This week the Eastern Edge looks at the Conference's most fearsome foursomes
All NHL teams have to a varying degree of success, a power play quarterback. Even though some have gone to a four forward, one defenseman man advantage configuration, making it harder than ever to find a good scoring option from the back end. Picking the Erik Karlsson's and P.K. Subban's of the bunch are pretty easy, but just how deep do the top point getting blue lines in the Eastern Conference run? Let's find out.
#5 - Tampa Bay Lightning (Hedman, Carle, Gudas, Salo)
Nice collection of brains and brawn (not to be confused with Justin Braun of SJ) in this lineup. It all starts with Victor Hedman's breakout season, where his 37 points place him eighth in the NHL. Matt Carle sits 30th in defense scoring and he is 12th in blocked shots. Roto-stud Radko Gudas leads all NHL defensemen in penalty minutes and is second in hits. He is on pace to finish with 292 Hits, 177 penalty minutes, 142 blocked shots, 125 shots on goal, 23 points and is currently plus-4, so he won't hurt you in that department. Rounding out this foursome is oft-injured Sami Salo. While the 39-year-old Finn only has 10 points in what should be his final NHL season, he does have an Olympic silver medal (2006) and two bronze (2010, 2014).
Total Points: 88 (T-4th in the East)
Power Play Points: 22 (T-11th in the East)
Plus/Minus: 37 (2nd in the East)
Shots on Goal: 349 (5th in the East)
#4 - Boston Bruins (Krug, Chara, Boychuk, Hamilton)
Torey Krug has been a revelation as a point producer from the back end. Only Shea Weber and Krug's team mate, Zdeno Chara, have more power play goals and Krug is tied with Alex Pietrangelo for 11th place with 16 power play points. Not too bad for a rookie. Chara is well, Chara. He's on pace for 38 points, 64 penalty minutes and is a very steady plus-16; but we all know that regular season accomplishments are not what Chara seeks. Johnny Boychuk is third among this Beantown bunch with 16 points, contributing 105 hits and 105 blocked shots. Boychuk is second in the league (including forwards) with a plus-27. Bringing up the rear is sophomore Dougie Hamilton, who has 14 points and is a very responsible plus-13. Dennis Seidenberg would have knocked Hamilton out of the top four if he hadn't been injured in December.
Total Points: 88 (T-4th in the East)
Power Play Points: 30 (7th in the East)
Plus/Minus: 62 (1st in the East)
Shots on Goal: 428 (1st in the East)
#3 - Montreal Canadiens (Subban, Markov, Gorges, Diaz)
Is it a testament to this foursome that Diaz is now playing for Vancouver, or is it an indictment? Number five is Alexei Emelin and his eight points. Last year's Norris Trophy winner, P.K. Subban leads the way here with 39 points, good for fifth in NHL defensemen scoring. He also sits fifth in power play points and shots on goal, and 13th in penalty minutes. Andrei Markov has 31 points and between his 16 power play points and Subban's 19, they account for 35 of the 38 man advantage points amongst the Habs top four defensemen. Markov is also seventh in the league with 131 blocked shots. Not to be outdone, Josh Gorges sits second in the NHL with 161 blocked shots. As said earlier, Raphael Diaz is no longer with the team, but for fantasy purposes, he only contributed blocked shots anyway.
Total Points: 92 (3rd in the East)
Power Play Points: 38 (4th in the East)
Plus/Minus: 17 (4th in the East)
Shots on Goal: 319 (11th in the East)
#2 - Columbus Blue Jackets (Wisniewski, Tyutin, Johnson, Murray)
As a group, the Blue Jackets top four played the third most games in the East. Many would be shocked to see James Wisniewski tied for fifth in the NHL with Shea Weber and P.K. Subban with 19 power play points. The knock on the Wiz has been his propensity for missing games due to a plethora (yeah I said it) of various ailments. Other than having one of the best names in hockey, Fedor Tyutin is a pretty good defenseman. He won't help your fantasy team as much as he helps Columbus in real life though. Jack Johnson is on pace for his worst season points-wise since 2008-09 when he had 11 points in 41 games. The good news is that he is on pace for 178 hits, 136 blocked shots and 158 shots on goal. Johnson recorded five points in his first 27 games this year. In his next 27 games, he scored 15 points, a 46 point pace. Rookie Ryan Murray has registered 19 points so far this season. He is followed by Nikita Nikitin's 14 points and David Savard's 11 points.
Total Points: 99 (2nd in the East)
Power Play Points: 43 (2nd in the East)
Plus/Minus: 4 (5th in the East)
Shots on Goal: 336 (8th in the East)
#1 - Ottawa Senators (Karlsson,...................Methot, Weircioch, Phillips)
Erik Karlsson's 55 points is only three less than Buffalo's entire top four defensemen put together! If there was any lingering doubt about coming back from that ugly severed Achilles injury, you can put that to rest. In his Norris Trophy winning season, he scored 19 goals, 78 points, 28 power play points and had 261 shots on goal. This season, he is on pace to score 21 goals, 77 points, 35 power play points and 256 shots on goal. Incredible. Marc Methot is 11th in the East with 128 hits. Patrick Wiercioch has 16 points in 39 games, a 34 point pace and Chris Phillips is well, Chris Phillips. If you need him to help you win your fantasy league, you might be in trouble.
Total Points: 101 (1st in the East)
Power Play Points: 44 (1st in the East)
Plus/Minus: -18 (13th in the East)
Shots on Goal: 396 (2nd in the East)
Now that the top five most awesomest foursomes of the East are in the books, let's look at some other interesting facts:
- Pittsburgh didn't make the cut due to so many man games lost to injury. Their top four played only 182 games, by far the lowest in the Eastern Conference. That said, they were only a single point back of both Tampa Bay and Boston, who played 29 and 23 more games respectively.
- Matt Niskanen's 34 points puts him in a tie for 12th in NHL defensemen scoring with Brent Seabrook. Niskanen also leads all NHL players with a plus-29 rating. Anyone notice that he is scheduled to be an Unrestricted Free Agent at the end of the year? What's that Matt? Cha-ching!
- Dion Phaneuf may only have 22 points, but amongst NHL defensemen, he is fourth in penalty minutes (83), fifth in hits (168), 6th in plus/minus (plus-19) and tied for 17th with 112 blocked shots. All in all, a valuable roto-player.
- Toronto has three defensemen among the top 17 in hits. Cody Franson leads the way with 212 (1st), Phaneuf has 168 (5th) and finally Carl Gunnarsson with 133 (17th). Gunnarsson also has 132 blocked shots, good for sixth in the NHL.
- Islanders Andrew MacDonald leads the league with 192 blocks to go along with 24 points, 11 coming via the power play.
- Flyers Nicklas Grossmann is fourth with 142 blocked shots and has the 15th most hits amongst NHL blue liners.
- The Caps John Carlson has 165 shots on goal, behind only Dustin Byfuglien and Erik Karlsson amongst NHL defensemen. Carlson is also ninth in the league with 123 blocked shots and has 23 points.
Here is the only place I want to hear about plus/minus being a factor for defensive prowess; when it's used to support a "team" argument. The Bruins are first in plus/minus amongst their top four defensemen when compared to their Eastern competition. Tampa Bay is second best and it's not even close. Boston's top four are a combined plus-62, Tampa Bay is plus-37 and the worst foursome in the Eastern Conference should come as no surprise, Buffalo with an ugly minus-62. To see how important this statistic is for a team, check out the Eastern Conference standings; Boston and Tampa Bay are first and second and the Sabres bring up the rear.
After witnessing his sheer awesomeness at the Olympics, I dare you to tell me that Shea Weber and his minus-10 is poor defensively. On Nashville, Weber and Roman Josi do all the heavy lifting, so every night they go up against the best players in the NHL. Does that mean that Mike Green and his minus-9 is better defensively? Or what about Matt Niskanen leading the league at plus-29?
I would buy the argument that Seth Jones and his minus-20 is due in part to him making rookie mistakes, but how do you explain Ryan Ellis and his plus-5 in 57 games? Is he that much better than the other Predator defensemen? Of course not, he's plus-5 due to receiving protected minutes against lesser foes. So individual situations and roles can sway plus/minus numbers, not all ice time is created equal, yet a goal against is statistically just another goal against.
As an individual statistic, plus/minus is flawed because it penalizes everyone on the ice equally when a goal is given up, regardless of who or even if a mistake was made. Maybe your goalie was putting in his contacts and just whiffed on the puck or if you are down a goal with a minute remaining and the other team scores a shorty against you, well now you get a minus for that too, even though you didn't have a goalie in the net. The worst individual statistic in hockey.
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