The playoffs can often be viewed as a story of individual excellence; look at Jonathan Quick in 2012, David Krejci in 2013, or Patrick Kane every year. Other years, though, an entire line steals the spotlight. Last year, the Kings' second line took over the Western Conference Final and ensured their place in playoff lore. It seemed like it would be a while before any other line would feature players who were that productive and that new to the playoff spotlight.
Well, it didn't take a while, because Tampa Bay has Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. Those three have led the Lightning's charge* to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2004. No one has really taken a look at how these two lines -- each with a trendy nickname attached -- match up. Until now!
*Lightning pun unintentional
We can get this out of the way early: Tampa's trio has been more consistent and more prolific over the duration of the playoffs. All three members of that line have already matched or exceeded Tyler Toffoli's total of 14 points (in 26 games), to say nothing of Tanner Pearson's 12-point output (in 24 games). Jeff Carter's 25 points in 26 games last season were second only to Anze Kopitar's total, while Tyler Johnson's 21 points in 20 games lead all skaters.
Of course, Pearson and Toffoli didn't have the opportunity to earn as many points as the other four players. They also got about 30 seconds of power play time per game, a far cry from the three minutes or so Tampa's trio (and Carter) received.
LA's Trio vs Tampa's Trio: Scoring
|Name||Games||Points||EV Points||Points/60||EV Points/60||Points/Game||EV Points/Game|
|Tyler Johnson||20 (2015)
|Nikita Kucherov||20 (2015)||19||11||3.214||1.861||0.950||0.550|
|Ondrej Palat||20 (2015)||15||9||2.360||1.416||0.750||0.450|
|Jeff Carter||26 (2014)||25||17||3.161||2.150||0.962||0.654|
|Tyler Toffoli||26 (2014)||14||12||2.429||2.082||0.538||0.462|
|Tanner Pearson||24 (2014)||12||12||2.446||2.446||0.500||0.500|
The raw statistics favor LA's guys, but the Triplets get the edge when it comes to performance relative to teammates. They also had fewer offensive zone starts to work with.
LA's Trio vs Tampa's Trio: Possession
|Name||Games Played||Corsi For%||Corsi For Rel%||Off. Zone Start %|
|Tyler Johnson||20 (2015)||53.1||5.7||52.0|
|Nikita Kuchero||20 (2015)||55.6||9.4||55.9|
|Ondrej Palat||20 (2015)||52.5||4.9||49.7|
|Jeff Carter||26 (2014)||56.2||3.4||57.8|
|Tyler Toffoli||26 (2014)||58.3||6.2||62.2|
|Tanner Pearso||24 (2014)||56.8||3.8||52.9|
Regardless, both lines were pacing their team's possession performance.
Besides ice time, here's the biggest edge for Tampa. The overtime output of That 70's Line was limited to Toffoli's assist in overtime of Game 5 (and, if you're generous, his near-tip of Martinez's shot in Game 7 against Chicago). Obviously a crucial point, but one that came without his usual linemates.
On the other hand, the Tampa trio has picked up an overtime goal in each series; Johnson scored one against Detroit, while Kucherov has game-winners over Montreal and New York.
Meanwhile, here's the one area in which our guys have a big edge. (Other than the fact that they got rings last year.) Pearson and Toffoli didn't get to skate regularly with Jeff Carter until March 21, a development which made us really happy but didn't foreshadow their incredible success. On the other hand, Tampa's guys spent over 700 total minutes on the ice together at even strength this season, or about 75% of their overall ice time, and the Lightning averaged about four goals per 60 minutes when they skated together. So their output is no big shock*, though it's very impressive.
*Lightning pun unintentional, again
LA (with apologies to the entire Western Conference Final):
Tampa (with apologies to the two third-period goals before this one):
The Ultimate Goal
Stay tuned for Game 1 tonight!