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On the top line, 2nd pairing, and Pavel Zacha's slow start

October 22, 2018, 12:07 PM ET [17 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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1) Last season the Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri line was one of the league’s most dangerous offensive trios. They averaged 3.17 expected goals per 60, which is a fantastic number, but they gave a lot of it back defensively. That hasn’t been the case thus far. They have taken it up a notch with 3.35 xGF/60 while playing stout defense allowing just 1.56 xGA/60.

They've legitimately been as dominant as any featured line – among lines with 50+ minutes, only Columbus’ top trio has a better xGF% – so it’ll be a shame if John Hynes is forced to break them up. Unfortunately, that will probably be the case (it was against Philadelphia) as the team’s bottom-9 forwards are in shambles with Jesper Bratt and now Travis Zajac banged up. The Devils simply don’t have enough reliable offensive options to put all their eggs in one basket.

2) Speaking of dominant units, Andy Greene and Damon Severson have been just that. Mirco Mueller and Sami Vatanen have freed them from the toughs and they have certainly taken advantage of it. Only the Erik Karlsson pairing, Brent Burns pairing, and Montreal’s heavily sheltered 3rd unit rank ahead of Greene and Severson in Expected Goals For% at 5v5. They have a +3 goal differential to show for it, too, so it’s not like this is all smoke and mirrors. They’re getting results. While it'll be impossible to sustain their dominance over a full season – they are rocking a near 70 xGF% – this duo has worked well in the past so continued success is reasonable to expect.

3) Pavel Zacha recorded six scoring chances and eight shot attempts at 5v5 in his first two games. Though he didn’t capitalize on them, his ability to generate quality looks gave reason to be optimistic about his offensive potential this season. That optimism has quickly evaporated. In four games since, he has recorded just four shot attempts, two chances, and has rarely posed any offensive threat at 5v5. Everyone knows he will never be a big-time producer but it’s fair to expect more from a guy centering the 2nd line with a consistent 45-50+ winger riding shotgun. For all the talk about Zacha wanting to shoot the puck more and take another step offensively, it hasn’t materialized at all. He is still yet to record a point and, over the last few games, it’s hard to argue he deserves one.

Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.

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