New Jersey Devils Top Line Deserves Some Respect

(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

There’s an ongoing debate in the NHL currently of which 1st line is the “best” in the NHL.  Traditionally, Boston’s Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak trio wins that debate. However with a scorching hot start to the year a new contender has emerged.  Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen were recently entered into the debate by Scott Billek of Pro Hockey Talk.

Even on the Hockey PDOcast by Dimitri Filipovic, they had the discussion recently where those two trio’s were mentioned with Dallas’ Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov mentioned as a possible contender for the fictional title.

As you’ve probably figured out by now since this is in fact a New Jersey Devils blog I’m here to talk about why the Devils trio of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri deserves to be a part of this discussion.

Let’s start with one of the simplest metrics we can look at.

Points per game.

This is clearly why the debate is currently Boston vs Colorado.

Here are those 12 players listed in order of P/GP pulled from

Rantanen 1.82

Radulov 1.67

MacKinnon 1.64

Palmieri 1.63

Bergeron 1.60

Pastrnak 1.50

Hall 1.38

Landeskog 1.36

Marchand 1.30

Seguin 1.22

Hischier 1.00

Benn 0.89

If we evaluate strictly based off P/GP, then it’s pretty clear the debate is between Colorado and Boston, but I’m here to go deeper than that.

Pulling line stats from both and let’s get a little deeper here.

Here are the lines ranked by 5v5 Score and Venue Adjusted CF%

Boston 58.15

Dallas 56.64

New Jersey 55.63

Colorado 46.56

Surprisingly enough, Colorado’s trio ranks last of these four first lines when looking at CF%.  Obviously, shot share isn’t the end all be all and in the long run points mean more than Corsi, but when it comes to evaluating sustainability it doesn’t look great for Colorado’s trio.

Looking a little deeper than a simple shot share let’s take a look at the trio’s ranked by HDCF%.

New Jersey 76.67

Dallas 60

Boston 57.5

Colorado 45.1

There’s a trend when it comes to shot metrics with these teams.  Colorado is well behind these other first lines when you start looking at the underlying numbers.  Hall, Hischier, and Palmieri have an absurd HDCF% and while its certainly not sustainable knowing the system the Devils utilize, if those three stick together it seems very likely they’ll stay above 55% in High Danger chances.

Dallas and Boston also have great HDCF%’s and I’d imagine Boston’s stays around 57% throughout the year.

Knowing how each trio looks in the shot share, lets take a look at the lines “Threat ” from Hockey  This stat essentially shows how much each line’s shot quality increases their chance of scoring compared to average. I highly suggesting check out this site and while I unfortunately can’t embed the heat maps that reflect these numbers we can still take a quick look at them.

Hall-Hischier-Palmieri +47% offensively, -26% defensively

Marchand-Bergergon-Pastrnak +6% offensively, -24% defensively

Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen -6% offensively, +5% defensively

Benn-Seguin-Radulov +36% offensively, average defensively

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Again the Devils numbers here are just insane and it’s a reflection of their HDCF%.  They’ve done an outstanding job generating quality chances for and limiting chances against.  While these exact numbers are not sustainable the trio are simply having a great start to the year.

There are some other things to note here.  Boston’s trio finished last year at 20% offensively so I would expect some offensive improvement from them and I’d expect both the Devils and Stars to have a little regression in this area.

Now let’s take a look at the trio’s Expected Goals numbers from Corsica Hockey and we’ll rank them by xG+/-

Dallas 1.97

Boston 1.29

New Jersey 1.14

Colorado 0.05

Now that we’ve looked at three pretty major stats, I think it’s safe to see that Colorado is clearly exceeding expectation and Boston is slightly underperforming compared to how they normally play.  Now I’m not ready to claim the Devils have the best first line in hockey after only eight games, but I think it’s safe to say that the Devils certainly have one of the premier lines in hockey.

The title likely still belongs to Boston’s trio and Dallas is in the conversation but the forgotten first line in New Jersey is somehow (even with the Hart Trophy winner on the LW) very quietly having a phenomenal start to their year.  You’d think the NHL wouldn’t sleep on the Hart Trophy winner two years in a row but it’s looking that way.

dark. Next. Good, Bad, and Ugly To Start New Jersey Devils Season

Their performance likely won’t continue to be this dominant but enjoy it while you can Devils fans.