One of the keys to winning or even going deep in the playoffs in the current NHL is often overlooked. The media is guilty of it. The fans are frequently guilty of it, and the last decade has shown that teams are guilty too.
Depth is so frequently neglected half of knowing who will make the post season is simply looking at how time is split up. Every team has guys who can play sixteen to twenty minutes on their top line or two. Those guys lik Jonathan Toews, Ilya Kovalchuk and Anze Kopitar arree easy to identify. But the guys behind them? Is that third line really a quality third NHL line or simply active retirement for players who should have been put out to pasture? Are the guys on your second line going to give up more goals and chances than they generate?
At the other end of the ice depth is even more telling. One defenseman going down can mean anything from eight or nine minutes that need to be filled to twenty-nine or thirty. The biggest difference year over year between the cup winning Chicago Blackhawks and the next edition was how many minutes the third and four lines and second and third defensive pairings were worth. Parise, Suter, and company will get the headlines. But watch the depth players. They will push the best teams over the top.