(Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.)
The Penguins have had the luxury of having the most productive top line in hockey since the NHL opened its locked doors in January of 2013.
The combination of Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby, and Chris Kunitz paced the NHL with 70 even-strength points scored through the truncated 48 game season of 2012-2013.
This year started in a similar fashion. The combination of Dupuis, Crosby and Kunitz accounted for 25 goals scored in the 39 games they played as a unit together, amassing 57 total points as a trio in that time.
That’s a number that’s still good for seventh among NHL line combinations this season. (Boston’s trio of Milan Lucic, David Krecji, and Jarome Iginla leads the NHL with 42 goals scored as a unit this season.)
However, while Dupuis may lack the superstar offensive skills boasted by some of his peers, his presence on that line has been sorely missed for the Penguins.
Since Dupuis injury on December 23, the Penguins top line has been missing some of the punch it brought to the table over the course of the last two years. That lack of punch has been especially noticeable in recent games. Before Tuesday, the combination of Kunitz and Crosby had not been on the ice together for an even-strength goal scored since January 27th, 2014 in a 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Dupuis absence also reflects in the even-strength possession numbers for the Penguins captain.
Corsi-For percentage is a great metric that tracks even-strength shooting attempts (blocked shots, missed shots, posts, saves, etc) and breaks them down in a number that describes what percentage of shots went a specific players way. You can’t score if you don’t have the puck, so the higher Corsi-For percentage a player has, the more puck possession we can estimate that player had.
This season, Crosby is averaging 53.3 percent Corsi-For, which means that 53.3 percent of all shots taken while Crosby is on the ice are shots registered by the Penguins.
Since the departure of Dupuis, Crosby’s Corsi-For percentage has dropped to 46.5, a fairly noticeable difference.
Chemistry is a real thing in hockey, and while it isn’t always easily measured in a tangible fashion, these numbers show that the Penguins’ top line is missing something. While Dupuis might not carry the star power of some of his teammates, the work he does in the dirty areas of the ice is hard to ignore.
The Penguins need the combination of Crosby and Kunitz to be as hot as possible heading into the postseason.
Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at www.faceoff-factor.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof
>> Chris Adamski delves into the unlikely speedster in arguably hockey’s biggest spot: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5524450-74/gibbons-crosby-nhl#axzz2sTev6XPf
>> Adamski also notes that Sidney Crosby is not worried about where he’s staying in Sochi: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5524451-74/games-penguins-bylsma#axzz2sTev6XPf
Josh Yohe in is snowy Buffalo, and will have all your information on this icy Wednesday.
Be EXCELLENT to each other,