Commentary

Rating playoff third liners

Pittsburgh, even without Jordan Staal, is tops on an ultimate variable line

Updated: May 5, 2010, 9:45 AM ET
By Robert Vollman | Puck Prospectus
Matt CookeJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesCooke, even missing his man Jordan Staal, has been solid off the Pens' third line.

Additionally: As you read the article below -- which rates some of the best third-line performances so far in the playoffs -- you should also consult another Puck Prospectus piece, about the value of grinders in the playoffs.

By carefully studying all recent Stanley Cup finals, we can try to discover the secret championship formula. The 2007 Anaheim Ducks stick out in particular, having lost only five games en route to their spectacular triumph over the Ottawa Senators in the finals. They had the hot goalie (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) and the puck-moving defensemen (Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger), but they also had one component that no other team shared -- a third line that temporarily elevated itself to elite status.

Samuel Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen combined for 24 goals, 39 assists and minus-12 in the 82-game regular season -- then recorded 15 goals, six game winners, 19 assists and plus-24 while adding 151 hits and 30 blocked shots in their 21 postseason games matched up against the league's top players. Looking at this year's playoffs, who were the most valuable third-line players in the regular season, and which of our cult heroes might we have overvalued?

Rating the third line


To keep diving into this -- including a top-15 list of secondary forward output -- you must be an ESPN Insider.