Putting together the "right" line combination can make a world of difference for an NHL team and for the fantasy stats its players accumulate.
Case in point, when the Chicago Blackhawks put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on the top line on Jan. 20 for a game against the Capitals, the move also kept former junior hockey linemates Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat together as anchors of the team's second line. Over Chicago's next seven games, Kane has tallied16 points and the other three each have 14 points.
Yes, since the change, the Blackhawks lead the NHL in points with a perfect 7-0-0 record. The trickle-down effect has also meant that Dominik Kahun, the third member of the No. 2 line, has seven points in seven games -- and even Drake Caggiula has a respectable four points in that span as the linemate to Toews and Kane.
Figuring out where that same sort of trickle-down effect is likely to occur on other teams is what we are most interested in for fantasy. Here are a few places where we might well find some similar impact:
On Jan. 23, the St. Louis Blues made a line change, putting Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O'Reilly and Brayden Schenn together. In the six games since, the Blues are 6-0-0. Tarasenko has 10 points, Schenn has seven and O'Reilly has six. While there isn't as much trickle down here as there was in Chicago, I am still intrigued by Robert Thomas landing a role with the aforementioned players on the top power play.
On Feb. 6, the Boston Bruins seemingly decided that their defense was solid enough to experiment with breaking up their top trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak for the first extended period of time this season. Danton Heinen has joined Marchand and Bergeron on the top line, while Pastrnak is playing with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. Heinen has three points and a plus-4 rating in three games. He makes a great target for fantasy, for as long as this experiment lasts.
The Buffalo Sabres made a switch on Feb. 7, going back to Jason Pominville instead of Sam Reinhart on their top line of Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner. While Pominville has just one assist in the three games since the switch, this combination was explosive at the start of the season. They still rank near the top of the league for goals-per-minute as a trio at 5-on-5, with 17 goals in just shy of 200 total minutes together. Pominville is a must-add for as long as this lasts.
Forwards on the move
Tyler Toffoli, W, Los Angeles Kings (up 33 spots to No. 186): Settling into a nice groove in February, Toffoli has lit up the scoreboard so far this month with seven points in six games. He's playing down the depth chart a bit, mostly on a line with the underrated Brendan Leipsic, but is also getting power-play time on the top unit while Jeff Carter is out. Whether or not Toffoli can continue his scoring after Carter returns is the key question to his sustained value down the stretch.
Mika Zibanejad, C/W, New York Rangers (up 13 spots to No. 83): Zibanejad is still essentially on a point-per-game pace (54 points in 55 games) and has already set a career-high for points. Clearly, he's relishing his role as the Rangers' top offensive threat. All his statistics are within very sustainable increases from previous seasons, with no red flags for this level of production. At just 25 years old, Zibanejad could keep this kind of scoring run going for another few seasons.
Taylor Hall, W, New Jersey Devils (down 79 spots to No. 124): It's starting to get silly with Hall. As Victoria Matiash noted in this week's free-agent column, the ridiculous answers to questions about Hall's health are foreboding, to say the least. I hate to drop a reigning Hart Trophy winner this far down the rankings when he could conceivably be back on the ice in a week's time, but there is a growing body of evidence that he could might not be back until it's too late for your fantasy team. If you can't make the playoffs or push for the championship without Hall being in your active lineup, it's worth considering a move.
Defensemen on the move
Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders (up 44 spots to No. 157): Maybe, just maybe, Pulock's seven points in six games so far this month can finally earn him the promotion he so deserves. The Islanders are still rolling Nick Leddy out on their No. 1 power-play unit, despite the fact that Pulock is showing much more offensive potential. If I sound like a broken record here, I apologize, but I've been a believer in Pulock's slapshot for what now feels like years. I think maybe the tide is at long last starting to turn.
Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres (up 23 spots to No. 142): The Sabres have made a hard shift away from using both Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen together on the top power play, and are now rolling with four forwards along with the rookie Dahlin. This is a very promising shift as the concentration of production should move Dahlin up another notch in the fantasy realm.
Goaltenders on the move
Carter Hart, G, Philadelphia Flyers (up 38 spots to No. 117): He's been the best goaltender in the NHL for the past two weeks, with five wins and a .936 save percentage. As the Flyers continue to find their way, Hart is both a beneficiary and driving force in the team's turnaround. He's easily a G2 for the stretch run and should be rostered in more leagues than the likes of Semyon Varlamov, Henrik Lundqvist, Carter Hutton or Jonathan Quick. Need we point out that is currently not the case.
Jordan Binnington, G, St. Louis Blues (up 90 spots to No. 140): It's pretty much been decided at this stage that Binnngton has the starter's job for as long as he can keep it. That's what happens when you go 9-1-1 with a 1.72 GAA for a team that was floundering before you showed up. Jake Allen is not worth keeping at this stage of redraft formats.
Brian Boyle may be worthy of rostering for some stretches if the Nashville Predators get their power-play groove back. He's playing the front-of-net role on the top unit, just as he did for the Devils.
Pittsburgh's Nick Bjugstad got some ice time with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on Monday. It's something to monitor now that Malkin is back on the ice, at least for now with potential discipline pending.
There are positive reports about the health of both Antti Raanta and Corey Crawford, two goaltenders I didn't think I'd have to think about again this season. Obviously, both would factor into fantasy lineups if they return at any point. If you are desperate for help in a deeper league, you could do worse than to stash them and hope fro the best.
New to rankings
Corey Perry, Danton Heinen, Jason Pominville and Corey Crawford.