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Reading Between the Lines (Again)

Back in November, I took a look at the output of our 4 lines and didn't really like what I saw. At the time of that post, the team was being carried by our 2nd line of Stastny, Smyth/Wolski, Hejduk/Svatos. I pointed out that the 1st line had dropped of tremendously in output, and hoped we'd see more of our most productive combo on the first line: Sakic, Wolski and Brunette.

Well, after that post we got one more game out of that line before Sakic went down with the injury. We continued to be a one line team...just that it was now the new first line (Stastny, Smyth and Hejduk) carrying the weight instead of the 2nd line.

I broke down the season into 5 10-game chunks, and listed the numbers of even strength goals by lines. Here's what the chart looks like. (Note: There's an error for the 4th line in the game 31-40 range - that number should be 2, not 4...there were two goals thrown in there for Jordan Leopold when he was dressed as a 7th defenseman). You can see that all season long we've relied on one line to do all the scoring. The lines may change a bit in personnel and title, but we're still a one-trick pony. It was the Stastny line for the first 30 games. Then the 2nd line (Svatos, mostly) stepped to the plate and now we're back with the 1st line as our best line. The Svatos line in the 31-40 game range scored 42% of our even strength goals. That's a large number...and it's the only 10-game stretch where the highest scoring line had less than 50% of our goals. Wow. (For the record, the %s are 52, 50, 57, 42 and 53).

That chart also shows that the 3rd and 4th line generally can't be counted on to generate any offense. That wasn't the case last season. This next chart shows a breakdown of goals (again, even strength only) by line last year and this year (projected totals). Last year, the 3rd and 4th lines accounted for 36% of our EV goals - a fairly reasonable percentage, in my opinion. This year, it's just 25%; that just pressures are already beleaguered top lines to score even more.

I've also put up my logs of each line through the year:

Line 1
Line 2
Line 3
Line 4

If you scroll to the bottom of each of those pages you'll see various splits and totals. It also breaks down how each line (and each position on the line) is doing this year compared to last year. The two biggest drop offs seem to be 3rd and 4th line center. The 3rd line centers (mostly Tyler Arnason, Ben Guite and TJ Hensick) aren't coming close to the pace of Arnason (2nd half) and Stastny (1st half) of last year. And Ben Guite and the other 4th line centers are on pace to score 5 goals, half what was notched last season. What's interesting here is that 5 of those goals from the middle last year came by Brad Richardson. What ever happened to him, anyway?