Numbers Of Interest

Here are the Canadiens' 5-on-5 scoring numbers from Behind the Net.

Click on the table to see it in a reasonable size.

Onto the Numbers Of Interest. I usually sort tables like this by the Quality of Competition column. To change things up, this one is by ES Pts/60.

For the last thirty games or so, A. Kastsitsyn-Plekanec-Kovalev has been the nominal #1. They've been the first choice for offensive situations and have usually been the line focused on by opposing coaches. This doesn't mean they're getting all the tough minutes - that duty is still usually for Koivu's line or Carbo's random array of checkers on a given night. But there is no question the Kovalev line has a bigger role now than it had at the start of the season.

The guy garnering most of the credit is, of course, the uber-skilled Kovalev. He's come to play this year, say the pundits. Well, I'm not so sure this 34-year-old leopard has changed his spots.

By the numbers, Kovy's put up 1.5 points per 60 et EV. His season-long linemates are each better by 50% - A.Kast is 2.2 Pleks is 2.3. Kovy's put up 0.76 goals per 60. Compare that to the utterly snakebitten Ryder's 0.79.

The EV success of the #1 trio this year is not a Kovalevian revival so much as an emergence of 23 year old Kastsitsyn and 25 year old Pleks. These guys have taken a leap forward. They're driving the results. That should be much more encouraging news to a Habs fan than a resurgence of Kovalev, if one had in fact taken place.

Obviously, Kovalev is not exactly a boat anchor on that line. His presence probably creates a lot of room for the kids. I should also point out that his EV production has nothing to do with his dominance on the PP. That's a whole other ball of wax, and is definitely a big reason for this club's success this year. Just don't confuse those PP numbers with his 5-on-5 performance.

This post may come across as Kovy-bashing. I hope not. People trying to reconcile the talent with the lack of production over his career have attached certain adjectives to his name more than others - 'enigmatic' on good days, 'indifferent,' 'petulant' or 'lazy' on not so good ones. None of that is fair to the player. Rather than search for explanations, why not just look at the production? He's at 1.52 ESP/60 this year. That's a little better than last season's 1.19 ESP/60, but not as good as 05/06's 2.08 ESP/60. His production is in line with his average over his last two seasons with Montreal.

Now here's something I like about Kovy's EV game:

Reminds you of the Tucker incident, eh? Or Bure on Churla. These skilled guys absorb a lot of cheap shots. It's refreshing to see them finally snap and take it out on a thug.



Blogger Kaz said...

I dunno Jeff. It's taken me a while to have forgiven Kovalev's play from last year, but from watching that line play he certainly seems like the one who creates the space for others.

Tonight's game against the Sens was a case in point. There were some shifts where I had to remind myself it wasn't a PP. He was able to hold onto the puck with two or three guys trying to take it away, then somehow manages to shake them and finds a wide open Kostitsyn or Plekanec.

Just like Koivu is the sparkplug for his line, and Higgins can be a sparkplug for his own (although he's struggling of late), Kovy -- from what I have seen -- is the guy that gets that line going.

2/06/2008 12:40 a.m.  
Anonymous MathMan said...

I guess I should have scrolled down before I posted. That comment I made in the entry above, about Kovalev being among the league leaders in penalties drawn at 5-on-5, combined with his dominance on the Power Play, would probably have been more appropriate here.

I think Kovalev has seriously stepped up his game, and I think it shows both in his scoring, in his plus/minus (+12) and in his drawing of penalties. Plekanec and Kostitsyn have indeed emerged, and the three feed off of each other like a good line should. The scary part about that line is that it has been steadily *improving* over the course of the season.

His defensive work has also been subjectively impressive. He's even being used regularly on the PK nowadays, and looking good doing so.

2/06/2008 1:51 p.m.  

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