That time again to get a little nerd-y. Or a little more nerd-y than we already are.
This got some play last week thanks to The Score’s Jay Zawaski. But that’s the amount of goals at even-strength that Patrick Kane has scored with Michal Handzus as his center. And that’s the center he’s played the most with. It kind of defies belief. You’d think Handzus would have been struggling to the bench just once while Kaner was dancing through defenders or something. It just hasn’t happened.
If you’re interested, and you are, Kane has scored his most even-strength goals with Brandon Saad, the winger he’s played with most, with 7. He’s also scored 7 with Andrew Shaw. This may be something even Joel Quenneville has seen, as Saad has joined Kane on a line the past few games.
This doesn’t mean that Shaw is the perfect center for Kane, perhaps just the best out of bad choices. Kane scored four even-strength goals with Brandon Pirri, but the seven with Shaw have come in half the amount of time on the ice. Kane’s Corsi% is also about 12 points higher with Shaw than either Pirri or Handzus.
Why? Harder to pin down. Some could be matchups. We know Shaw doesn’t win any draws so it’s not that. Mostly, it might simply be the mobility that Shaw has and he can at least be somewhere when Kane has the puck. Most of Kane’s production is off the rush and one-on-one. You don’t want him trying to produce on a cycle too often. Shaw can at least keep up.
Is Shaw a #2 center? Almost certainly not. Honestly, I think he’d be better at wing where his forechecking and getting to the net would be more pronounced by not having to constantly be low in his own zone. But right now, he might be the best solution of what currently is on offer.
Those are Bryan Bickell’s last two games in terms of Corsi-percentage. Yes, it’s as hideous as you think, and the coach probably thinks so as well because Bicks hasn’t played more than 10 minutes since the blowout against Colorado when Q could just roll through the lines.
While it’s easy to label Bickell a dog now that he’s gotten paid, I don’t think it’s that simple. I think the bigger issue is that Bicks is coming off consecutive knee injuries, one in the playoffs last year and the one that put him on the shelf in November. Quite simply, he just might not have any mobility right now, and he wasn’t exactly Carl Lewis before all this. It’s a concern, and maybe more than a smaller one.
Secondly, and I have to whisper this considering the emotion the name draws, but Bickell and the Hawks might just be missing regular season Viktor Stalberg. While the overwhelming majority of opinion of Stals is generated by his playoff-ghost act, which is totally fair, it’s easy to forget that during the regular season last year Stals was a forechecking demon. He, Bicks, and Shaw really were slaying people at even-strength. Stals’s wheels were quite valuable. The Hawks tried to replicate this with Saad on the third line, which worked for the most part. But now Saad is needed with Kane, at least until a giant lineup reshuffle comes (and it will). And in the emperor-has-n0-clothes file, it’s looking like Bickell was the beneficiary now more than the generator. Which makes the demotion of the Hawks Corsi-percentage leader to Rockford, Jeremy Morin, even more frustrating.
Hossa’s goals in the last nine games. Normally, that would be a bigger worry. Hossa’s goals are being somewhat gobbled up by Sharp these days. Second, Hossa has 21 shots in his last five games, so basically he’s gone cold but not because he’s not getting the opportunities. We’ve remarked before than in seasons when Hossa has pierced 40 goals, he averages close to or over 4 shots per game. He’s down a bit from where he was to 3.45 shots per game, but that’s still high enough. One should expect a Hossa binge relatively soon if he keeps his shots per game where they are.