The best part of the NHL's opening round is that there isn't a single series that appears to be a walk in the park. Whether you are using the eye test or digging deep into the numbers, you can make a case for nearly every club to advance. One way to figure out which team might have a deep postseason run in them is by looking at their strengths and weaknesses by position.
We start with each team's forwards. Who has depth? Who has superstar talent that can carry them? Which players will make the biggest difference? Let's have a look...
All line stats are for 5-on-5, and via Corsica Hockey.
It tells you something about Tampa Bay's excellence up front when their second line dominates as much as most first lines. Before trading Vladislav Namestnikov in the deal that returned Miller and Ryan McDonagh, the line of Stamkos, Kucherov and Namestnikov was producing at a terrific rate with 3.4 goals per 60 minutes at even strength and a 55.8 goals for percentage. Miller, who is a superior offensive player, has mostly filled in that spot with the two superstars. Kucherov was on the ice for the fourth most goals scored of any forward, with only Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Connor McDavid ahead of him. And Stamkos slid into a playmaker role, racking up 41 even-strength assists.
The Lightning not only have an All-Star first line, they back that up with an underrated skilled second wave with Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, a trio that was good for a 55.6 Corsi for percentage and plus-11 goal differential. They also provide Jon Cooper with depth and versatility. Yanni Gourde scored 64 points this season after toiling away in the minors for years, and veteran Chris Kunitz and Alex Killorn have gone from top-six players to exceptional bottom-sixers. Teams dream of having the top-to-bottom skill of the Lightning forwards.