The Toews Line Take-Away
The Chicago Blackhawks battled back from a 3-0 deficit against the Calgary Flames Sunday night to force overtime. Sadly, the outcome was the same as three of the previous four games- a loss for the Hawks. Thanks to Jeff Glass, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, the Hawks did escape with a point in the over-time loss. The biggest take away- welcome back Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.
The Toews Line
Much has been said about the lack of production from the Hawks first line. I, too, have been very critical in previous articles. Let’s face it, the stats everyone cares about are wins, goals and assists. The three of those have been tough to come by consistently this year. The first line, the Toews’ line, embodies those struggles. Their offensive production has been up and down. All three have disappeared from the scoring column from time to time. But one thing has remained consistent all year- offensive pressure.
Brandon Sadd, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik have comprised this line for much of the year. Coach Quenneville has juggled the line from time to time with Toews remaining the anchor, but those three have had the lion’s share of the minutes. Sunday night, the crew broke through. Saad and Toews both tallied two points, each with a goal and an assist. Panik is still struggling, having missed an easy put-back in the third period. He has but one point in the last seventeen games.
Regardless of this game, it’s easy to look at this line and declare failure. Toews is underperforming on the stat sheet and Saad and Panik have followed his lead. However, to truly evaluate this line, we need to look at their Corsi percentage and relative corsi. Goals and assists totals can fluctuate quite easily from year to year, but these two stats typically remain constant if a player is still playing well, applying pressure in the offensive zone.
Umm…@NHLBlackhawks, can we pls borrow Kane or Toews for a few hours tonight? We'll have them back by 9.
kthx! 🤗 https://t.co/ULIpQETmYX
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) December 28, 2017
For Toews, his Corsi percentage is 57.1 Saad’s is 58 and Panik’s is 57.4. Any number above 55 is considered elite in the league. Corsi is the differential for shots for vs shots against.This line consistently applies pressure and rarely finds itself in bad shape in the defensive end of the ice. All have a positive plus/minus which further exhibits the strength of their corsi rating. While they are on the ice, they dominate puck possession. They win board battles. Their plus/minus certainly is being inflated by their most frequent defensive pairing. Duncan Keith has yet to score a goal this year.
If we take that number and then look at their relative corsi, we can see how they are doing versus their teammates. Toews relative corsi is 5.9 and Saad’s is 7.2. Toews’ 5.9 is the highest of his career. We have all been tough on Toews this year, mainly because of his large salary and lack of gaudy numbers. Yes, Toews makes a lot of money and needs to produce. Yes, Saad needs to put up more points. I truly believe that, at some point, the pucks will start finding the back of the net regularly. The consistent pressure is there.
Interesting side note: Alex DeBrincat has a corsi of 56.1 and a relative corsi of 4.1. This is impressive indeed considering DeBrincat has played on the third line all year and rarely has the same line mates. For comparison, his corsi is higher than Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, and Steven Stamkos.
The Blackhawks take the ice on Wednesday against the New York Rangers. It is the last road game of this most recent trip. If the Hawks can come away with a win, they will put themselves in the thick of the wild card race and be ready to enjoy a few home games.