It’s time for another check-in on how lines are stacking up in goals versus expected goals as tracked by MoneyPuck.
As of Sunday, there were 72 lines in the NHL that have played 150 minutes together at five-on-five this season. Some are still together, but some haven’t been together for some time and are no longer relevant.
For example, the line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli has one of the greater differences between their goals and expected goals, but the Flames haven’t been using those three on a line together for weeks now.
Line consistency is tough to keep up all season. If a line had stayed together all season and put in 10 minutes at five-on-five per game, they would be well over 400 minutes together this season. But only three lines have crested that threshold: the top lines from the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning and the third line from the Carolina Hurricanes. In fact, only 12 lines have even broken the 300-minute mark this season.
Our “lucky lines” are NHL trios with more goals than the expected goal formulas say they should have, while “troubled trios” are the lines with fewer goals than math says they should. Most of the stats are through to Jan. 22 (but some have been manually updated since then if relevant) and rely heavily on MoneyPuck.com, with some assists from EvolvingHockey.com.
Andrei Kuzmenko, Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev, Vancouver Canucks (expected goals, 9.1; actual goals, 17): Interestingly, this line had only played a handful of games together since we last checked in on line expected goals in a column on Nov. 27 — 63 minutes together, to be exact. But fresh under the watchful eye of new bench boss Rick Tocchet, the trio was reunited on Tuesday in his debut. And guess what? They scored two goals, once again outpacing their expected goals total. It’s easy to see where the disparity comes from now, as Kuzmenko is riding a 25.6% shooting percentage that is tied for the league lead. We have no baseline for Kuzmenko’s shooting percentage, so maybe it’s for real. Either way, he’s available in 40% of leagues and on a top line under a new coach; he’s worth adding.
David Krejci, David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (expected goals, 9.2; actual goals, 17): This “luck” is actually just Pasta being Pasta. He makes expected goals calculations look silly most seasons. But I wanted to highlight this line because Zacha is going unloved. Rostered in only 6.7% of leagues, Zacha has been steady with 1.8 fantasy points per game (FPPG) in the past month, which gets hidden by his 1.3 FPPG on the season because of a slow start.
Matty Beniers, Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann, Seattle Kraken (expected goals, 8.6; actual goals, 18): This line doesn’t exist in this form at the moment and should be referred to more as the duo of Beniers and Eberle plus a friend. And, while much of the blame for the “luck” can be pinned on McCann for being tied with Kuzmenko for the highest shooting percentage in the league, Beniers and Eberle still outpace expected goals with other linemates, too. Notably with Andre Burakovsky, who is now the third member of the line when healthy, the trio has 10 goals but only 5.7 expected goals. But I still don’t think we should expect Beniers to have a cool off as the season winds down; he’s just that good.
Other lucky lines:
Tim Stutzle, Claude Giroux and Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (expected goals, 17.9; actual goals, 12): I wasn’t going to include this trio, as when the Sens are healthy this isn’t a line. But with Josh Norris going back down for the remainder of the campaign, we might see these three back together again. This combination wasn’t in place right before Norris’ brief return, but it has been the Senators most successful line this season — and that’s in spite of the fact they’ve had bad “luck” with expected goals. This re-injury to Norris is really unfortunate as his presence does seem to be the key to the Sens having two good lines instead of just one. The return of this line does determine the fate of Giroux in fantasy, as he doesn’t produce on a unit with Shane Pinto and Alex DeBrincat — literally, as that trio has zero goals this season but has allowed seven in just 58 minutes (worst line in the NHL not from the Chicago Blackhawks for goals against per 60).
Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers (expected goals, 13.7; actual goals, 9): This line comes and goes, but was together prior to the Rangers game on Monday when the team pushed the “all-in” version of their depth chart (Kreider, Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin as the top line). While Kakko, on the whole, is pretty close to his individual expected goals total (10.8 expected; nine actual), I wonder if he’s owed some from this line combination and has earned some extra from his other frequent line combo. When Kakko is with Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil, the trio is part of the “lucky lines” crew, with 6.4 expected goals and 11 actual goals this season. Maybe we won’t be happy with the final result this season for fantasy, but I think Kakko (and Lafreniere) have bright fantasy futures.
Trevor Moore, Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson, Los Angeles Kings (expected goals, 15.8; actual goals, 9): Moore is not expected back until after next week’s all-star break, which means we wouldn’t see this line back until Feb. 11. Moore hasn’t played since Dec. 23, but this line was locked in for the Kings as a unit until then. In his absence, Alex Iafallo has been holding down the fort and that trio has 5.9 expected goals and six actual goals, so essentially right on the money. Danault and Arvidsson both teeter on the brink of being lineup locks for fantasy, but don’t help themselves with stretches like the past six games. The line with Moore has a slightly better expected goals per 60 rate than the line with Iafallo, so it will be interesting to see how the Kings handle Moore’s return. And, either way, we want just a shade more consistency out of Danault and Arvidsson so we can put them on the fantasy roster and leave them there.
Other troubled trios: