The Colorado Avalanche’s top line of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon are off to a hot start and are being talked about as the best line in the league right now. Considering they’re the only line with all 3 players in the top 10 in points for forwards, it’s a pretty fair statement to make. Taking a more in-depth look though, we see a trend that might be troublesome for the Avalanche before long.
As it stands, Rantanen, MacKinnon, and Landeskog have the best goal differential of any line that’s played at least fifty 5-on-5 minutes together. They’ve been on for 9 goals as a line and 2 against. Seems like a pretty effective line right there.
But then why do they have such a low Expected Goals For percentage (XGF%)? Out of the top 6 lines in goal differential, they have the second worst at 43.9%, behind only Anaheim’s line of Adam Henrique, Max Comtois, and Jakob Silfverberg.
Rantanen, Landeskog, and MacKinnon might be producing a ton right now but they’re also giving up a lot of quality chances. Out of all the players playing on those top lines, only Henrique and Comtois have a worse inner slot shot differential than any of Rantanen, Landeskog, and MacKinnon. Luckily for both Colorado and Anaheim, they’ve been getting otherworldly goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and John Gibson. They’re the top two goalies in Expected Goals vs. Actual Goals Against. If the goaltending drops off at all and their top lines continue to give up these types of high-quality chances, then those goal differentials will fall along with them.
The Avalanche currently sit near the top of the standings but if they want to stay there they need their top line to lock it up a bit defensively. Their top line has 20 of their 33 goals this year which is great but also a dangerous recipe for success when they’re giving up even more quality opportunities than they’re producing. In the meantime, Colorado fans should enjoy the early season success of its top line and the team in general. Just don’t be surprised when things drop off a bit.
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