Is the line of Rantanen, Landeskog and MacKinnon the NHL’s best?
After he and his line inspired the Colorado Avalanche to five-unanswered goals in a come-from-behind 6-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Friday, Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog was asked a simple question.
“Safe to say you guys are the best line in the league?” Altitude Sports reporter Lauren Gardner posed to Landeskog after he was named the game’s first star.
The question was placed on a tee perfectly for him. He could have been humble, I suppose. But with the adrenalin still flowing after his three-point effort that included scoring the game-winner, Landeskog made a declaration.
“Ya, we are,” he said, before skating off the ice.
Mic-drop 101 right there.
And he’s not lying.
The trio is the best offensive unit in hockey at the moment. The production numbers don’t lie -- they combined for 10 points against Ottawa.
Rantanen paces the NHL with 20 points, MacKinnon is right behind him in second place with 18 and Landeskog has 15 down in the sixth spot. The quick mental math adds up to 53 points between the three.
Only the Boston Bruins’ line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand come close. They’ve combined for 44 points so far this season.
Colorado’s top line has them near the top of the Central Division so far. Many expected them to be in the fight for a playoff spot, but after 10 games, they seem to be reaching for loftier goals in the best division in hockey.
Whether or not this continues is always the question.
As good as they are in the offensive zone, the trio isn’t as well-versed in the other end. Shot share numbers for all three, for instance, sit below 50 percent. They give up more shots than they put on goal. Consequently, they’ve also given up more high-danger chances than they’ve created.
What’s helped is that of the 28 high-danger chances against, only one has crossed the goal line. Of the 23 they’ve produced against their opponents, eight of them have found the back of the net. For every three high-danger chances they come up with, one is being added to the score sheet.
Credit good goaltending for the low high-danger goals-against from those chances.
Avs starter Semyon Varlamov has a .931 save percentage on high-danger chances. Only New York Islanders netminder Robin Lehner is better. Furthermore, Varlamov’s 5v5 save percentage is impeccable at .953 this season.
Goaltending, it can be said, has saved the line at one end of the ice.
Landeskog is shooting at 28 percent right now and the rest of the line is near the 20 percent margin. Percentages in the 20s won’t cut it in school, but on the ice, they’re the equivalent of straight As. Even the league’s most elite shooters don’t sit around those numbers over the course of a season. Alex Ovechkin, for example, scored 49 goals last season and held a 13.8 percent shooting percentage. He’s never surpassed 15 percent in his career in a single season and is widely regarded as the best goal-scorer of his generation -- and one of the best all-time.
So talk of Rantanen being on pace for 150 points is fun and all, but likely unrealistic given the inevitable regression that will come.
This isn’t to take away from anything the line has accomplished so far. They’ve been incredible thus far at producing points at a feverish pace. They’re also very exciting to watch.
Are they the best line in the NHL, however?
Production-wise, yes. There’s no argument there.
But all-around game as a unit? Consider that Boston’s top line is working with a near 60 percent possession rating and is still putting up impressive numbers on the scoresheet.
And Colorado’s top unit has the benefit of recency bias after their big game on Friday. If Boston’s best go out and drop a 10-spot tonight, the argument on Sunday shifts once again.
The top line in the NHL? Well, that will always be up for debate (points to comment section).