31 October 2013

Let's worry about the first line.

Take a quick look at a few basic numbers regarding the Senators' first line. Calculating every game played since the beginning of the season, Jason Spezza's average Corsi For is 44.95%. This suggests he hasn't been generating as many shots as a top-line forward should be, or that his backchecking skills leave something to be desired, or a combination of both. Furthermore, he's been part of no fewer than three line combinations that are over 5% frequency, which suggests that "chemistry" is an idea that Paul MacLean has yet to fully realize with Spezza. His go-to winger, Milan Michalek, has an average Corsi For of 45.6%, and a closer look at his game-by-game numbers shows him to be even more inconsistent than Spezza.

The forward who's played the most with Spezza and Michalek is Cory Conacher at 7.83%. Colin Greening's next at 6.22% and the last forward is Bobby Ryan at 6.08%. Greening isn't likely to jump from his new spot on the fourth line back to the first in the forseeable future, and Conacher has been moved all over the place, playing with the Turris line and then punished for some reason put with Smith and Neil on the third line.

So should Ryan slide into that first line spot by default? He's been having amazing chemistry on Turris's wing (and Kyle Turris, by the way, is looking every inch the playmaker which a player like Ryan deserves), but perhaps another opportunity to gel with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek will produce un peu de chimie. All three players recorded at least one point in the last game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, the first time they'd been put together as a line since very early in the season.

But that line also combined for an average Corsi of 38.97% in that game. Essentially, the first line is far from slaying in terms of puck possession, and this is one stat that can be seen just by watching a game. Usually, Smith's or Grant's line (wow, Grant's become a fixture real quick, eh?) will get the puck deep, and they'll peel off one by one in time to get Spezza's line back on. But multiple times, Spezza's arrived on the ice only to have the puck rejected from the offensive zone, and he then spends the next 50 or so seconds chasing it out of our own end.

Sometimes it seems to be bad luck. But luck regresses, and Jason Spezza's stats haven't. Ever since the second game, his Corsi has been below 50% (except for the Edmonton Oilers game, in which he was a 68.2% *scratches head*). We're only at the 1/7 mark in the season, but there's yet something to worry about regarding our first line.


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