Ranking the 10 Best Attacking Duos in the NHL
Creating a successful line in the NHL takes at least two quality forwards, one of which is a center with playmaking skills, while the other is a winger that has a great shot and will find the back of the net consistently.
We see so many examples of top-line wingers who don't have a legitimate No. 1 center to play with, which prevents these goal scorers from maximizing their production offensively.
Finding a terrific duo is not easy, which is why head coaches spend so much time before and during games trying to figure out which players will develop chemistry and score goals together.
Let's take a look at the 10-best scoring duos in the NHL (forwards only).
10) Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators
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Jason Spezza and Milan Michaelek have only played in a combined 22 games for the Ottawa Senators this season because of injuries, but their previous success together makes them a worthy duo for this article.
Spezza finished fourth in the NHL in scoring last season with 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists), while Michalek led the Senators with 35 goals scored.
These two players make up one of the most underrated center/winger combos in the NHL, and their absence from Ottawa's lineup for most of this season is the major reason why the team ranks 23rd in goals scored and has the 18th-ranked power play.
The Senators really miss Spezza's playmaking ability (eight straight seasons of 30-plus assists) and his leadership on and off the ice. The team also hasn't found someone for the top line who is capable of replacing the goal scoring that Michalek provides the top-six forward group (Daniel Alfredsson leads the team with just 10 goals).
When Spezza and Michalek were healthy last year, the Senators finished the season as the fourth-highest scoring team that also had the 11th-best power play.
9) John Tavares and Matt Moulson, New York Islanders
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The New York Islanders inched closer to clinching a playoff spot with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
One of the goal scorers was top-line winger Matt Moulson, who has formed a very productive duo with superstar center and Hart Trophy candidate John Tavares.
Coming into this season, Moulson had scored 30 or more goals in three consecutive years, and most of this success can be attributed to Tavares' passing skills and vision as an elite center. Moulson has scored 14 goals this season, and eight of them have been assisted by Tavares.
Tavares and Moulson have combined for 82 points in the Islanders' 43 games this season, and they are two of the most consistent offensive players in the league.
8) Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins
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Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were one of the most unstoppable duos in the league when the superstar center was healthy. Crosby suffered a jaw injury on March 30 in a game against the New York Islanders, and may not return to Pittsburgh's lineup until Game 1 of the playoffs.
When Crosby was on the Penguins' first line, Kunitz took full advantage of his center's playmaking ability by scoring 20 goals in 36 games. If this was a full 82-game season, Kunitz would be on pace to score 41 goals, which would shatter his previous career-high of 26 that he set last year.
As for Crosby, he still leads the NHL with 56 points (15 goals, 41 assists) despite missing the last two weeks with an injury. He's one of the top candidates for the Hart Trophy and scored at a rate of 1.56 points per game this year, which is a career-best.
7) Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
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The Sedin twins have not dominated offensively at the level we have seen in years past, but the Vancouver Canucks forwards are still an elite scoring duo.
Henrik leads the team in assists (31) and points (42), while Daniel ranks second in both categories (27 assists, 38 points).
As you would expect from brother duos who have played together for many years, the Sedins have fantastic chemistry on the Canucks' first line and it shows on the ice. Neither of these players have tallied less than 67 points since 2004-05 lockout.
Injuries to top-six forwards such as Ryan Kesler and David Booth have hurt the Canucks' scoring depth this season, but to no one's surprise, the Sedin twins helped carry the team's offense.
Vancouver will likely win the Northwest Division and go into the playoffs as the No. 3 see in the Western Conference, where they will be incredibly tough to beat in a seven-game series because of the team's strong goaltending and first-line duo of Henrik and Daniel.
6) Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
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The resurgence of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf as a top scoring duo in the NHL is one reason why the Anaheim Ducks are a top contender for the Stanley Cup with the second-best record in the Western Conference.
Getzlaf leads the Ducks in goals (14), assists (30) and points (44), while Perry ranks second on the team in goals (13) and points (31).
These two players compliment each other very well. Perry is the perfect winger for a playmaking center like Getzlaf because of his ability to score 35-plus goals in a normal 82-game schedule.
As two of the best power forwards in the league, Getzlaf and Perry impact games physically, create turnovers with their defensive skill and contribute to the team's penalty kill. This kind of skill set makes these Ducks stars two of the toughest players for opposing head coaches to game plan for because they are capable of dominating at both ends of the ice.
The Ducks have a lot of scoring depth this season with eight players who have tallied 19 or more points thus far, but it's the top line of Getzlaf, Perry and Bobby Ryan that will give defensemen nightmares in the playoffs.
5) Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks
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Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have been one of the league's strongest duos in 2013, and the two superstars are making a huge impact at both ends of the ice. In addition to being top-tier defensive forwards, they are also contributing offensively on a consistent basis.
Toews and Hossa each have three goals and two assists in the Chicago Blackhawks' last five games. The Blackhawks captain ranks second on the team in scoring with 44 points (21 goals, 24 assists), while Hossa is third with 28 points (16 goals, 12 assists) in 35 games.
Another reason why these players are so difficult to shut down is their great hockey IQ and the way they protect the puck.
Toews and Hossa rarely give away possession of the puck because of their strength and quickness, and they know where to look for the other on the ice. This kind of chemistry makes the Blackhawks top line, which also includes rookie winger Brandon Saad, really difficult to defend.
4) Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
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Superstar center Claude Giroux and talented young winger Jakub Voracek have been two of the Philadelphia Flyers' best players this season. Unfortunately for the Flyers, these guys are among the few players on the team performing at a high level on a consistent basis in 2013.
Voracek has 43 points (19 points, 24 assists) in 43 games thus far, which is only seven points behind his career-high of 50 which was set during the 2009-10 season as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A lot of this scoring production has been created by Giroux's impressive playmaking, vision and power-play skills. Giroux leads the Flyers in assists (31) and points (44), while also leading the NHL in faceoff wins (584).
When Scott Hartnell was out of the lineup for several weeks with an injury, Giroux and Voracek took on the added responsibility and helped the Flyers score goals, but the team's poor defensive play and inconsistent goaltending have prevented the club from being in a position to earn a playoff spot.
3) Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
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After injuries and disappointing performances impacted this duo earlier in the 2013 season, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have once again proven why they are one of the elite scoring combos in the NHL.
Here are their stats since March 14 (19 games):
- Ovechkin: 28 points (19 goals, nine assists)
- Backstrom: 23 points (three goals, 20 assists)
The Washington Capitals rank fifth in goals scored and first in power-play success. The incredible offensive production by Ovechkn and Backstrom from the team's first line has really energized this team over the last month, and the result is Washington likely finishing as the third seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs as the Southeast Division champions.
Ovechkin and Backstrom have played in all 43 Capitals games this season with a combined 92 points. When these players are on top of their game, which has been the case since mid-March, there are very few defensive pairings around the league who will shut them down consistently.
2) Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
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At 37 years old, Martin St. Louis is still playing at an elite level. The veteran winger ranks third in the NHL in scoring with 53 points (12 goals, 41 assists,) and he has been a force on the power play with a team-leading 19 points (three goals, 16 assists).
His center, Steven Stamkos, has become the league's most talented goal scorer over the last few years. St. Louis' leadership and playmaking skill has helped Stamkos score 27 goals this year, which is the second-most in the NHL behind Alexander Ovechkin's 28.
Stamkos led the league with 60 goals last season, while St. Louis reached the 25-goal mark for the ninth consecutive season.
Both of these players have a fantastic combination of goal scoring ability, playmaking skill, great speed and a high hockey IQ. This is what makes them so productive offensively, in addition to the great chemistry they have developed by playing alongside each other.
1) Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Pittsburgh Penguins lead the NHL in goals scored and also have the most successful power play. Two of the players who are responsible for a lot of this success offensively are superstar center Evgeni Malkin and elite goal scorer James Neal.
Neal's first full season with the Penguins was last year, and he was put on the Penguins' second line alongside Malkin, which proved to be a great decision by head coach Dan Bylsma.
Malkin won the Hart Trophy with a league-leading 109 points with 50 goals and 59 assists. Many of those points were assists on Neal's goals. The 25-year-old winger finished the 2011-12 season with a career-high 40 goals and 41 assists. Through 42 games of this shortened 2013 season, Neal ranks third on the Penguins with 18 goals.
This is one of the most difficult duos for NHL defensemen to shut down because Malkin is one of the five-best players in the league and Neal is a top-tier goal scorer entering the prime of his career. As it continues to develop chemistry, the Malkin/Neal duo could become one of the best scoring combos in NHL history.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston.