While reading WebBard's front pager "Islanders Even Strength Line Combos and Productivity", I recalled that I could not remember the beginning of two games in a row that the same line started. While Web's post highlighted that there appears to be some level of players having consistent linemates, I also felt like it may be a statistical anomaly. Some research and analysis after the jump...
I used NHL shift charts to track the first four shift's worth of forward line combos for every game during our seven game losing streak. We may be surprised by the almost infinitesimal amount of different combinations Scott Gordon has used. I did not have time to back track prior to the losing streak, but some of this has to do with injury, necessity and opportunity (in the case of Nino, Sim and Martin). I also didn't have the patience to look throughout each individual game, but as you can see, at a minimum, things change daily. Anecdotally, we have all noticed that things change throughout the individual games. Here are the results:
Mon 2 Bailey-Konopka-Comeau
Mon 1 Moulson-Konopka-Sim
Comeau-Tavares-Parenteau (Weight on PP point)
Strangely enough, the most consistent combo to start a game is Bailey-Konopka-Comeau. This may be understandable if the goal is to get early possession via the faceoff and begin to press the forecheck, but Konopka stays on for the whole shift. Konopka has actually been on the ice for the opening faceoff in 5 of 7 of the games with Tavares getting home against Philly, and the faceoff adept Nielsen getting the other start in Ottawa
Frans Nielsen plays his opening shift with very different linemates nearly every game with his only repeat coming in games 4&7 with Moulson (our leading goal scorer) and Hunter (who combined with Nielsen are usually our shutdown line). Why would we do that?
The difficulty with tracking these combinations and lines is not so much in the "who" players are paired with, but in what combination, and how often throughout a game.
Let’s take JT for example via Web’s post:
Top Pairing = Matt Moulson 51%
All three even strength points have come with Matt Moulson. The third forwards for each EV point were Blake Comeau, Frans Nielsen and Jon Sim.
So this now indicates that JT has had at least 6 linemates and counting him, that is any combination of at least 7 different forwards this season in 11 games and in many varieties of ways. The most interesting thing I find about this, is that this series of linemates are all guys who have not lost time due to injury. It does not appear to be done out of necessity. How is a "franchise forward/ice Jesus" supposed to elevate a franchise and develop chemistry with anyone when his best line consistency is only 23%? (23% of 11 games is slightly over two games worth of shifts. If these games are not back to back, I submit that even the 23% lacks any value.)
Things are worse for Matt Martin who Web shows, has 7 different even strength linemates in 6 games. I'm pretty sure he has been on the ice with Gillies as well. That means that at a minimum, in 6 games, counting Martin himself as a roster player, that accounts for 75% of the forwards on the team...IN 6 GAMES!
Factor in now varying defensive pairings, differing defensive combinations due to injury and poor pairing performance, and erratic starting goaltending and you get
meltdowns of apocalyptic proportions ...... a horrible 7 game losing streak the likes of which the Detroit Lions could mock....an almost infinite number of possibilities during 5 on 5 (including goaltender) play.
Given the difference in this team's record when the opposition scores first vs when we score first, one would think that getting on top early would be key and that chemistry would be a consideration for scoring first.
Maybe we are looking for a "spark", but continuous shuffling of lines may in fact be contributing to the team’s inconsistency. This is a team where all (save Hunter) of our top 9 forwards have less than 200 games played (Comeau leads with 182). They need to find some level of comfort with consistent line partners.
What are your thoughts on this...Am I being redundant with Web's post? If I am, I will delete this...just let me know!