.

Now for some top lines in the NHL this season:

Minnesota Wild: Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle: 54.85 Corsi rating, 63.93 SCF%, 63.64 GF%.

Chicago Blackhawks:  Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane: 53.85 Corsi rating , 46.91 SCF%, 58.18GF%.

New York Rangers: Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello: 53.74 Corsi rating, 54.76 SCF%, 57.14 GF%.

Anaheim DucksAndrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg: 55.73 Corsi rating, 60.09 SCF%, 55.77GF%.

Edmonton Oilers: Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl: 53.91 Corsi rating, 62.40 SCF%, 55.88 GF%.

Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty-Phillip Danault-Alexander Radulov: 55.25 Corsi rating, 56.12 SCF%, 60 GF%

Columbus Blue Jackets: Brandon Saad-Alexander Wennberg-Nick Foligno: 52.48 Corsi rating, 50.59 SCF%, 60 GF%.

Including San Jose and Pittsburgh’s lines from last season, that’s nine different lines, the Capitals are the 10th team.

Washington’s top three ranks 10th in Corsi out of 10 top lines.They rank ninth in Scoring Chances For %, ahead of only Chicago’s Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line. In the Goals For % category, the Caps do look better, ranking fourth behind only San Jose and Pittsburgh’s lines from last season, as well as Minnesota’s top line this season.

Advanced stats are nothing to solely rely on. Washington’s best line had similar stats last season (49.83, 52.32 & 67.44), and they rebounded in the playoffs (54.76, 56.26 & 60). They also had 13 goals and 33 points combined in the playoffs in 12 games.

Depending on stats like this isn’t a good idea in my opinion. We can however, find stats like this and debate whether they mean anything. So, do these stats and rankings mean anything? I don’t think it’s a good thing that among top teams in the NHL, Washington ranks towards the bottom.

Will this cost the Capitals? That remains to be seen. Top lines are relied upon to score and if the Caps’ top guys can’t contribute in the playoffs and can’t bring up their possession numbers, they might become a pretty big liability.

Ovechkin, Backstrom and Oshie did well last season in the playoffs, they’re going to need to do it again.

By CJ Witt

This entry was posted in News, NHL and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is The Capitals Top Line Good Enough? Comparing Contenders Top Lines

  1. Brenna Neal says:

    The Caps top line may not be all that good (your opinion, not mine), but for you to use last years stats for the Sharks and Pens when making comparisons for this season isn’t being on the up and up. To begin with, most lines throughout the season don’t always play together. Seems to me Backstrom was on the 2nd line most of the season and Kuzy was playing up top with Ovechkin. I think you are really reaching to make a point, but I personally am not quite gullible enough to buy it.

  2. The Caps–specifically former GM George McPhee–made one of the most imbecilic trades I’ve seen in any sport over the past 20 years–namely the acquisition of future Hall-of-Famers Martin Erat and Michael Latta for the former jewel of their farm system–then 20 year old highly skilled forward Filip Forsberg–a player who recently recorded hat tricks in consecutive games and has TEN goals in his most recent six contests…

    The Capitals couldn’t afford to make more stupid personnel decisions in the name of short term success–which they may well have done in acquiring defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk—a superb puck carrying blue liner who is nevertheless a mediocre defender—in exchange for a young 6’4″ power forward Zach Sanford–who has better hands than Teacher’s Pet Tom Wilson—a player Barry Trotz is hopelessly enamored with, apparently.

    The problem is that if the Caps don’t win the Cup now, they will have parted with a player in Sanford who could have played power forward for them for the next 10 or 12 years in exchange for a player who, by all accounts, is no more than a three month rental (and someone who, to boot, has a bad habit of giving up pucks in his own end–something that doesn’t figure to improve your chances of winning a championship…)

    And if, God forbid, Shat gets injured–or commits a dumb infraction which keeps him out of the lineup for a couple of games, (hint, hint), Washington will once more will have wound up with NOTHING–as was the case with the Forsberg deal, since 33 year old Erat and incompetent scrub Latta were both let go, if you’ll recall…

    We’ll see how this all plays out, but I’m not encouraged…If you’ll recall, Shattenkirk used to annoy St. Louis fans from time to time with his inept clearing passes, stupid penalties and poor defense at inopportune times…But he was so good as a puck mover and as a bulwark on the power play that they could overlook those flaws. But now that the Caps have him those sorts of weaknesses tend to show up in pressured situations—you know, BIG ones like the playoffs….In fact, if I didn’t know any better I’d say we just re-acquired Mike Green—a talented shooter who had a bad habit of committing unbelievably dumb penalties and making poor clearing passes at the worst possible times…

    Historically, at any rate, last minute additions rarely culminate in Super Bowls, World Series or Stanley Cups by the GM’s who pursue them…Even though (on paper) this team seems stronger, deeper and more competent than last year’s bunch I’m not confident that adding Shattenkirk will assure them of Lord Stanley’s Cup—and that’s something that I’d insist on–as if that were even possible–if I was making a deadline deal of this size and scope…

    This club already had a strong chance of winning it all prior to the trade without making overkill-type changes to the roster. I mean, THINK about it: How much was it hurting Washington not to have a right handed shooter on defense when the Caps were not just BEATING their opponents but literally throwing them down a flight of stairs?? That’s the main reason for renting Shat in the first place, n’est’ce pas?? And in my opinion winning the Cup with the talent we had could have been accomplished without forfeiting a good young power forward who’d likely have worn the team’s colors for many years come…

    Mark my words, I think this is going to backfire on the Caps…AGAIN…They’ve looked awful for the past two weeks and Barry Trotz’ arrogant (and dumb) decision not to bring Andre Burakovsky along for the road trip (in the event that he was actually ready to go) didn’t help things in my opinion…

    Santa Monica

  3. Pingback: Can Alzner-Carlson Compete With Other Contenders’ Top Defensive Pairings? | NoVa Caps

Leave a Reply