Breaking Down the Panthers First Line

Updated: December 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm by Ryan Campbell

I posted the season’s first Big 50 last week, and someone took exception to the fact that there were no Florida Panthers on the list.  I figured this is a good of place as any to discuss why.  I think most people can tell you that the 2nd place Panthers are playing over their head, but let’s break down exactly why and what impact it has on your fantasy team.

A really easy reason to spot is of course shooting percentage.  Right now, the guys doing the damage up front are Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss, who have 26, 24 and 23 points respectively.  They are also shooting a combined 18.1%.  Prior to this season, the trio had combined for 257 NHL goals on 2116 shots, good for a 12.1% shooting percentage.  This means that this year they are converting shots into goals at a rate 49.2% higher than previous seasons.  In fact, all three of these guys are in the top 10 in the NHL in 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage, along such offensive luminaries as Theo Peckham, Chris Kelly and Boyd Gordon.  I understand that this is not only the first time these three players have played together, but also the first time they’ve had the opportunity to be the marquee forwards on a team, and it’s possible they are magically generating a ridiculously amount of quality scoring chances relative to total shots… but that’s probably not the case.  It would appear that they are just enjoying a stretch where the bounces are going their way, and this certainly does happen over 25 game stretches.  Congratulations to everyone who capitalized on the hot streak, but odds are it isn’t going to last.

Right now, the rate at which this trio is scoring is boosting not only their points, but also their +/-, as they range between +12 and +14.  Their Corsi ratings paint a much darker picture, as Versteeg leads the three at 4.94 while Fleischmann and Weiss come in at -1.37 and -2.73 respectively.  It is difficult to post a positive +/- rating when you are being outshot, and more importantly, it is difficult to win hockey games.

On a team level, the picture isn’t much prettier, as a large chunk of the teams production has come form these three.  At 5v5, the team has allowed the same amount of goals as they’ve scored per 60 minutes.  They are also spending more time short-handed than on the powerplay per 60 minutes.  While their powerplay is currently humming at 18.6%, good for 9th in the NHL, a lot of this is again driven by shooting percentage.  It is difficult to win hockey games when you are equal at even strength and spend more time in the box than your opponent.

Fortunately, this is fantasy hockey, and you have those points in the bank.  But don’t push your luck too far.  If we scale back the point totals of these three to take into account their incredibly high shooting percentage, we’re looking at around 38 points apiece over the remaining 56 games of the season, which translates to .66 points per game.  This is still above career average for all three, so they are certainly useful fantasy hockey weapons.  However, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade that can get you a player with a greater opportunity for future success.

 

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