This week the THN Top 10 counts down the NHL’s 10 best lines.
Now before everyone gets all in a tizzy over the combinations listed below, let it be known we worked off the depth charts sent to us last week by our 30 NHL correspondents – all of whom cover their respective teams for major dailies in those cities. So although you might think you’ve got the finger on the pulse of your favorite club, these are the guys who watch every game, go to every practice and have access to players and coaches almost daily.
We’ve also gone with just one line per team, because we didn’t think it fair for Detroit and Philadelphia to take up 40 percent of the list. Finally, this list is both subjective and objective, the former because we took into account intangibles such as leadership and all-around play, the latter because we also looked at pure numbers. But needless to say, any team in the league would take any of these 10 lines on their team.
Lines are listed as left wing–center–right wing.
10. Ilya Kovalchuk – Todd White – Bryan Little, Atlanta Thrashers
This trio sneaks into our top 10 for two reasons: First, it has the best handle in hockey – the Little White Russian line. We love our delicious creamy alcoholic beverages around here. Secondly, the line has accounted for 40 percent of Atlanta’s goals scored this season and at 11th in goals per game, the Thrashers are no scoring slouches.
9. Dany Heatley – Jason Spezza – Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
The Pizza Line is having an off year by its standards. None of the three are scoring at a point-per-game pace and the Sens are brutal this season. But the three are still the best players on their team and are capable of exploding at any time. They’ve scored 80 of their team’s 181 goals – an astounding 44 percent of Ottawa’s tallies – and Spezza, the third-highest point producer in the group, has 27 points more than the Sens’ No. 4 scorer.
8. Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Bill Guerin, Pittsburgh Penguins
This is the youngest of the lines to make our list; in time spent together, not age. The trio has been on fire – as have the Pens – since coming together after the trade deadline acquisition of Guerin, combining for 25 points in the six games.
7. Milan Lucic – Marc Savard – Phil Kessel, Boston Bruins
This line has got it all: Lucic breaks glass with his hits and faces with his punches, all while thriving in the hard parts of the ice; Savard is one of the top four or five set-up men in the league; and Kessel is a burgeoning star with a sniper’s touch. Not to mention the three are also plus-56 collectively.
6. Mike Cammalleri – Olli Jokinen – Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Cammalleri and Iginla have been on fire all season. The threesome has been hot since being put together post-deadline. In the six Calgary games since March 4, they’ve combined for 12 goals – more than half of the Flames total output – and 24 points.
5. Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Devin Setoguchi, San Jose Sharks
This season, the squad’s three highest-scoring players have been the driving force behind the Sharks, the team with the NHL’s best winning percentage. Marleau and Thornton are both amongst the NHL’s top 20 scorers and Setoguchi has 25 goals. The three have been known to take over games this season and are a combined plus-55 with 28 power play goals and 16 game winners.
4. Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Viktor Kozlov, Washington Capitals
When you’ve got the best player in the world and the still improving fourth-best Swede in the game, it’s a safe bet your line will make this list. Ovie is well on his way to his second of many Rocket Richard Trophies and could very well take the Hart again this year. Meanwhile, Backstrom is piling up the assists and will tally 20 goals of his own. Kozlov is interchangeable, but is a nice big body to go to the net. If they played a little harder in their own end, this group would be higher.
3. Simon Gagne – Mike Richards – Mike Knuble, Philadelphia Flyers
This line has three guys who will finish the season with 25-plus goals – maybe even 30 –and is also great defensively. Playing against the opposition’s top line each night, the trio has managed to net a plus-51 total. They also have 11 shorthanded markers and 24 power play goals.
2. Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey Devils
Led by THN’s March 30 cover boy, Parise, this line has truly been the line from hell for opponents all season, both offensively and defensively. The trio has combined for 84 goals, 204 points and is a mind-numbing plus-94. They’ve also accounted for 20 power play goals and 15 game winners.
1. Johan Franzen – Pavel Datsyuk – Tomas Holmstrom, Detroit Red Wings
The choice in Hockeytown was even tougher than the one in Philly. But Datsyuk is the premier defensive forward in the league and has a 24-point lead in the Red Wing scoring race. Plus the line owns a cumulative plus-63 rating and has scored 29 power play goals and 11 game winners. As for its No. 1 position on the list, when you’re the best line on the deepest team in hockey, which also happens to be the defending Stanley Cup-champion, you deserve it.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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