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The Stars’ Top Line is the Best Line in the NHL Playoffs

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The Stars’ first line of Benn, Seguin and Radulov have dominated the postseason while 5-on-5 and will be a key to success in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars’ top line of Benn, Seguin and Radulov has been the best forward line in the NHL Playoffs. Ben Bishop was great against the Nashville Predators and a big reason the Stars advanced to Round 2 of the playoffs. However, the work done by the team’s top line also played a very big role in producing enough offense in front of him while limiting chances against. They were split in Game 1 against the Predators but ever since then they’ve been paired together and the trio, and their head coach Jim Montgomery, haven’t even looked back.

Of course, you’d expect a site that covers the Stars to proclaim their top line as the best in the playoffs. So before you start throwing out the homer calls, let’s show you the numbers to prove it.

The trio has played together in six games this posteason and has out-chanced the opposing lines in five of them. The one game they were outchanced was Game 4 in the first round, where the Stars were up 4-0 after the first period. So, conclude that as you will, but here’s how the chances look per game:

Game by Game breakdown of Scoring Chances
www.naturalstattrick.com

Clearly, the Stars’ top line has come to play every night. Even last night where the chances look quite even, they were still able to out-attempt the Blues 12-7 and out shoot them 6-2. There hasn’t been one game this postseason where a team has truly contained the trio when they’re on the ice. Not only are the providing offense, they aren’t giving up too much as a sacrifice. This is important and success can come to the Stars if Benn, Seguin and Radulov continue to dominate game by game as they’re doing and Bishop stays solid in net.

Another way to analyze the performance of the Stars’ three-headed-monster line is by comparing them to the rest of the league. The metrics used were on-ice 5v5 and all data was gathered from http://corsica.hockey/line-stats/. I took all the forward lines this postseason that has played at least 30 minutes together which gave me 44 total forward lines. The Stars’ 1st line of Benn, Seguin, Radulov ranks among those lines are as follows:

  • Goals: 1st
  • Goal Differential: 1st
  • Expected Goals: 1st
  • Expected Goal Differential: 2nd
  • Relative Corsi%: 5th
  • Corsi%: 9th
  • Shot Attempts per Minute: 4th

The numbers show that while playing at even strength, Benn, Seguin and Radulov have found another level. They’re constantly getting chances. They’re finding the net on their dangerous shots. They’re spending time in the offensive zone. They’re doing everything right.

Below is the chart of all 44 lines sorted by the sum of their total ranks for each of the above metrics.

NHL Postseason Lines | 5v5 on-ice rankings
http://corsica.hockey/line-stats/

Two Things are Clear..

The Dallas Stars first line can’t be stopped. They were dominant last season. They were dominant this season. And the playoffs just absolutely FEED Radulov and Benn, making them an extremely difficult line to contain. Their size, speed, physicality, pressure and skill makes them a tough match up after April and they’re proving that. As Montgomery joked, Radulov’s back was a little sore from carrying the Stars to the second round. He wasn’t far off the truth, though it wasn’t just Radulov — it was the entire top line.

The next item that is clear, and maybe a topic of discussion for later, is Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz and Mats Zuccarello as the Stars’ second line have to find a way to become more of a difference maker. They’ve been fine, but to compete for the Western Conference Finals, or further, they’ll need to find that next level. Hintz has been great on the rush and on the power play. Dickinson had two great goals in Game 5 of the first round and Zuccarello has been great all-around. But, as a line, they need to find a way to become a consistent threat. The top line can only stay intact if that line is going. Having to split the trio up because the second line isn’t performing well enough at even strength only becomes a burden.

If anything in this article has been made clear, it is that the Stars need the top line to keep rolling. Splitting them up is a risky move so relying on the bottom nine forwards to stay intact and strong is important for Dallas’ success. If Bishop keeps playing at his Vezina-worthy level and Montgomery is able to continue to roll out this first line consistently, there’s no reason to think the Stars can’t go all the way this year.