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Behind The Numbers

Maple Leafs' strong power play makes them one of favorites in East

Addition of Tavares boosts already-impressive unit, statistics show

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

NHL.com goes behind the numbers to examine the top five Stanley Cup Contenders in each conference. Statistics from last season were examined to see where teams can improve, and analyze what they can maintain for this season.

 

[RELATED: Sharks' improved offense makes them one of favorites in West]

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Improve: The Maple Leafs were tied for 22nd in the NHL in wins (four) when trailing after the first period with the Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, none of which qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Toronto's offseason addition of center John Tavares should help with this. Since entering the NHL in 2009-10, Tavares ranks top 10 in points (2.77; T-10th) and goals (1.21; T-7th) per 60.

Maintain: The Maple Leafs had the second-best power play in the NHL last season (25 percent) despite having the third-fewest opportunities (224). Their power play will look different this season with the addition of Tavares and the departure of left wing James van Riemsdyk, who led Toronto in power-play time on ice (184:55) and center Tyler Bozak who finished third (177:11). Center Nazem Kadri, who led the Maple Leafs with 12 power-play goals last season, is expected to play in the slot on the first unit, taking passes from either Mitchell Marner or Tavares. Kadri and the power play could be key in helping the Maple Leafs win the Atlantic Division.

Video: TOR@MTL: Kadri goes top shelf for PPG

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Improve: The Lightning had the second-best power play during the playoffs (16 PPG) but their 28 goals scored 5-on-5 ranked last among teams that qualified for the conference finals (1.6 per game). For scope, the Washington Capitals had 52 in 24 games (2.1 per game), the Vegas Golden Knights had 40 in 20 games (2.0) and the Winnipeg Jets had 32 in 17 games (1.88). Steven Stamkos, who finished tied for second on the Lighting in playoff points (16), had one goal at even strength in the postseason and over the past four seasons, has six even-strength goals in 44 playoff games (fifth among Lightning forwards).

Maintain: Tampa Bay posted the best record in the playoffs (8-1) when scoring the first goal of the game, which contributed to their success in reaching the Eastern Conference Final. If the Lightning find a way to improve their even-strength offense, they will put themselves in even better position to win games when leading after the first period. With minimal roster turnover, the Lightning could reach the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth time in five seasons.

Video: FLA@TBL: Hedman buries sweet pass from Point

 

Boston Bruins

Improve: The Bruins' first line (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak) combined for 53 points in 12 playoff games but the rest of the forward group (12 skaters) had 30 points. While having a top line that can score frequently is a luxury, teams with more balanced scoring through two rounds (Washington Capitals: 36 points from top line; 54 rest of team; Tampa Bay Lightning: 29 points from top line; 39 rest of team; Winnipeg Jets: 33 points from top line; 44 rest of team; Vegas Golden Knights: 32 points from top line; 36 rest of team) all advanced to the conference finals.

Maintain: Boston had the best power play through the first two rounds of the playoffs (36.4 percent) and the fourth best during the regular season (23.5). Forward Rick Nash, who was acquired by the Bruins in a trade with the New York Rangers on Feb. 25, played on the Bruins' top unit during the playoffs but was not re-signed. Boston could fill that spot with rookie wing Ryan Donato, who had four power-play points in 12 games during the regular season.

Video: DET@BOS: Pastrnak tips opening goal by Bernier

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Improve: Goaltender Matt Murray's save percentage (.908) during the playoffs was 10th (minimum four games). Each of the teams to advance beyond the second round had a starting goaltender with a .922 save percentage or better through the first two rounds (Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK: .951; Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL: .927; Braden Holtby, WSH: .926; Connor Hellebuyck, WPG: .922). Murray's low playoff save percentage needs to revert closer to his career average during the postseason (.923) if the Penguins are going to contend for their third Stanley Cup in the past four seasons.

Maintain: The Penguins had one of the most dynamic offenses in the playoffs where first-line duo Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel combined for 42 points in 12 games. Guentzel's point per game pace during the regular season (.58) more than doubled in the playoffs (1.75). If his production carries over, he could be instrumental in helping Pittsburgh win the Metropolitan Division.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Guentzel hits the empty net for PPG

 

Washington Capitals

Improve: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom each had at least 71 points during the regular season, but the Capitals' next highest scoring forward T.J. Oshie had 47 points. It was Oshie's lowest point total since the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13 (53.8 average over the span). His 18 goals were lower than the 26 he had in his first season with the Capitals in 2015-16 and the 33 in his second season in 2016-17. This could be correlated to having his lowest shot volume of the past five seasons (127), well shy of his average of 153.8 over the span.

Maintain: The Capitals physicality helped them to their first Stanley Cup championship. They had five defensemen with at least 42 blocks during the playoffs (Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Michal Kempny, Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson); Vegas had one (Brayden McNabb). The Capitals had four skaters with at least 78 hits during the playoffs (Tom Wilson, Brooks Orpik, Alex Ovechkin and Devante Smith-Pelly) compared to Vegas, which had one (Brayden McNabb). While there isn't a statistic that measures how physicality translates to wins, it could be a sign of Washington's ability to wear down opponents late in games. The Capitals had the highest win percentage in the NHL (.429) when trailing after two periods during the playoffs.

Video: CAR@WSH: Ovechkin scores PPG as pass deflects in

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