Ranking the 6 Most Dangerous Attacking Duos in 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
We are more than a week into the 2013 NHL playoffs, which has been more than enough time to remind onlookers of the importance of possessing a strong attacking duo in the postseason. While scoring depth is incredibly important and vital to long playoff runs, the bottom-six guys can rarely do much good when they don't have top-flight forwards to prop up.
Looking back on the past dozen or so Stanley Cup-winning teams, potent forwards are prominent on the roster. Whether it was Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar in 2012 or Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in 2009, championship teams always boast at least a couple of players capable of heavy lifting.
2013 is no different, and whichever pair manages to separate themselves from the pack will give their respective team a huge boost.
Worthy of note is that the margin between these pairings is razor thin, and it's likely that four could be switched with six without causing an issue. Also, players do not need to be playing on the same line together to be included here.
6. Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton: Boston Bruins
Full disclosure here: There were only supposed to be five "scoring duos" presented for this slideshow. Yet leaving Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton (and David Krejci) out would have made this an incomplete list. Turns out when the bruising top line of the Boston Bruins aren't muscling their way toward the Toronto Maple Leafs net, they are muscling their way onto power rankings.
If you've caught a period or two of action between the B's and the Leafs, you know just how awesome and deadly these guys have been. Both Lucic and Horton have used their size along the boards to push toward the slot before whipping the puck to an exposed center area for Krejci.
The Leafs have yet to find an answer for the duo (trio), and it could cost them the series.
5. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski: San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks were the first team to move on to the second round. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski were seemingly at the center of everything as they swept out the higher-seeded Vancouver Canucks with almost frightening ease.
If this list was from a year or two ago, the duo from the Sharks would have been Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau—while the old guard has played outstandingly as well, they haven't been scary good like Couture and Pavelski.
The pair are currently tied for second place in postseason scoring with eight points each through four games. If they can continue to crank points out at that rate, the San Jose Sharks are going to be a difficult out as they try to become the third California-based team to lift the Stanley Cup.
Pavelski in particular has been a killer on the power play, and he's currently on a goal-per-game pace. Yikes.
4. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews: Chicago Blackhawks
Word on the street is that Jonathan Toews is having a quiet series against the Minnesota Wild. If you take a passing glance at the box scores from the games thus far, you'll likely notice he has zero points through four games and assume that this is the truth.
Don't buy into that, though. It isn't true.
Folks watching the Chicago Blackhawks over the past few games know it's been Toews who's been charged with shutting down the top players on the Wild. Zach Parise only has one goal and Mikko Koivu has been held pointless.
Needless to say, Captain Serious is doing his job.
All the while, Patrick Kane is showing off his new-found love of passing the puck. He's dished out four assists in the series and has been dangerous in the offensive zone.
3. Evgeni Malkin and James Neal: Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin and James Neal found noticeable and magical chemistry immediately after the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired the power forward from the Dallas Stars.
He's exactly the kind of guy whom centers love to play with. Neal's stick is always on the ice, and he always seems to know what opposing defenders don't: what the creative and dynamic Malkin is going to do with the puck.
Malkin has a very Jagr-like ability to hold on to the puck and use his body to create space for his teammates. While he's skating circles around the back of the net and fighting off checkers, Neal has a knack for finding the seam and nailing his one-timers.
Neal managed to score a goal in every other game during the 2013 regular season while playing with Malkin, who posted nearly three times more helpers than goals.
The duo is just as deadly with the extra man, fueling the NHL's best power play.
2. Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom: Washington Capitals
Let's just ignore this embarrassing play (or lack thereof) that Alex Ovechkin committed during Game 4. If the Washington Capitals didn't live and die based on the actions of the Great Eight, this wouldn't be gaining quite as much steam as it is.
When he's not not-skating into the defensive zone, AO is one of the most dangerous players in all of hockey. He is capable of scoring from anywhere on the ice—in case you hadn't heard or are new to hockey—and has even added some slick passes to his highlight reel lately.
Nicklas Backstrom may be one of the more underrated offensive threats in the NHL today. After his breakout 101-point season in 2009-10, he faded a bit the following two years as he battled injuries. He quietly returned to point-per-game form in 2013 and is a big reason why Ovechkin returned to form at the same time.
They both only have two points through four games played so far, but they draw enough attention to themselves that they open up the ice for guys like Marcus Johansson, who has clicked nicely on a line with the duo.
1. Sidney Crosby and Whoever Is on His Wing
John Buccigross once wrote that an empty VitaminWater bottle could score seven goals while playing on Sideny Crosby's wing through a season. He wasn't wrong, and that was way back in 2008 when Sid was just scratching the surface of his potential.
This season, he's turned Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz into all-stars. Chemistry is everything when it comes to rock-star lines like this, and the trio has plenty to be sure, but let's be honest here: Take any decent top-six forward in the NHL and slot him in with Crosby, and he becomes a 40-goal scorer.
Find the empty spaces in the slot and keep your stick down. While that's an oversimplification, it isn't too far off, either.
There are plenty of other dangerous and more three-dimensional duos in the league right now, but none are more dangerous in the offensive zone than Crosby with a guy who thinks the game well.