Every Hurricanes fan gets excited when they look at the Hurricanes lineup and see that Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov are on the first line together. However, it may be time that head coach Rod Brind’amour shies away from loading up on the top line in favor of his usual more balanced lineup.
I will note that as I am writing this, it appears that Brind’amour has changed up the Canes lines a little bit entering the third period against the Maple Leafs, already rendering this article pointless. Regardless though, let’s take a deep dive on why I think it would be more beneficial to the team if the “SAT” line gets broken up.
The idea of putting all three of your top offensive stars makes sense. Essentially it is a cheat code having those guys together, or at least it should be. According to Moneypuck, in the 164 minutes spent together (as of the writing of this article), the line has combined for 5 goals for and 4 goals against. The names on that would lead to believe they would be scoring a lot more, however, they haven’t been able to put it together yet.
Don’t get me wrong, the line still has underlying numbers and for the most part, they are still playing very well. They are out-chancing their opponents, as the line’s expected goals per 60 is currently 3.39 for and 2.81 against. The biggest problem with the Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen line isn’t how they are performing, it is how it impacts the offensive production of the Canes as a whole.
The line has been together since the Canes’ February 18th contest against the Nashville Predators. To compare, I am going to look at two samples, the 12-game stretch from January 18th-February 16th and the 12-game stretch from February 17th-March 16th.
Looking at the first sample, the one without the SAT line, the Hurricanes went 7-3-2. In that time they scored 43 goals and conceded 32. That is good for 3.58 goals-for per game, and 2.67 goals against per game.
During the second stretch, the one with the SAT line intact, the team went 9-2-1 with 35 goals for and 27 goals against. That is good for 2.92 GF per game and 2.25 against per game.
Well yes, the team’s record improved, the big drop in offense is alarming. Looking at the players’ personal even-strength point totals we see an even bigger drop. During the January 18th-February 16th stretch, Svechnikov had 11 points, Aho had 7, and Teravainen had 4. From February 17th-March 16th Svechnikov dropped to 4, Aho went to 5, and Teravainen went to 3.
It is fairly obvious that none of the players are benefiting from all being together, as splitting them up leads to easier matchups. Svechnikov benefits the most from this, as he is the one who usually gets bumped down to the second line. Andrei being on Trocheck’s wing allows him to play against weaker competition and thus, dominate.
The winning is of course good but that can be more contributed to defense shaping up, the goalies somehow playing even more out of their minds than usual, and games, in general, getting tighter. As the season goes along, and especially in the playoffs, the offensive production has to pick up to where it was before mid-February.
Luckily the rest of the forward core has stayed relatively consistent. For example, Nino Niederreiter has scored 7 points through both stretches, and Vincent Trocheck produced 8 points during both samples as well. With the other 3 lines for the most part having the same production, the team could really use Svechnikov, Aho, and Tervainen to return to their normal point production, and the best way to do that is to separate them once again.
Question for Cardiac Cane readers: What do you think the lineup should look like?