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Two Pairs Of Teammates Could Make NHL History

No player has scored 130 points in an NHL season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromír Jágr each achieved the feat for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96. When they reached the milestone, the all-time greats became just the fourth pair of linemates — and the only pair of linemates that didn’t include a guy named Wayne Gretzky — to score 130 points or more in the same season in NHL history. Gretzky and Jari Kurri were the first pair to do it in 1984-85, when they scored 208 and 135 points, respectively, for the Edmonton Oilers; Gretzky and Kurri were arguably better the following season, when they scored 215 and 131 points, again for the Oilers. And in his first season after being traded away from the Oilers, Gretzky and Los Angeles Kings linemate Bernie Nicholls scored 168 and 150 points, respectively.1

Scoring 130 or more points in an NHL season is obviously difficult enough — it’s only been accomplished 49 times, and by just 23 players. Gretzky did it 13 times, Lemieux did it six times, Phil Esposito did it four times, Marcel Dionne did it three times — and no one else did it more than twice. Two linemates scoring 130 points or more in the same season is therefore vanishingly rare — and there have never been two teams with two linemates scoring 130 points or more in league history.

But that may change by the end of this season, especially if Brad Marchand and David Pastrňák in Boston and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton have their say.

At the moment, Marchand and Pastrňák are on pace for 133 and 130 points, while McDavid and Draisaitl are on pace for 149 and 146 points, according to Hockey-Reference.com’s adjusted points totals.2 There is a lot of hockey left to play — the Bruins and Oilers each have more than 50 games remaining on their schedules — but none of the four players has showed any sign of slowing down to this point: Each player has scored a point or more in at least 74 percent of the games he’s played.

Hitting 130 points is no easy task

NHL players with at least one 130-point season, plus players this season on pace for at least 130 points

Highest Scoring Season
PLAYER TEAM POS SEASON PTS PER GAME TOTAL PTS seasons w/ 130+
Wayne Gretzky EDM, LAK C 1985-86 2.69 215 13
Mario Lemieux PIT C 1988-89 2.62 199 6
Phil Esposito BOS C 1970-71 1.95 152 4
Marcel Dionne LAK C 1979-80 1.71 137 3
Steve Yzerman DET C 1988-89 1.94 155 2
Bobby Orr BOS D 1970-71 1.78 139 2
Guy Lafleur MTL RW 1976-77 1.70 136 2
Jari Kurri EDM RW 1984-85 1.85 135 2
Bernie Nicholls LAK C 1988-89 1.90 150 1
Jaromir Jagr PIT RW 1995-96 1.82 149 1
Pat LaFontaine BUF C 1992-93 1.76 148 1
Mike Bossy NYI RW 1981-82 1.84 147 1
Adam Oates BOS C 1992-93 1.69 142 1
Peter Stastny QUE C 1981-82 1.74 139 1
Paul Coffey EDM D 1985-86 1.75 138 1
Dennis Maruk WSH C 1981-82 1.70 136 1
Bryan Trottier NYI C 1978-79 1.76 134 1
Pierre Turgeon NYI C 1992-93 1.59 132 1
Teemu Selanne WIN RW 1992-93 1.57 132 1
Brett Hull STL RW 1990-91 1.68 131 1
Denis Savard CHI C 1987-88 1.64 131 1
Kent Nilsson CGY C 1980-81 1.64 131 1
Dale Hawerchuk WIN C 1984-85 1.63 130 1
Connor McDavid EDM C 2019-20 1.76 149 1
Leon Draisaitl EDM C 2019-20 1.72 146 1
Nathan MacKinnon COL C 2019-20 1.62 136 1
Brad Marchand BOS LW 2019-20 1.59 133 1
David Pastrnak BOS RW 2019-20 1.56 130 1

Statistics for this season’s players are projected based on their current pace.

Source: Hockey-Reference.com

Teams are finding it difficult to keep these four off the scoresheet. And even though one of the four may be blanked on a given night, they all have a tendency to score points in bunches: The four have combined for an astonishing 55 multi-point games. If each player keeps his part of the bargain, we could be looking at an unprecedented season in terms of great offensive performances by linemates.

To put an even finer point on it, Marchand, Pastrňák, McDavid and Draisaitl are putting these numbers up in an era during which goaltending is about as good as it’s been in league history. Sure, it was impressive when six players sprung for 130 or more points in the 1992-93 season, but they did so against goaltending that combined for a league average save percentage of 88.5. The league average save percentage this season is 90.9. The quartet is also making maximum contributions to their team, occupying four of the top five spots in terms of Point Shares.3

Having a dominant top line is good for any team, but it means two very different things for the Bruins and the Oilers. The Bruins have played in three Stanley Cup Finals in the past decade, winning one and coming within three wins of winning all three. The historically excellent play of Marchand and Pastrňák (along with the very good play of center Patrice Bergeron) means that the Bruins can probably expect to challenge for yet another Prince of Wales Trophy, awarded to the Eastern Conference champions. Marchand and Pastrňák represent the continuation of a dynasty.

The opposite is true in Edmonton, where McDavid and Draisaitl represent a rare glimmer of hope for a franchise that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1989-90 and has made the playoffs only twice in the 14 seasons since the lockout of 2004-05. If the season ended today, the Oilers would finish first in the Pacific Division and have home ice advantage until at least the Western Conference finals in the playoffs. Again, it’s early, and there’s a lot of hockey left to play — and Hockey-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System (SRS), a metric that adjusts a team’s goal differential for its strength of schedule, indicates that the Oilers are just barely better than average. But it appears as though Edmonton is turning a corner. And McDavid and Draisaitl are largely responsible for the transformation.

Who knows if Marchand, Pastrňák, McDavid and Draisaitl will keep lighting NHL defenses on fire. Nikita Kucherov flirted with a campaign of 50 goals in 50 games two seasons ago, and he ultimately fell far short of that mark. Chasing records is tricky work. But Boston fans won’t really care how Marchand and Pastrňák finish the season as long as the Bruins challenge for another Stanley Cup. They lead the league in SRS, which suggests they’re in a good position to do just that.

Oilers fans, on the other hand, will pray that things continue exactly as they’ve gone so far this season for McDavid and Draisaitl — and they’ll be hoping that the duo blossoms into the second coming of Gretzky and Kurri. Those two won four Stanley Cups together, after all.

Footnotes

  1. This remains the only time in NHL history that two players from the same line — or team — scored 150 points or more in the same season.

  2. For what it’s worth, Nathan MacKinnon is on pace for 136 points in Colorado. If his linemate Mikko Rantanen, who is scoring at a pace of 1.6 points per game, hadn’t begun the season injured, they’d be the third pair of linemates on pace for 130 points or more.

  3. Point shares roughly translate to the amount of a team’s points one player is responsible for. An analogue is Bill James’s Win Shares, a popular metric among baseball statheads that helps assess a player’s ability to help his team win games, and therefore his value.

Terrence Doyle is a writer based in Boston, where he obsesses over pizza and hockey.

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