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Behind The Numbers

Capitals, Lightning may seek defenseman prior to NHL Trade Deadline

Bruins, Avalanche could benefit from adding depth scoring, underlying numbers 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 contending teams and assess their needs prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.


Washington Capitals

It's hard to find fault in the Capitals (36-13-5), who lead the NHL in points (77), have the 12th-best power play (20 percent) and the second-ranked penalty kill (84.7 percent), but a deeper dive suggests Washington could look to shore up its defensemen. Nick Jensen (minus-20) and Michal Kempny (minus-7) are the only two Washington defensemen to have a minus-rating in 5-on-5 shot attempts differential when a game is tied. This means the Capitals get out-attempted when each is on the ice at 5-on-5 in a tie game.

This may not seem like a fatal flaw, but there is less room for error in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when it comes to winning and losing. San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is plus-23 in the same situation and could be a potential fit for Washington if it chooses to look outside the organization. It's worth noting that Capitals rookie defenseman Martin Fehervary is plus-3 in the same situation and could take on a bigger role if Washington does not seek a trade prior to the deadline.


Boston Bruins

Depth scoring seems to be a consistent need for the Bruins (33-10-12), who have one of the best top lines in the NHL but could use increased production outside of forwards David Pastrnak (75 points; 38 goals, 37 assists) and Brad Marchand (69 points; 23 goals, 46 assists) and center Patrice Bergeron (43 points; 22 goals, 21 assists). Boston has the second-ranked power play in the NHL (26.4 percent) and the third-best penalty kill (84.2 percent), showcasing its elite prowess on special teams.

The Bruins' even-strength point share does identify a clear need for a forward; beyond Marchand, Pastrnak and Bergeron, who have combined for 113 even-strength points, Boston's top producers in that category are centers David Krejci (26) and Charlie Coyle (24) and forward Jake DeBrusk (24). This leaves room for improvement at wing, where New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, could contribute. Kreider ranks third among Rangers forwards with 26 even-strength points and could be used on a line with either Krejci or Coyle to balance the Bruins' scoring.

Video: TOR@NYR: Kreider quickly pots pretty backhand



Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning (33-15-5) have the most points in the League (44) and the best penalty kill (89.5 percent) since Dec. 1. It's hard to find many statistical faults with Tampa Bay, which has depth at each position, but adding a veteran presence on defense could bring stability to its back end.

Erik Cernak and Braydon Coburn, each minus-3, are the only Lightning defensemen with a minus 5-on-5 shot attempts differential. This should not cause panic for Tampa Bay, but could present the opportunity to add another right-shot defenseman, such as Dylan DeMelo of the Ottawa Senators. DeMelo, a pending unrestricted free agent, leads the Senators, 14th in the Eastern Conference, with a plus-58 shot attempts differential, impressive considering Ottawa ranks last in the category as a team (minus-209). DeMelo is capable of playing on any pair but could be a good fit on the Lightning top pair with Victor Hedman or the second pair with Ryan McDonagh.



St. Louis Blues

The Blues (32-14-8) lead the the Western Conference, their power play ranks fifth in the NHL (26 percent) despite not having their top goal scorer, forward Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), and they are 10th in SAT differential (plus-275).

It would be counterintuitive to suggest St. Louis should add a forward when it is tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the eighth-most goals scored (173), despite being without Tarasenko since Oct. 24. One area that could be improved is the penalty kill, which ranks 15th in the League at 80.8 percent.

The Blues have depth at defenseman but could look to add a forward who can kill penalties. One player who fits that mold is Jean-Gabriel Pageau of the Ottawa Senators. A pending unrestricted free agent, Pageau is second among Senators forwards in shorthanded time on ice, averaging 2:30 per game on the penalty kill.

Video: OTT@BUF: Pageau scores PPG in 1st period


Colorado Avalanche

Similar to the Bruins, the Avalanche (29-16-6) have a dominant top line but could use additional depth scoring. No. 1 center Nathan MacKinnon leads Colorado with 73 points (30 goals, 43 assists) in 51 games but its next highest-scoring skater is forward Andre Burakovsky with 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 48 games.

Yes, forwards Gabriel Landeskog (23 points; 13 goals, 10 assists in 35 games) and Mikko Rantanen (36 points; 17 goals, 19 assists in 35 games) each missed time this season because of injuries, but the gap is too wide. This could be a reason why Colorado's power play is 21st in the NHL (18.9 percent), after finishing as a top-10 unit in each of the past two seasons.

Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is tied for third on the Kings with 14 goals and could be a potential fit. Along with his goal-scoring ability, Toffoli also leads Los Angeles forwards with a plus-190 shot attempts differential, showing his ability to drive possession at 5-on-5.

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