On Wednesday morning, Dan Rosen at NHL.com posted his regular mailbag feature. In it, he answered an array of questions including whether or not he feels Patrick Kane can/will win both the Art Ross and the Hart (he said yes to both).
But his response to the second question leaves Hawks fans wondering if the national media knows there’s more to the Blackhawks’ recent success than Kane.
“What are your thoughts of Evgeny Kuznetsov in Washington this season? Are he and Nicklas Backstrom becoming the top 1-2 combo in the East? In the NHL? — @chris_szimanski”
Rosen’s response began where one might expect… calculating a response. But there’s a glaring hole.
“This question made me go back and take a hard look at the top-two centers for each team in the NHL, or at least the players I deem as being the top-two centers on their team regardless of injury (i.e. Connor McDavid with the Edmonton Oilers and David Krejci with the Boston Bruins). I found six that I would rank with (not ahead of, mind you) of Backstrom and Kuznetsov. My list includes: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Patrice Bergeron and Krejci (Bruins), Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter (Los Angeles Kings), Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings), Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) and Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza (Dallas Stars).”
His list doesn’t include Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov?
While Chicago isn’t new to the “being overlooked by league-wide writers” concept, it does bring up an interesting question: how do Toews and Anisimov stack up against the best 1-2 center tandems in the game?
If we rank Rosen’s list – including Toews and Anisimov – based on points alone:
- Washington – Kuznetsov/Backstrom – 92 pts
- Dallas – Seguin/Spezza – 89 pts
- Pittsburgh – Crosby/Malkin – 81 pts
- Boston – Bergeron/Krejci – 74 pts*
- Los Angeles – Kopitar/Carter – 73 pts
- Buffalo – O’Reilly/Eichel – 68 pts
- CHICAGO – Toews/Anisimov – 61 pts
- Detroit – Zetterberg/Datsyuk – 52 pts**
* – Krejci has played 35 games
** – Datsyuk has played 30 games
But, with 35 goals between them, Chicago’s combination (Toews – 19, Anisimov – 16) ranks second on the list behind only Dallas (40).
When we consider the faceoff circle, the Hawks’ duo is more impressive.
Toews and Anisimov have combined to take 1,711 faceoffs thru Tuesday night’s game. That total ranks third from the list above, behind only Los Angeles (1,715 combined) and Buffal0 (1.724 combined). Because Datsyuk has been limited to 30 games, Detroit’s tandem was the lowest total on the list (1,143).
Dallas’ combo has taken a much smaller number of faceoffs; Spezza and Seguin have only been involved in 1,200 faceoffs to date. However, the Stars’ centers have been effective in their smaller sample size, winning 55.25 percent of their opportunities at the dot – the highest combined percentage on the list.
Boston’s Bergeron and Krejci have won 54.50 percent of 1,633 faceoffs to rank second, while Toews and Anisimov rank third by wining 52.89 percent of their draws.
Pittsburgh (48.82%) and Washington (48.24%) were the only two on the list below 51 percent at the dot.
These basic numbers show that the Blackhawks’ top two centers are among the best in the NHL this season. But when we consider the impact Anisimov has had complimenting Patrick Kane this season, it’s easy to see why the Hawks are the hottest team in the league.