Welcome to Week 2 of the TWC Postseason Player Rankings: Road to the Smythe! Here at TWC, we use a statistical model to effectively rank players on a week to week basis. The model takes into effect individual statistics including goals and assists, as well as possession metrics like CF%, SCF%, HDCF%, and a correction for PDO. Each statistical category is weighed and scored differently, giving each player a unique TWC Score that determines their ranking after each week. All numbers are adjusted 5v5 values. Don’t like where someone is ranked? Unfortunately, they will have to turn it around on the ice, as we take zero personal opinions into effect.
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Top 30 Forwards
Now that we’re two weeks deep into the postseason, the sample size for all players has increased to a point where the top playoff performers are starting to take their places at the top of the rankings. However, four teams are now eliminated from the tournament, and as a result, all players from the Lightning, Penguins, Flames, and Jets are now filtered out of the rankings. You can’t win the Conn Smythe if your team is eliminated.
After an incredible five game rout of the top seeded Calgary Flames, Nathan MacKinnon is in 18th place, Mikko Rantanen jumped up 28 spot to third, and Gabriel Landeskog joined the list in 15th. Now, all three members of the Avalanche trio of offensive excellence are in the top 30.
The Dallas Stars also saw their top three offensive juggernauts rise in the rankings, with Tyler Seguin up to seventh, Jamie Benn up to ninth, and Alexander Radulov joining the list in fourth. These three have usurped the Vegas trio of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny after two solid wins from the San Jose Sharks evened their series with Vegas. Pacioretty is the only one of those three to rise this week, unsurprising as he leads the league in total 5v5 points, and is above 55% in all three possession metrics.
The Carolina Hurricanes fought back in their series with the Washington Capitals, and have three players in the top 30 this week. Leading the pack for the Hurricanes is rookie standout Warren Foegele, up 12 spots to number six this week. Foegele is having a ridiculous playoffs, currently tied for the second most 5v5 goals with three, and has registered 67% CF%, 64% SCF%, and a whopping 84% HDCF% through five games so far. The ‘Canes are down 3-2 in the series, but don’t count them out. Foegele is joined by Sebastian Aho at 20th and Lucas Wallmark at 30th.
One name that got a lot of attention last week is Rocco Grimaldi. The energy forward for the Nashville Predators might not be an offensive beast or even one of the most important players on the team. However, he’s having himself a truly excellent start to the postseason, registering 70% CF%, 68% SCF%, and 72% HDCF% through five games, along with three 5v5 goals, the second most in the league. If the Predators win the Stanley Cup, Grimaldi likely won’t even be considered for the Smythe. He’s having a great series though, and does deserve to be ranked where he is.
Top 20 Defencemen
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With Dustin Byfuglien’s Jets eliminated from the playoffs, we have a new number one defenceman: Morgan Rielly. He wasn’t nominated for the Norris Trophy this year, but Rielly has had an excellent 2018-19 campaign, and his play hasn’t faltered in the postseason. At 5v5, he has one goal and four points, and is over 55% in both SCF% and HDCF% through six games. His score of 541.0 actually puts him 15th overall for all skaters, quite a feat considering the talented forwards below that score.
The top five has four new names, with Roman Josi, Cale Makar, and Shea Theodore joining Rielly. The only player in the top five that was ranked last week is fellow Leafs defenceman Travis Dermott, up 14 spots to number three this week. The Leafs have had excellent performances from their blueline, a big reason why they were able to take a 3-2 series lead earlier in the week, and an area that will need to continue to be good if the Leafs are to win game seven this week.
Despite a rough defensive effort in the first few games of his series, Erik Karlsson has turned a corner the last two games for the Sharks. He is a new entry on the list, coming in at number 13 this week. Karlsson has dreadful possession metrics still, but has three 5v5 points and is leading the Sharks’ offense when he’s on the ice. There is still a sizeable gap between his play this season and his ceiling, but perhaps he’s getting there. If so, he could be a very dangerous player going forward.
Only the top three defencemen on the list are in the top 30 overall skaters according to their TWCScore. So far this postseason, forwards are carrying the load, and as of right now, it’s unlikely that a defender will win the Smythe. It’s still early though, and there are lots of games left to be played.
A new addition to the rankings: goaltenders. The model was adapted to goalies based on save percentage statistics at various danger levels, goals against, and a workload correction using shots faced and saves made. The list was retroactively applied to all goalies up to the end of last week, and then run again for this week to ensure the movement up and down the rankings was authentic.
Following a convincing sweep of the Penguins, Robin Lehner was the standout goaltender on the list. However, Philipp Grubauer has passed Lehner after dispatching the Flames in a quick five games, and has looked every bit as good as he did in the last month of the regular season. The Flames didn’t play a great series against the Avalanche, but when they did get chances, Grubauer shut them down. He’s probably the hottest goalie in the NHL right now, and whoever comes out of the Sharks/Golden Knights series better beware of Grubauer and the Avalanche.
One thing to note about the rankings is that all stats are taken at 5v5. So, while Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have been quite bad for the Sharks (except for last night where Jones stood on his head and willed the Sharks to victory), they haven’t been as bad at 5v5 as other goalies around the league. Jones is buoyed by a stellar performance in Game 6, and though Jordan Binnington won four games for the Blues and Bishop three for the Stars, neither has been that good in the postseason. Both the Blues and Stars are in their relative positions due to their offense, not their goaltending. These two goalies in particular had excellent regular seasons. If they can find their game again, the Blues and Stars could be extremely difficult teams to beat. If they end up meeting in the second round, the winner of that series could very well end up in the Stanley Cup Final.
Juusse Saros is the only new addition to the list, as Pekka Rinne was pulled in Game 4. Rinne has been nothing close to his usual self and needs to find his game in a hurry if the Predators are stave off elimination and advance to the second round.
What are your thoughts? Are you surprised where your favourite players landed this week? Let us know at @wincolumnblog.