Inspired by the top-notch discussion yesterday, I decided to take a look at some attributes I find very compelling when looking at players in general, and enforcers in particular. There's three basic tenets I look for in the shutdown lines, and those (along with a brief discussion of them) follow:
1) Penalty Differential. Taking bad penalties can turn the tides very quickly, and drawing a penalty can inject life into a team. Probably the most important thing to look for in enforcers, and important in analyzing other skaters as well. If a guy is taking stupid penalties and not contributing on the scoresheet, there's not much room for him out there on the ice.
2) Well Roundedness. Does he play on the penalty kill or power play? Also, I'm not sure "roundedness" is even a word, but it works here so we're rolling with it.
3) Statistics. How well does a player keep the puck out of the net when on the ice, and are they contributing on the scoresheet? Are they facing good competition or being thrown out against other non-scoring lines? It's not very likely that our shutdown line will be scoring goals very often, so clamping down on defense and cycling the puck is their utmost priority. That being said, goals from our bottom lines are a huge addition to the team, and could definitely be the difference in a tightly contested series.
If you want to scrap all that and look for my opinion on whether Shelley should dress on a game by game basis (even against the tougher teams like Calgary/Anaheim), here's my thinly-veiled answer to the question.
Fighting Majors In the Stanley Cup Playoffs
|Year||Fighting Majors||Per Series|
Also, Shelley played an average of 3:15 per game during last year's playoffs.
In this piece, it is assumed that McLellan will be rotating players in and out of the lineup based on health/who has the hot stick, as well as assuming that the top six forwards on the team will be in the lineup on a nightly basis. There's really no use in analyzing if those players "deserve" a spot in the lineup at this point in the season. Also, in order to keep things at a manageable level, the following players have been deemed "worthy" of getting consistent postseason starts: Cheechoo, Roenick, Moen, and Grier. That leaves us with two skaters to fill out the card. If you disagree with that by all means support a dissenting argument in the comments.
Penalty Drawn Differential
** H/T to On The Forecheck for the data
Takeaways: By no means does this serve as an ultimate indicator as to whether a player should be included in the lineup, but when put in the larger context of this post, it could help to give the nod to one "tweener" over another. Staubitz (and to some degree Lemieux and Shelley) are really the only players who seem to have significant numbers- averaged out to a seven game series, it's likely that Goc and Plihal's totals won't be a factor.
Let it be noted that it may have been more beneficial to round this out to 60 minutes instead of 82 games, but unfortunately there were some issues. For one, I didn't want to use even strength ice time (where the majority of penalties are drawn and taken), and risk inflating/deflating the numbers. On the flip side, it would have been unfair to use total ice time. Some players see more PK and PP time- that could have skewed the numbers a bit.
In summation, Shelley, Staubitz, and Lemieux's totals look all the more worse when compared against other players who have had more ice time.
Penalty Kill & Powerplay Time
|Skater||GP||PK Time/G||PP Time/G||Total Time/G|
Takeaways: Not a lot of power play performers on this list. Therefore, it seems that penalty kill time would be a good way to sift through the remaining skaters. A lot of this ties into Patrick Marleau- with his current injury, it would be wise to limit his exposure on the PK (currently at 2:35 per game, second on the team behind Vlasic). Those are tough minutes, and the grind may end up decreasing his effectiveness during a playoff run*. Goc and Plihal are the only candidates who fit this bill amongst the group.
Grier's return will definitely help in this category.
* However, as we have noted before, Datsyuk and Zetterburg saw a fair amount of shorthanded time during the Wings playoff run last season. I don't think this discredits the assertion that it would be wise to limit Patty's minutes, but it should be kept in mind.
Even Strength Point Production
Takeaways: Plihal and Goc are once again in the top three for both sets of statistics. One thing to note in terms of the +/- is that, as well as being relative to the team, it is relative to the competition as well. Players such as Staubitz and Shelley are not getting thrown out against the top scoring lines of opposing squads (in fact they usually get paired up with the other "fighting" lines). That could account for some discrepancy in the numbers.
The wonderful thing about the Sharks season is that the injuries they have been dealt have vastly increased depth across the board. There's a lot to be said for a team that has managed to get 109 points up to this point, while dealing with injuries of that magnitude. To emphasize this point, here are the number of skaters that the post-lockout Stanley Cup Champions dressed on their way to their respective Cups:
Detroit- 14 forwards, 7 defensemen
Anaheim- 18 forwards, 8 defensemen
Carolina- 14 forwards, 7 defensemen
As we can see, depth is going to play a crucial role going forward.
Going through this piece, and listening to other people's proposed lines yesterday, here is my ideal lineup. However, let it be noted that much can change during the course of the postseason and different situations will call for different types of players. At the end of the day, and after much deliberation, this is what I came up with. It's possible I'm beating a dead horse, as it has been extensively covered in the aforementioned fanpost, but I thought it would be fitting to use my admin privileges to rant and rave.
So is life eh?
Personally, I like seeing Roenick on the wing as it gives him more opportunities to skate off the puck. He's very adept at finding seams and moving his feet, which compliments Goc's ability to create scoring opportunities. He also has very good hands (something that really doesn't regress all too much, even at the ripe age of 39), which would be knock out when paired with Cheechoo. This line has the ability to score goals, play a very sound defensive game, and get physical.
The fourth line is where things get really good in my opinion. Talk about shutdown. Moen was a part of the checking line for Anaheim when they won the Cup, and his contribution during that run (along with Pahlsson) was a key aspect to their success. Pairing him with Grier and Plihal makes for a very imposing crew of players to face, and coupled with the last change at home, McLellan will have boundless opportunities to throw them out against the opposing team's top line. They're physical, decently quick, and all very good in the defensive zone. There's a reason all three players see a lot of PK time.
In terms of playing time, the top two lines would get their current regular season share with the customary playoff bump of additional shifts, while the bottom two would essentially split the remaining ice time in half. Obviously this is situational.
As for naming them "third" and "fourth" line, there's really not a whole lot of reason to do so in this system due to the fact they will be getting roughly the same number of shifts. Moen, Plihal, and Grier face the top line for their lion's share of minutes, leaving the other three lines to feast on either a) weaker opposition or b) a tired group of players double shifting/worn down by the checking line.
McGinn is obviously left out here, but he will be an excellent contributor when people are nursing their eventual injuries and dealing with the fatigue the playoffs always bring. He has an excellent future in this organization (hell, all of FTF was buzzing about him way back in December when he was playing on the fourth line), and has the potential to be a big part of this team going forward. That being said, I don't think he has enough experience and/or production to warrant getting the start right off the bat (provided all of the aforementioned skaters are healthy). However, I would not be surprised to see him get spot duty here and there, and possibly light it up and find a way to stick.
He just may be the wildcard who puts us over the top.