Playoff Preview: Top and Bottom Six Match-Up

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Head to head, which team has the superior top six and bottom six forwards? Detroit or Boston?




SB Nation 2014 NHL Playoff Bracket

We're almost there. The Playoffs are so close for the Wings that I can almost taste it.. We've looked at some of the stats, broken down the Bruins lineup, had some fun proving Datsyuk is better than Bergeron, covered predictions, given our "expert" analysis as to what the Wings need to do to win this series, and a whole lot more. There are a few things left to look at in preparation for this series to begin and one of those things is to take a look at how the top and bottom six match up statically.

Top 6

Our own Bruins mole expert wrote an informative breakdown of what to expect from the Bruins forwards, and you can read what Jeff wrote here.

The Wings have had a lot of fluxuation in lines throughout the season due to all the injuries, but we expect to start the playoffs with the following top two lines of

Gustav Nyquist - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader

Johan Franzen - Darren Helm - Daniel Alfredsson

Going against Botson's top two lines of

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

As you can see from the chart below, Boston's top 6 carried a higher percentage of their team's production than Detroit's did. However when you take into consideration the fact that the Wings top six players (as listed above) missed a combined 132 games due to injury, it's not surprising that their production was down. Plus, these top six numbers exclude Henrik Zetterberg's 16 goals and 48 points, since he's not expected to play in this round.

DETROIT TOP 6 MATCH UP BOSTON
99 (45.62% of team total) Goals 148 (57.36% of team total)
120 (33.15%) Assists 207 (46.83%)
219 (37.82%) Points 355 (50.71%)
51.68% Avg FF% Close 5 v5 56.05%
51.68% Avg Time Weighted EV Qual Comp 56.05%
39 (23.78%) EV Goals 118 (59.30%)
13 (26.0%) PP Goals 24 (48.0%)
95 (13.48%) PIM 287 (32.76%)

Since so many of the Wings top six missed to many games, let's compare points per game instead of just total points.

Player GP PTS Pt/Gm Player GP PTS Pt/Gm
David Krejci 80 69 0.863 Gustav Nyquist 56 48 0.857
Jarome Iginla 78 61 0.782 Pavel Datsyuk 44 35 0.795
Patrice Bergeron 80 62 0.775 Johan Franzen 54 41 0.759
Milan Lucic 80 59 0.738 Daniel Alfredsson 68 49 0.721
Brad Marchand 82 53 0.646 Darren Helm 42 20 0.476
Reilly Smith 82 51 0.622 Justin Abdelkader 69 26 0.377


There, that's much better. Aside from Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, the rest of the top six match up pretty evenly in points per game. If we can keep our top six healthy, this should be a very good matchup.

I noted the average Fenwick% Close 5v5 in the first chart, here's a breakdown of each player and what their 5v5 quality of competition is when weighted for time on ice.

Player FF% QualComp%

Player FF% QualComp%
Brad Marchand 60.9 29.6

Gustav Nyquist 54.4 30.1
Milal Luci 60.3 30.1

Pavel Datsyuk 54.1 30.3
Reilly Smith 59.6 30.0

Johan Franzen 51.3 29.8
Jarome Iginla 52.2 31.5

Darren Helm 50.5 28.5
Patrice Bergeron 52.2 31.7

Daniel Alfredsson 50.1 29.3
David Krejci 51.1 31.0

Justin Abdelkader 49.7 30.1

Boston has a little higher average Fenwick percentage( 56.05% compared to the Wings at 51.68%) while the quality of competition is much closer (Bruins average of 30.73% and the Wings averaging 29.68%). Again, I think the massive amount of time injured to the Wings top has an effect we can't ignore.

After breaking down the top in this manner, I'm less worried than I initially was.

Bottom 6

Hey look, an entire line of top six (for most of the season) is now in the bottom six. The Wings are expected to at least start the series with a bottom six lineup of

Tomas Jurco - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar

Drew Miller - David Legwand - Luke Glendening

who will be playing against a Bruins bottom six of

Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Detroit's bottom six have a total of 39 fewer points but only 9 fewer goals, but their percentage of the team totals are pretty evenly matched.

DETROIT BOTTOM 6 MATCH UP BOSTON
48 (22.12% of team total) Goals 57 (22.9% of team total)
63 ( 17.4%) Assists 93 (21.04%)
111 (19.17%) Points 150 (21.43%)
51.62% Avg FF% Close 5 v5 51.28%
51.62% Avg Time Weighted EV Qual Comp 51.28%
40 (24.39%) EV Goals 47 (23.62%)
8 (16%) PP Goals 7 (14%)
124 (17.59%) PIM 201 (22.95%)

As we did with the top six, let's look at a breakdown of points per game for the bottom six

Player GP PTS Pt/Gm Player GP PTS Pt/Gm
Carl Soderberg 73 48 0.658 Riley Sheahan 42 24 0.571
Loui Eriksson 61 37 0.607 Tomas Tatar 73 39 0.534
Chris Kelly 57 18 0.316 David Legwand 21 11 0.524
Gregory Campbell 82 21 0.256 Tomas Jurco 36 15 0.417
Daniel Paille 72 18 0.250 Drew Miller 82 15 0.183
Shawn Thornton 64 8 0.125 Luke Glendening 56 7 0.125

Drew Miller and Luke Glendening bring up the rear, but they also play more time on the penalty kill per game than anyone else in the lineup, averaging 2:43 and 3:00 per game respectively. Chris Kelly (1:51), Loui Eriksson (1:25) Daniel Paille (1:28) and Gergory Campbell (1:51) are the Bruins PK'ers.

Looking at the Fenwick% Close 5v5 and Time Weighted Quality of Competition, the Bruins bottom six average 51.28 FF% and 27.01% Qual Comp compared to the Wings 51.62 FF% and 28.25& Qual Comp. That's a pretty even matchup, with the Wings actually holding the slight advantage thanks to the Kid Line.

Player FF% QualComp%

Player FF% QualComp%
Chris Kelly 56.5 29.2

Riley Sheahan 55.2 27.9
Loui Eriksson 53.0 28.2

Tomas Tatar 53.7 27.8
Carl Soderberg 51.8 28.2

David Legwand 53.1 28.5
Gregory Campbell 49.4 25.7

Tomas Jurco 51.2 27.3
Shawn Thornton 49.1 25.9

Luke Glendening 48.8 27.7
Daniel Paille 47.9 25.2

Drew Miller 47.7 30.3

If we actually have the luxury of having the Kid Line in the bottom six, we match up much better against the Bruins bottom six, and we may even have a slight advantage. The 3rd line matchup may very well be the most exciting one to watch.

Conclusions

Sure the Bruins have the advantage in numbers in pretty much every category, but the Wings are playing what I think is their best hockey all season, we have an actual top six and Datsyuk back, and we're a better team than our stats indicate. We also have quite a bit of speed, energy, and youth in the lineup and that can be a significant advantage for the Wings: as long as that youth can minimize their mistakes.

Up Next: How do the defense and goalies stack up? *spoiler* you may need a little rum for that one.

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