As I’ve watched the Panik – Toews – Kane line get some games under their belt, I’ve come away very disappointed. They don’t look to be performing well and the numbers back that up, and they’ve continually struggled game by game. This is a line with two of the best players in the NHL on it. So why are they struggling?
Richard Panik is a bottom-6 talent, but he has some scoring ability. He can be a complementary piece on a top-6 line. Getting to the net is the asset he can provide, as he isn’t much of a playmaker or puck handler. Richard Panik isn’t going to work off of Patrick Kane like Artemi Panarin does. Panarin finds open space in the offensive zone and makes himself available to receive a pass from Kane. Panik, on the other hand, isn’t going to be heavily handling the puck on this line. He’s going to go to the net, clean up rebounds, and get the occasional one-timer. These are some of the assets Artem Anisimov brings to the Panarin – Anismov – Kane line.
Jonathan Toews is a very skilled player, but he doesn’t play out in space too regularly in the offensive zone. Toews likes to play behind or around the net in traffic, win puck battles along the boards, get in front of the net. Jonathan Toews is essentially playing a similar type of game as Artem Anisimov.
This is going to be simplifying it, but Panik – Toews – Kane is essentially Anismov – Anisimov – Kane. Obviously I don’t mean this literally, I’m simply trying to paint a picture for you of what I’m seeing on the ice.
I see Panik and Toews playing around the net and in traffic. I see them not making themselves available for Kane. An often play I see is Kane getting the puck and skating up the boards to start the cycle game. Panik and Toews are near the net. Kane has no one to move the puck to and eventually dumps it down the boards or sends a low danger shot towards the net before the defense gets him.
This is not how one optimally uses Patrick Kane. Panik and Toews together have made this line a checking line. Puck in deep, win puck battles, and get pucks on net is how they play. Patrick Kane shouldn’t be on this type of line. Kane should be on a line that’s possessing and moving the puck, playing in space, and setting up high quality chances.
Patrick Kane simply has no one to work with. No one to move the puck with. Pass with. There is no forward that is willing to come out and play in space with him.
Coach Quenneville has two options:
- Keep the line together, but get Toews to play out in space. He can tell Toews to play farther away from the net, out in space, and make himself available to Kane. Provide support to receive a pass when Kane has the puck. Panik can then be the one main player that provides a net front presence.
- Sub out Panik for a more of a playmaker / puck handler that can play with Kane. The two players that can do this are Nick Schmaltz and Vinnie Hinostroza. Both of those players are currently bottom-6 talents, but they can play a top-6 puck possession style game. Both of those players like to handle the puck, and would give Kane a forward to work off of while allowing Toews to play the same type of game he’s grown accustomed to.
So you might ask me, why not just put Panarin – Anisimov – Kane back together? The problem with that is that line is currently performing better with Hossa rather than Kane. Last season, that 2nd line was magical at scoring many goals. Often ignored was their sub-par defense. They scored a lot but also gave up plenty of goals. By replacing Kane with Hossa, that line has been able to keep up their possession and scoring capabilities, while also becoming a better defensive line.
I also think by choosing either of the two above options for Toews – Kane would make that a really good line as well.
Alright, I’ve told you what I’ve been seeing, not lets see what the numbers say. I took a look at the 4 line combos that have played the most 5v5 minutes.
First lets look at puck possession.
The above stat looks at which team is controlling play when each line is on the ice. The number is the percentage of shots Chicago takes compared to opponents when each line is on the ice.
So when Panarin – Anisimov – Hossa are on the ice, Chicago takes 54% of all shots which means the opponent is only getting 46% of the shots. If this line is out on the ice for 100 total shots, Chicago would have 54 shots while the opponent would have 46.
Being above 50% is key here as it means the line is out-shooting the opponent.
Panik – Toews – Kane is at 45%. When this line is on the ice, Chicago takes 45% of all shots while the opponents take 55%. This means opponents are controlling play and out-shooting Chicago when this line is on the ice.
Now lets take a look at eXpected Goal For %. This stat looks at shot quality to estimate the amount of goals that should have been scored for and against. A low percentage shot from the point that goes for an easy save is one shot. A high danger shot 5 feet from the net that a goalie makes a crazy save on is one shot. When looking at shot attempts, each of the above scenarios is the exact same. They’re simply recorded as one shot. However, expected goals will recognize the shot in the slot as having more value. It was a higher quality shot that had a higher percentage to go in than the shot from the point. In the expected goals stat, the two shots are different. They illustrate which teams are getting the better quality of shots.
Above is expected goal for %. This stat uses shot quality to estimate which percentage of goals a team should score with that line on the ice.
The best line is Panarin – Anisimov – Hossa. When they are on the ice, Chicago is expected to score 58% of all goals. This means opponents are expected to only score 42% of all goals. This means Chicago is getting better quality shots than opponents with this line on the ice.
Again, above 50% is good as it means Chicago is expected to outscore opponents with that line on the ice.
Below 50% is bad, as it means the opponents are expected to outscore Chicago with that line on the ice.
Panik – Toews – Kane are at 37% meaning Chicago is expected to score only 37% of all goals when they are on the ice vs 63% for the opponent.
For every 100 goals scored when that line is on the ice, the score would be estimated at:
- Chicago 37 goals
- Opponent 63 goals
So you can see just how bad that line has been.
This next one is similar to the first two charts, but instead of shots or expected goals, its Scoring Chance For%.
The above chart illustrates which team is creating more scoring chances when each line is on the ice.
The Panarin – Anisimov – Hossa line is again the best as Chicago is getting 71% of all scoring chances compared to the opponents when this line is on the ice. The Panarin – Anisimov – Kane line has poor numbers at 41%, and they also had poor numbers in this stat last season.
The Panik – Toews- Kane line is horrible here. At 32%, opponents are dominating in the scoring chance department when that line is on the ice.
Again, above 50% is good and below 50% is bad.
Finally, here is the ice time for each line this season.
When Panik – Toews- Kane are on the ice, pay attention to what each of those three players are doing in the offensive zone. If Toews is playing in traffic, that line probably won’t succeed. If Toews is playing out and space and working off of Patrick Kane, that line has a chance.