The past 10-plus Stanley Cup-winning teams all have a common thread: a dynamic duo at forward.
Whether they were split up on two separate lines like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, rode shotgun together like David Krejci and Milan Lucic or split time like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, having a one-two punch is paramount in the NHL for teams looking to contend.
That got us to thinking. While these pairings are a blast to watch out on the ice, who are the duos we'd love to see in a dream world?
A dream league, if you will, where the perfect combinations would be in place. Considering playing styles, possible chemistry along with strengths and weaknesses, these are the duos we thought would be the most fun to watch out on the ice.
All statistics appear courtesy of Hockeydb.com.
Someone call HBO and have them film a "reality" TV series surrounding these two being forced to play on the same line together.
Do you think Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux would be able to put their differences aside and dominate the NHL entirely? Or would Crosby take to slashing the bejesus out of Giroux's wrists during practice like he (allegedly) did during the 2012 playoffs?
Stranger things have happened than two players putting their differences aside to play together effectively. If Chris Chelios can be a Detroit Red Wing, anything can happen.
Melodrama aside, if Crosby can turn Chris Kunitz into an All-Star and top-10 scorer in the NHL, what could possibly stop Giroux from scoring 100 points a season for the next 10 years while playing with his arch-rival?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Derek Stepan is one of the better young, up-and-coming pivots in the NHL. Before Rick Nash played alongside him on the New York Rangers, the big-bodied sniper had never played with a top-end center that could get him the puck.
If Nash can score 21 goals in 44 games while playing with Stepan, just imagine the toll he'd take on defenses if he had John Tavares setting him up.
The fun thing about this duo is that they both can play set-up guy and finisher. Tavares has almost as many goals in his career (112) as he does assists (137). Nash also has a solid goals-to-assists ratio, having scored 310 times while setting up another 279 markers.
Put them out on the ice together and there would be no telling which angle the play would be coming from, making Nash and Tavares one of the most dynamic offensive forces in recent memory.
Who doesn't like a little bit of fire on their ice?
Eric Staal and Gabriel Landeskog are two guys that are going to make the opposition pay, whether it be with a devastating check or a tally on the scoreboard. Two of the premiere power forwards in the game today, it'd take two Zdeno Charas to slow these guys down.
The capability to impose their will would be evident on every shift as they leaned on and wore down smaller forwards and defenders. While the effect wouldn't stockpile after just one game, it'd be nearly impossible to deal with during a seven-game series.
They both can score. They both can hit, and they share that unteachable ability to make those around them want to be better.
The word that best describes David Krejci's style of play is deliberate. He never seems to be moving his feet but always appears to be going somewhere important. Always gliding and keeping his eyes up and open, he forces defensemen to commit before making a pass.
It's when the defense over-commits that Krejci is truly one of the best setup men in the league, and his ability to find players in the slot while under pressure is elite-level.
Take ultra-slick winger Martin St. Louis and give him the extra space that Krejci creates and there's bound to be some fireworks. And another Art Ross Trophy or three or St. Louis.
While Mighty Mite is primarily the setup man while playing alongside Steven Stamkos, he'd be the trigger guy here. If Milan Lucic can find open space out on the ice because of Krejci, just imagine what St. Louis could accomplish.
The quick strike capability of this duo would be Zerg-like. Steven Stamkos and Corey Perry have both won the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL's leading goal scorer, and would have an internal competition for the award for years on end upon being united.
While they both can put up ridiculous goal totals, the way Stamkos and Perry go about their business is very different.
Stamkos is a beast below the dots, but can get his shot off in the blink of an eye from just about anywhere in the offensive zone. There may not be a more dangerous player in the league within 45 feet of the net.
Perry, on the other hand, is a prototypical power forward and loves to drive the crease. Players like him tend to open up space for snipers like Stamkos. The opposite also holds true, as defenses that are cheating to Stamkos and trying to prevent a one-timer would be vulnerable to one of Perry's drives.
Pick your poison in this case. You're not going to stop the inevitable goal celebration regardless.
Loui Eriksson has been one of the NHL's best and most underrated two-way forwards for several years now. While that's likely to change as he changes his address this year, moving from Dallas to Boston, there's no denying that he's just as capable as a goal-preventer as he is a goal-producer.
Put him on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and all but the league's quickest forwards are going to have a hard time escaping the neutral zone with the puck.
The tenacity and pressure that these two brilliant players would bring would be psyche-cracking for the opposition. There would be no safe place out on the ice. No safe haven for players trying to gather speed between the blue lines.
Just Datsyuk stripping the puck and hitting a streaking Eriksson with a breakout pass. Or vice versa. Over and over again, until the rest of the league waved the white flag.
Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane would dominate during the regular season. There are very few teams in the NHL that have the defensive forwards necessary to handle these two on a game-by-game basis.
Both are capable of turning broken plays into go-ahead goals, and both know how to finish the opportunities that they are given.
They both also share another trait: the ability to elevate their game during the playoffs.
That's where to combo of Kane and Malkin would be the most deadly. During the postseason, driving coaches up the wall as they try to figure out how to stop these two players from clutching all over their Stanley Cup dreams.
We'll call this the unassuming superstar pairing.
Both Logan Couture and Phil Kessel put up strong numbers year in and year out, and the only question anyone seems interested in asking is "are they worth building around?"
The answer is yes in both cases.
Kessel has been one of the NHL's most consistent goal scorers over the last five years. He's posted at least 30 goals a year for the last half-decade, and a few more season like that and he'll be approaching Jaromir Jagr-level scoring consistency.
Couture is just now blossoming as a consistent scoring threat, and if you put these two out on the ice together, you'd have two bona-fide 30-goal scorers ripping pucks at the net every night. That would be a ball to watch, unless you were a fan of the opposing team.