Ward faced, by far, the toughest quality of competition on the Predators last season, had the second most difficult zone starts and had the top Corsi relative to his quality of competition. In other words, despite taking more draws in the defensive zone against the opposition’s top lines, the puck spent more time in the offensive zone during even strength when Ward was on the ice.
Adding him to a line with Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera appeared to give Coach Bruce Boudreau a solid option for generating offense down low and creating plays along the boards and in the corners, all while limiting the opposition’s best from doing the same.
At least, it did on paper.
So far this season they aren’t driving play as anticipated, either individually or as a unit.
The three are dead last on the team in terms of scoring chance percentage during even strength. Scoring percentage is the ratio of chances that go in Washington’s favor when that player is on the ice. More scoring chances = more goals = more wins. Conversely, keeping the other team out of the offensive zone limits their ability to score and, ultimately, win.
As expected, the “meat and potatoes” line hasn’t fared any better:
|Line combo||EV SC%|
|Halpern – Perreault - Hendricks||78.6%|
|Brouwer- Backstrom - Ovechkin||50.0%|
|Semin - Johansson - Knuble||50.0%|
|Ward – Laich - Chimera||41.2%|
Even if we remove the score effects and look at even-strength performance when the score is tied, the trio is still underwater at 42.8 percent.
Sure, the line is keeping the opposition off the scoreboard (only one even-strength goal against), but that has more to do with the performance of Tomas Vokoun and the level of competition the trio has faced, which is the weakest on the team.
Boudreau is starting to experiment with his line combos again, and it looks like Matt Hendricks will replace Jason Chimera on the third line. Perhaps he can help tilt the ice in Washington’s favor. If not, things will get dicey when the third line starts to face stiffer competition.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg.