Thursday, 7 November 2013

Golden Linings/Crimson Bindings: the 2nd line is something to behold

A feature looking at the recent positives of the Sens' play.


Take a gander at our second line. Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur have been paired together since the beginning of the season. They'e been absolute Corsi machines, consistently ranking within the top 10 Corsi For % in the league. Now that we’ve added Bobby Ryan, we have possibly the most potent 2nd line in the NHL. (The flip side is, of course, that our first line is in dire need of some work.) It’s showing up in the stats, and it’s showing up on ice; it’s unmistakeable.

Using average Corsi For % is a simple enough way to determine how well these players are driving possession compared to the other Senators. Extra Skater's 5-on-5 score close data clearly shows that Turris, MacArthur and Ryan are dominating; MacArthur hovers at 60%, Turris is close behind at 58% and Ryan is a strong 53%. The latter two have achieved these numbers while leading the team in even-strength TOI; MacArthur, who's missed one game, is behind Spezza (who's also played 14 games) and Michalek, who happen to have the worst Corsi For % numbers on the team. Conacher is right behind Ryan, but has played a full twenty minutes less over 15 games.

It gets even better when we take a look at the OZ/DZ start% numbers. MacArthur and Turris have the lowest percentage out of all forwards—even lower than Condra, whose role can basically be summed up with the term "defensive specialist". This is mildly mind-boggling. Putting shot numbers in context with other stats (e.g. OZ/DZ starts, TOI, SH%) usually goes some way toward moderating them, making them less inflated; in this case, these numbers combine to say that basically, Turris and MacArthur are somewhat miraculous. Ryan might be on a high shooting percentage run at the moment, but 7 and 16 are the real deal, and putting 6 with them is making things happen.

You can see this with your own eyes, too. Looking at some zone entries compiled by Travis Yost, it’s easy to see one of the biggest factors in the stellar way that the 6-7-16 line plays. Rarely, if ever, do they resort to dump-and-chase hockey. With good reason, too; its usefulness probably begins and ends as a blog feature name (or if you’re playing the New Jersey Devils). Entering the zone with control of the puck allows for the rest of the team to set up in the opponent’s end, and facilitates more scoring chances than scrumming along the endboards ever will. There’s a reason why Turris is leading the team in assists, and this is probably it.

A team can't rely only on a single line to win games, especially in the absence of a consistent first line with sustainable shooting percentages (Spezza is shooting at 19.5%, oh dear). But having Turris, MacArthur and Ryan engage in some wholesome 100% whole wheat chemistry and almost literally turn the tide when they're on the ice will do nicely for the moment. Very nicely indeed.

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