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Behind The Numbers

Five bubble teams who could benefit before NHL Trade Deadline

Flames could use help on power play, Jets at defenseman, underlying statistics show

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / Fantasy Editor

Each week, goes Behind the Numbers, using underlying statistics to identify trends, areas of improvement for teams and players, and predict what could happen in upcoming games. Today, looks at five teams on the bubble for Stanley Cup Playoff contention and addresses their potential needs ahead of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24.

Calgary Flames

Despite being tied for 23rd in the NHL with 17 regulation wins, the Flames are tied for third in the Pacific Division, where the top five teams are separated by five points. One area of concern for Calgary ahead of the trade deadline is scoring; it ranks 25th in the League with 137 goals in 52 games this season. 

Its best area to generate more offense would be on the power play, where it ranks 16th at 19.9 percent, and one player who could help is New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider. The 28-year-old forward is tied with center Mika Zibanejad for the Rangers lead with seven goals on the man-advantage. 

Acquiring a player like Kreider could give the Flames the boost they need to have a top 10 power play in addition to their penalty kill, tied for 12th in the NHL at 81.9 percent.

Video: NYI@NYR: Kreider sends the puck home during the 3rd


Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers special teams are solid; their power play leads the League at 29.7 percent, and their penalty kill is tied for eighth (82.3 percent). However, an area they need to address is their puck possession metrics, where they rank 27th in the NHL at minus-221, meaning they've allowed 221 more shots than they've attempted at 5-on-5. 

Why does this matter? Edmonton is third in the Pacific Division with 58 points, four behind the Vancouver Canucks, two behind the Flames and one ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes. Last season, nine of the top 10 teams in SAT differential qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the eventual champion St. Louis Blues. 

Because Edmonton has two skaters who have played at least 25 games with a positive SAT differential (center Sam Gagner, plus-35 and forward James Neal, plus-21), it could greatly benefit from adding a player such as Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli, who is plus-167 in 50 games and could also help take scoring pressure off center Connor McDavid and forward Leon Draisaitl.


Winnipeg Jets

The Jets overhauled their defensemen after losing Ben Chiarot (signed with the Montreal Canadiens), Tyler Myers (signed with the Vancouver Canucks), Jacob Trouba (traded to the New York Rangers) and Dustin Byfuglien (suspended) during the offseason. As a result, they've allowed the 11th-most goals (159) and rank 27th on the penalty kill (74.4 percent), though none of the fault can be placed on goalie Connor Hellebuyck, whose .917 save percentage is tied for third in the NHL among goalies who have played at least 30 games. 

This points to Winnipeg looking to acquire a defenseman, and a potential fit could be Brenden Dillon of the San Jose Sharks. Dillon leads the Sharks with 159 hits and is fourth in blocks (58) and average ice time (19:08) among San Jose defensemen, signifying he could slot into the Jets' top four. Dillon also averages nearly two minutes per game on the penalty kill (1:59), where the Sharks rank first in the NHL at 86.9 percent.

Video: NYR@SJS: Dillon cranks slap shot from the high slot


Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers are average in just about every statistical measure. They are tied for 18th on the power play (19.5 percent), tied for 17th in goals scored (153), 21st in goals-against (145) and 11th in SAT differential (plus-76), but one area where they have excelled is penalty-killing, where they rank 10th at 82.2 percent. 

Instead of trying to improve multiple areas, Philadelphia could focus on fortifying its penalty kill, and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez has the potential to be a difference-maker. Martinez ranks second on the Kings in average time on ice per game (21:23) and average time while shorthanded (1:58). The Flyers have three defensemen averaging more than 20 minutes per game (Ivan Provorov, 24:54; Matt Niskanen, 21:49; Travis Sanheim, 20:09), but there's a drop from them to Shayne Gostisbehere, who averages 18:21 per game, meaning Martinez could be a fit as a No. 4 defenseman.


Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with 62 points in 51 games. Their success is impressive considering they lost key contributors like center Matt Duchene (signed with the Nashville Predators), forward Artemi Panarin (signed with the New York Rangers) and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (signed with the Florida Panthers) during the offseason. 

Though Columbus is two points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for most in the NHL since Dec. 1 (36), it could still target a forward who could help it improve on face-offs, where it ranks 26th in the League at 48.4 percent, and bolster its scoring; the Blue Jackets are tied for 23rd with 138 goals. 

One player who could help in each area is Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has an NHL career-high 20 goals this season and is 11 points shy of his League career-high 43, set in 2015-16. He also ranks 16th in the NHL in face-offs at 52.9 percent among those with at least 700 attempts.

Video: TBL@OTT: Pageau blasts one-timer for game-tying PPG

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