The All Star Game is behind us and a return to meaningful hockey is only hours away, which means it’s time for a post that’s chock full of my favorite things: numbers. Sure, Disch has already given you a post about how to stay warm on cold days (The answer is “Grow A Pair, Austin”) and Petrella brought the thunder with his traditional pre-game post, which leaves me the only thing that I can easily manipulate in a post: stats!
As part of our commitment to (mostly) excellence here at TPL, we’ve been tracking line production for the entire first half of the season without really providing a ton of analysis around why it’s important or what exactly it tells us. No more! Analysis, Ahoy!
Let’s start with the forwards:
[table id=3 /]
Yes, that’s right: only half of the top 10 producing lines in Detroit are in double digits in terms of points this year. What’s more, Mike Modano hasn’t played in months, and one of his lines is still a TOP 5 scoring line, with the other coming in at #6. Disconcerting? Not really, considering the Wings are performing so well without him, which in turn highlights the fact that the Wings have been forced to reply on different combinations and matchups to score their points this year. However, that scoring balance comes (potentially) at the expense of line chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how Babcock spreads the lines during the second half of the season, especially with top point getters Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk needing to be worked back into the lineup. Yes, it’s great to see names like Tatar and Emmerton in this chart (albeit at the bottom), but with the playoffs around the corner, methinks the priority now needs to shift towards chemistry building and comfortable pairings as opposed to throwing things into the blender in hopes that something seems to work. If this chart is any indicator, we know which lines will be the most successful and Babcock should use that as his core framework in building four solid lines for the rest of the season.
Some other thoughts:
- 42 of the 63 lines have registered a point, which means only 21 lines are on there for coughing up points while on the ice.
- Unfortunately for the aforementioned Mike Modano, one of his other lines comes in at a team worst -6.
- Only two lines are anything worse than a -2.
OK, over to the defense:
[table id=4 /]
Raise your hand if you thought it would be Rafalski and the Shitbox at the top of the pairings. I’ll wait. You’ll also notice that my hand is not up, because I’ve personally thought that while Ericsson has showed improvement over last season, Rafalski has looked like he’s taken a step back and not been quite as sharp. Perhaps that’s a direct result of his pairing with the Shitbox – and the accompanying job of minimizing his mistakes – but Rafalski’s lack of goals hasn’t translated over to a slip in production and solid defensive play. Would we all like to see more goals? Sure. But last year’s complaints are this year’s fix in terms of the Rigbox looking more like an NHL defenseman, and Rafalski’s somewhat boring play this year seems to be one of the keys to that turnaround for #52.
We’ll skip over power play production since there’s not much out of the ordinary there, but let’s make a pit stop at the PK numbers:
[table id=6 /]
If you’re looking for a silver lining to the Brad Stuart injury, then take solace in the fact that he can’t be out on the ice with Helm, Eaves and Lidstrom on the penalty kill. Seriously, 2 times as many goals against allowed by that line as compared to any other kill unit. I’m no Mike Babcock, but even I can see that it might be worth changing up the kill a bit when Stuart comes back. Either that, or I’m going to go into cardiac arrest if I see those 4 on the PK together once the playoffs start.
Finally, 4 on 4 scoring:
[table id=9 /]
Pretty straightforward. You want a win in OT? Hank, Mule, Lindstrom and Kronwall is the best bet (although, they have been on the ice for a goal against in OT this season.)
So that’s how it shakes out. Like I said, it will be interesting to see how these lines finish up down the stretch when consistency and chemistry become a priority, but there’s plenty of time for that to happen between now and the postseason.