NHL.com goes Behind the Numbers to identify key statistics for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Under the Return to Play Plan, 24 teams will compete for the Stanley Cup -- 12 in the Eastern Conference, 12 in the Western Conference. Games are scheduled to begin Aug. 1. The top four teams in each conference will play a three-game round-robin in the Cup Qualifiers to determine the top four seeds in each conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The No. 5-12 seeds will play in eight best-of-5 series.
Today, a look at the teams in the Western Conference who will benefit the most from having players who were injured before the pause available to play.
[RELATED: Guentzel, Jones, Hamilton give boosts in Eastern Conference, numbers show]
St. Louis Blues
The Blues were first in the Western Conference with a .662 points percentage (42-19-10), and they got there for the most part without their top goal-scorer, forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who didn't play after having surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder Oct. 29. Tarasenko was second on the Blues with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games when he was injured Oct. 24, behind forward Brayden Schenn (11 points). Tarasenko leads the Blues with 366 points (185 goals, 181 assists) in 405 games since 2014-15, and his plus-784 5-on-5 shot attempts differential (SAT) is second on the Blues behind forward Jaden Schwartz (plus-797) during that same span. Five-on-five play was an area the Blues struggled a bit, with their plus-92 SAT their second-lowest since 2009-10 (plus-24, 2016-17). Tarasenko has averaged 1.18 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, second to Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (1.25), among NHL players since 2014-15 (minimum 300 games). With a healthy Tarasenko for the round-robin portion of the Cup Qualifiers against the Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, .657), Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, .606) and Dallas Stars (37-24-8 .594), St. Louis could unlock another gear offensively at even strength while maintaining a power play that was third in the NHL at 24.3 percent.
The Avalanche were second behind the Blues in the Western Conference, which was impressive considering top-line right wing Mikko Rantanen missed 28 games because of injuries. He was out for 16 games from Oct. 25-Nov. 29 with an ankle injury and the final 12 games before the season pause with an upper-body injury. The Avalanche averaged 4.00 goals in their first nine games prior to Rantanen's injury Oct. 21, and their 23 5-on-5 goals during that span were third in the NHL, behind the Toronto Maple Leafs (24) and the Nashville Predators (24). Without Rantanen, they averaged 3.38 goals per game but scored 39 goals at 5-on-5 (2.43 per game). More concerning was how they played after losing Rantanen on Feb. 17. They averaged 2.50 goals in their final 12 games, and scored 20 goals at 5-on-5 (1.67 per game). Rantanen is expected to be on the ice when training camp starts, and having their No. 1 line of Rantanen, center Nathan MacKinnon and left wing Gabriel Landeskog on the ice together should make Colorado one of the more dangerous teams in the League at even strength.
Video: COL@BUF: Rantanen buries feed from MacKinnon
The Canucks finished seventh in the Western Conference with a .565 points percentage (36-27-6). Part of their success this season was because of goalie Jacob Markstrom, who was 23-16-4 with a .918 save percentage in 43 games. He had knee surgery Feb. 26, missing the Canucks' final eight games before the season was paused. Markstrom last played Feb. 22, at which point the Canucks were tied for 10th in the League with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets in 5-on-5 save percentage at 92.2 percent, and Markstrom was third in the League with a .925 even-strength save percentage, behind Mackenzie Blackwood of the New Jersey Devils (.927) and Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars (.926) among goalies to play at least 40 games. In eight games after Markstrom's injury, the Canucks' 5-on-5 save percentage was 89.6 percent. Goalie Thatcher Demko started seven of the eight games and was 3-4-0 with an .893 even-strength save percentage. Strong goaltending at even strength will critical for the Canucks during their best-of-5 Cup Qualifier series against the Minnesota Wild in part because the Wild scored an NHL-best 40 goals at 5-on-5 after Feb. 10. A healthy Markstrom could help the Canucks offset the Wild's strong even-strength offense and force them to try and convert on the power play, which was 12th in the NHL at 20.5 percent during that span.