Phew. So we've survived Round 1 of the Joel Quenneville line scrambling carousel. At the end of the regular season, we had a money line of Sharp-Toews-Hossa, also known as the "Hammer of the Gods," and a fourth line that had finally found some chemistry and was chipping in some offense to boot.
What happened? After stumbling upon the wall that was the Nashville Predators blue line (and you might argue, our own, as far as clearing it was concerned), Coach Q jumbled, we mumbled (and moaned), and, well -- maybe it worked!
Bickell me Elmo!
How do we tell? Well, we can use the stat I invented: Mutual +/-. For those of you who don't remember that FanPost (and let's be honest -- who did?), Mutual +/- is just like regular plus-minus, except that it's calculated for each pair of players on the team.
The objective is to answer the question: how well did each player play with everybody else? Well, let's take a look at the Blackhawks' Mutual +/- for the Round 1 against Nashville...
(remember: the gray numbers along the diagonal are each player's traditional +/- for the series)
- TOFTBO! Okay, no goals were scored against the 'Hawks when Niklas Hjalmarsson was on the ice. So, he played well with everyone. Way to bogart all the pluses, Niko.
- Brent Sopel also played extremely well, except when he was paired with Jordan Hendry. You can see why mama's boy was scratched for the latter half of the series.
- Likewise, you can see what became of that fourth line chemistry. Ben Eager and Colin Fraser were flat across the board (granted, they played limited minutes), in contrast to that whopping +10 that Eager and Tomas Kopecky were playing together in the regular season.
- Duncan Keith suffered from a lack of offensive production, and, arguably, being less solid than normal. Or was it just having to cover for Dustin Byfuglien (hence their mutual -3)? Think he missed the Norris-showcasing effects of Brent Seabrook?
- Bryan Bickell provided a huge spark -- he was a positive Mutual +/- with all of our top scorers -- Tazer, 20 Cent, Panda, and Sharpie. He was even a plus with good 'ole Dunky!
- Brian Campbell also helped stabilize the D corps. As somebody mentioned, it doesn't hurt that he took blue line minutes away from Buff.
- Marian Hossa's hard work showed despite his lack of production for most of the series. Except when he was paired with Lazy Kaner, of course.
- There's a lot more, but I'll let you guys duke it out in the comments section.
Thanks for reading -- I know you were here just for the free food, but I don't have any edible treats this time... but instead, you get a stats-post reader's reward: enter the coupon code PUNCHTHECABBIE at checkout and receive a special discount on The Days of Our Defense from Amazon.com!*
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