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Splitting Up The Second Line

Last week on the podcast, the Golden Knights second line combination scenarios were a big focus. As it currently stands, it appears the Golden Knights have seven forwards that can fill top the six roles. Of course, messing with the top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith is foolish, so that leaves Erik Haula, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch and Tomas Tatar to fill three spots.

10 more goals from Tuch changes the entire outlook of the changed VGK made in the offseason. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unless, as we discussed, Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses a more balanced attack by splitting the four into pairs of two rather than a full line and a leftover. That would leave an open spot on both the second and third lines. Possibly, the distribution of points would create more offense throughout the entire lineup while not sacrificing the offensive talents of one of these four by sticking them on a defensive-minded line.

Let’s put it to the test statistically. To do so, we’ll start by comparing possible combinations of 2nd lines using three of the four available players and compare it to that of the line of David Perron, James Neal, and Haula.

The Perron, Neal, and Haula line produced 70 goals, 95 assists, and 165 points while posting a combined 2.8 defensive point shares.

We used last year’s stats to come up with combined line totals for each of the four potential lines. Each line is named by which player is missing, so “w/o Haula” means a line of Tuch, Tatar, and Stastny.

w/o Haula51731244
w/o Tatar60851344.4
w/o Tuch65771313.9
w/o Stastny64621153.3

Before you go scrolling back and forth trying to figure out the difference between each line and that of Perron, Neal, and Haula, we did the math for you.

w/o Haula-19-22-411.2
w/o Tatar-10-10-311.6
w/o Tuch-5-18-341.1
w/o Stastny-6-33-500.5

Unsurprisingly, the numbers come up way short offensively. Defensively, however, any of the four options would be better. The biggest concern though is the play of the leftover player. Could Tuch, Haula, Tatar, or Stastny thrive on a line with players like Cody Eakin, Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, or Tomas Hyka? That’s yet to be seen, but it’s also why the idea of splitting the four high-end forwards came up.

The Golden Knights 2nd line was elite offensively but lagged defensively. The 3rd line was just the opposite. Combining them was good, but McPhee’s willingness to allow Perron and Neal to walk shows he believes it could be better.

To put that to the test, we show how much production would be necessary from the two players that would fill in to match what the Golden Knights got out of their middle-six last season.

The third line was a bit of a mishmash at times, so to simplify it, we used Tuch, Eakin, and a combination of Brendon Leipsic and Tomas Tatar (while playing with VGK).

The total output of the middle-six was 102 goals, 146 assists, 248 points, and a combined defensive point shares of 6.0.

The combined total of Tuch, Haula, Stastny, and Tatar was 80 goals, 99 assists, 168 points, and 5.2 defensive point shares.

That leaves the other two players needing to produce a combined 22 goals, 47 assists, 80 points, and 0.8 defensive point shares.

Here are the options.

Cody Eakin1116270.9
Tomas Nosek78151.0
Ryan Carpenter95140.5
Oscar Lindberg92110.3
Daniel Carr610160.7
Curtis McKenzie*610160.8
Brandon Pirri*810180.3
*Uses 16-17 stats due to inactivity in 17-18

As you can see, the offense is still a bit short, but the added defense is massive. Plus, the thought would be you would see an increase in numbers from both Tatar and Tuch playing with more talented offensive players, plus there could be a bump from any of these players listed playing with the likes of Stastny, Haula, Tatar, and Tuch.

In the end, both options come up kind similar; less offensive production but more reliable defense. The benefit of splitting the four is vast though as it won’t leave an odd-man-out which would increase the probability of another Tomas Tatar situation.

All in all though, no matter how Gallant lines em up, the Golden Knights should be more proficient defensively with a mild drop in goal-scoring. Sounds like a fine plan to me.


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  1. Good thoughts statistically – but that is where the actual ice time comes in. Sometimes players mesh, sometimes they don’t.

    Example was the way the 1st line meshed – coming into last season most people where expecting Smith and Marshy to be important offensive players, but no one had a clue how Wild Bill would step in with these guys and them become such a dynamic line – not only offensively but also defensively.

    Meanwhile Tatar just didn’t fit – how much was injury and how much was because he couldn’t break the top 6 is water under the bridge.

    So just like last year Gallant will be tinkering with matchups and lines, hoping to find that the 1st line continues doing what it did last year, while some combination of the rest of the forwards works as they settle in.

    But looking back, that is a bit of what Gallant has been doing, both in Florida and here. He has tinkered with lines and found combinations and chemistry which worked. The main reason given for Gallant being kicked to the curb by the Panthers was his playing players in lines the stats maguffins didn’t always like. But somehow coach got the job done despite the numbers.

    I won’t be surprised if the lines shake out a lot different than what we think and analyze now. But that is the fun of pre-season.

  2. Keith Magnuson

    Great read, Ken– thanks. Gotta go 2 and 2 with those 4 guys I would think. Tuch is going to be a horse on the second for sure. I’d love to see Carpenter in a solid third line role.

    What with Sbisa maybe doing a PTO with the Knights? And how do those work?

  3. Jeff

    Last season was so last season. Absolutely none of those stats mean anything except a jumping off point. Everything has changed and there will be a lot of changes, letdowns, over achievers, and differences this season. Trying to predict what the line combos will be is as definite as predicting the direction of the wind on opening night.

  4. Bent Hermit

    I don’t think they have given up on Huala as a center. I think the message was clear to Huala after getting rid of his linemates and GM’s comments about the 2nd line . If Nosek plays with Haula then who to put with them as the scorer? Pirri is a guy that nobody is giving a chance to make it. I think he could be the surprise of the training camp. He scored 29g in 57 games, best on the team, with the Wolves last year. He has played 228 games in the NHL and has a 12.9% career shooting average. Neal’s career shooting average is 12.1%. His best year in the NHL, playing for Gallant, he had 22g . His biggest problem is his lack of defense but that is not what that line would need.

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