With the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs starting this week, we're taking a slightly different tactic to get you ready for Round 1. In this column, we're going to rank the forward groups of all 16 qualifying teams, and that will be followed by the same concept for the defense corps.
These lists generate plenty of quality discussion and passionate debate. Everyone loves a good list, after all. But bear in mind that this is ultimately meant to serve as a fun thought exercise rather than some sort of scientific ranking. All of these teams made the playoffs for a reason, after all, so even the club in the No. 16 slot is doing something right. If there's criticism, it's just relative to the competition. This year's batch of teams was also ripe for tiering, and each group of teams in the tier is ranked within; however, the margin between teams within each tier is generally slim.
So with those caveats out of the way, let's count it down from 16 to 1:
On an island all by themselves
There will be people (read: Islanders fans) who will scoff at this ranking because the team has been proving the doubters hilariously wrong all season long, but it was tough to justify putting a team whose leaders in the two major offensive categories had 62 points (Mathew Barzal) and 28 goals (Anders Lee), respectively, anywhere except for at the bottom.
They finished the season as the 22nd-ranked offense, which actually isn't the lowest of the playoff teams. That's a distinction that goes to the Dallas Stars, whom we'll get to shortly. The Isles' finish is a testament to the surprising secondary scoring they were able to get from unexpected sources, but it also raises fair questions of how long they'll be able to continue squeezing juice out of that orange before it goes dry. At the top, the Islanders had just three players exceed 50 points and 20 goals. To put that into some perspective, the Tampa Bay Lightning had three players go over 90 points and 40 goals.
In their defense, that's just one side of the story. The reason they got to this point is because of their work on the other end of the ice, where no team was stingier, and the forwards are obviously a big part of that. The Isles' ability to prevent offense is a big reason why Barry Trotz and Robin Lehner will be taking home some hardware this summer, and why they're a sneaky scary foe to run into in a playoff series where a hot goalie is sometimes all you really need.