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Posted at 7:29 AM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Statistical analysis: Is Jason Chimera the solution for the top line?

By Neil Greenberg
Statistical analysis

It took almost 150 line combinations at even strength for Jason Chimera to share time on the top line with the dynamic duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and so far the results have been good. They have been on the ice for six even-strength goals in the last six games, with Ovechkin and Backstrom each putting up four points in a "must win" game against divisional rival Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the success, is Chimera the best fit for the top line?

For the purposes of this blog post (and common sense), we are going to assume that a top line will have Ovechkin and Backstrom, so only the combos that include both of them will be analyzed. I am also going to focus on only those line combos that have seen at least 30 minutes of ice time together during even strength. While 30 minutes may not seem like a lot, that's the equivalent of around 40 shifts of hockey.

We have seen Coach Bruce Boudreau discontinue shifts after only two or three appearances on the ice, so I think the sample size is adequate for this analysis.

Third forward 5v5 TOI SCF/20 GF/20 SC % Convert % RelCorsi QoC
Knuble 319.0 6.5 0.6 58.2% 9.7% 1.105
Semin 157.2 7.0 1.4 57.9% 20.0% 0.996
Chimera 82.0 6.8 1.5 54.9% 21.4% -1.592
Fehr 33.6 9.5 1.8 61.5% 18.8% 1.963
Laich 30.4 12.5 2.0 86.4% 15.8% 0.716
SCF/20 = scoring chances per 20 minutes at 5v5; GF/20 = goals for per 20 minutes at 5v5; RelCorsi QoC = Corsi quality of competition

Obviously the top line from last year (Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble) has seen the majority of ice time together, most likely in hopes the trio will somehow gain back the magic of 2009-10. So far, they haven't. The scoring chances have gone in their favor (SC %), but the goal scoring (Convert %) just hasn't been there. In fact, it is about half of what other forwards have been able to produce with the Big Two. Part of that could be the competition they have seen on the ice. Relative Corsi measures the difference in Corsi rating (the balance of total shots for and against) when a player is on the ice compared to when he's on the bench. The higher the number, the stiffer the competition faced, and as you see, most of the other iterations of the top line play against comparable competition as well.

I say "most" because the Chimera line seems to have had recent success playing against the weakest competition of all the combinations. When Relative Corsi is negative, that means we should see a larger portion of scoring chances go in that line's favor and the Chimera line barely breaks even. Eventually we should see the conversion rate drift back to the team's average (14.6 percent) and when it does, the goals scored will plummet.

The success when Brooks Laich is Ovechkin and Backstrom's running mate also seems to come at the expense of weak competition, which is why the long-term solution for the top line looks to be Eric Fehr. With Fehr seeing top-line minutes, Washington sees the highest percentage of chances go in its favor and a robust 18.8 percent of those chances convert - all while playing against the toughest competition opponents have to offer. It's a shame his injury has kept him from continuing his successful audition on the top line.

Get well soon, Eric -- Ovechkin and Backstrom need you.

Neil Greenberg also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks. You can follow him on Twitter.

By Neil Greenberg  | February 7, 2011; 7:29 AM ET
Categories:  Jason Chimera, Statistical analysis  
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From previous thread:

Very good couple of games over the weekend against two playoff bound teams but the jury is still out IMO. When tehy can tie five or six of these efforts together in a row I will think they are on track, hopefully it will happen.

Should be a suspesion for Cooke with his track record but I'm sure Campbell will make the "Penguin exception" once more, if that would have been Ovie throwing the hit he would be sitting three games.

Great to see Backs attempt to stand up for a teammate, these guys may be coming together beofre our eyes which would certainly make me extremely happy.

Posted by: PhilR

Posted by: PhilR | February 7, 2011 7:49 AM | Report abuse

1) Quit your complaining about Cooke. Ovechkin did the same thing to Gonchar. Let the NHL hopefully sit Cooke down for 5 games...for what he did to Savard, not Ovechkin.

2) Ovechkin is now getting heat from NBC...both commentators stated that this is NOT the Ovechkin we have seen the past 3 seasons. Until Ovechkin gets back in shape and stops boozin, he will continue to be a minimal factor (instead of a game changer)

3) I give Ovechkin the opportunity to miss the "Ovechkin" Skate tomorrow. Even though he didn't really do anything, he worked hard and the Cooke cheapshot warrants him some extra time to booze, I mean rest.

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 7, 2011 8:21 AM | Report abuse

And no NEIL, the caps don't need fehr.

The only thing the caps MIGHT need fehr for is trade bait and to fill the water bottles...

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 7, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse


the ovechkin hit on gonchar was straight on and gonch stepped to the side. cooke hit on Ovie was as he was turning into the play. Even NBC showed the angle cooke took versus what he should have to get to the puck and not the knee.

Posted by: samb99 | February 7, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse


Similiar, same. The only difference is Cooke is a jerk and a punk.

I am not saying he shouldn't get a whipping for it or a suspension.

I'm just saying there is NO ROOM FOR COMPLAINING in this game. JUST PAYBACKS!

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 7, 2011 8:32 AM | Report abuse

What is this boozin crap someone enlighten me. are you his drinkin buddie then you dont know if he is a drunk allthough he is russian and probably likes his Vodaka. He plays 82 games a season all that physical abuse when does he have time to get drunk probably just eats has 1 to 2 drinks then goes to bed no different than any one else on here.

Posted by: koppleschloss | February 7, 2011 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Well known and confirmed from inside team sources.

Ovechkin spends a lot of time out partying.

If you watch the games, you will see that he has fallen a lot more this year in situations where there is no contact.

Furthermore, his quickness and production has completely changed.

If you can't see it, then that's fine. We will just agree to disagree.

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 7, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Whether or not OV is out partying too much, teams have changed how they play OV, getting 2-3 guys on him when he enters the zone, the defenders closing their legs like a good Catholic school girl, keeping OV to the outside, and Backis' game has been very off this year, and who is OV's go to RW this year? It's not all OV. He has to change his game, and Backis needs to step up his game (has so lately), and the Caps need a legit 1st line RW (Fehr has phailed so far this year, Laich is a very maybe, and Chim-Chim/Knubs is not quite there).

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | February 7, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse


you seem to be quite the expert in everything. What do you know about OV's drinking? Do you follow him say he's fallen on the ice a lot this year without contact...are you implying he's skating drunk..and your response is "inside sources" any "inside source" would actually talk to you given your brilliant posts on this site.What a joke..As an FYI Rod Langway was a total alcoholic when he played for the caps...could you tell? was he falling a lot?

Posted by: bondtrader | February 7, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse


I am so happy to see Laich getting on the board...I am also happy to see Carlson, Alzner and Johansson doing their jobs contributing!

Two great games in a row...hopefully they can keep it up!!!!!

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 7, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse


No, don't follow him.

No, don't think he's playing drunk or under the influence.

Many people know of his "habits".

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 7, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

what they need on the top line is a physical winger that can take a little pressure off Ovi in that department. Neither Fehr or Chimera fits that description.

Gretzky and Kurri played with a bunch of scrubs playing LW on their line and they did just fine. About the best they had was Tikkanen.

Posted by: joek443 | February 7, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

The biggest difference I see between the games they win and lose is how quickly the shoot. The quicker they shoot, the less time the goalie has to get into position or the defenders have to block the shot. They've capitalized on the rebounds from the quick shots from the point.

Posted by: RuskiSi | February 7, 2011 9:39 AM | Report abuse


I like Arnott, but I think Umberger is more likely and a better fit. GMGM has a trading relationship with CBJ's GM, and Umberger plays very good eastern style hockey, and he is in his prime. Arnott played very good eastern style hockey, but he is not in his prime. Not saying Arnott is too old, but I think Umbergber would be a better fit. CBJ don't need a goalie, but they need young offense or a defender. Trade Steckel and a pick, a Gordon and a pick, Schultz and a pick, Beagle and a pick, Chim-Chim and a pick, or Fehr and a pick.

Finally, I would like to see the Caps bring in Billy Guerin for a try out to see if he can help out the Caps at RW. He did a lot for the Pens. He may be too old, or have a last push still in the tank. What's to lose, as he will not cost a trade or pick, and a small pro-rated salary is cap friendly.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | February 7, 2011 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Agree w/ joek443. It makes sense that someone with some size can create some space for OV/Backs. Gretzky even played on a line with Dave Semenko for crying out loud.

One of my favorite lines growing up was Savard / Secord / Larmer - Secord could score, but was tough and would fight when needed...but everyone was aware he was out there.

If only Chimera would toughen up and show a mean streak, it would be great.

If only Boudreau would stop juggling the lines constantly so some chemistry would open up, it would be great.

Good game by Neuvirth too, and we might as well get used to him b/c Varly is like a china doll.

Posted by: Jaymagz | February 7, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Someone like Billy Guerin from 2-3 years ago (when Caps could have gotten him) would be perfect. Actually, last year's Knuble was perfect. I would like to give Fehr a chance, otherwise maybe Laich is a good fit if it's the Laich from the last two games.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 7, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Any chance we can get Traci Hamilton off Caps stories? Facts seem important in newspaper publishing.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 7, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Great game, was fun to watch. Pen's fans just sat quiet most of the game and waving their terrible towels....yeah, that makes sense.

The cherry on top was watching the Steelers lose in the super bowl, and Big Ben "No Means Yes" Roethlisberger with his turnovers being the main reason. Angry Ben after a huge loss like that...women in Pittsburgh better stay away from the bars for a few months.

Cooke is trash and I hope he gets a couple games, if not, hope he gets his when we see the Pens next. Although if Boston sees them first, a fire might have been sparked back in them. Looks like Savard is done for the year and appears to be announcing his retirement tomorrow. From the rumors I've heard anyhow. Im not a big believer in Karma...but man do I hope Cooke learns about it soon.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | February 7, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

JIMALLCAPS: Here we are both mentioning Guerin at the same time.

BTW, I've you've been reading here, I've been touting Umberger since the day after we lost to Montreal. He would cost Eakin +. The Jackets might ask for Kuznetsov. Arnott though would be much cheaper and then you can realign next year.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 7, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"Many people know of his 'habits'."
"Well known and confirmed from inside team sources."
Do you have any actual credible evidence of Ovechkin's partying having a detrimental effect on his play during the season? Or do you only have argumentum ad populum arguments for us? "Everyone knows the Earth is flat."

I have seen lots of examples on various blogs of him carousing during the off-season. Which is exactly what most guys his age would do, given his wealth and ... opportunity.

Posted by: MisterNasty | February 7, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Neil: Any chance of a future statistical analysis to show impact of Scott Hannan? I feel he's part of the reason the D has become more solid. Thanks.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 7, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse


Sure, it's actually in the works now. Anything in particular you want to see?


Posted by: NeilRMNB | February 7, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

@ Neil

I like to see why he's getting 4.5m? Is he scared to shoot the puck when given the chance? While I will take Hannan over Esskay any day I just don't see the return on investment.

Posted by: bqts | February 7, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Neil-I don't think it necessarily follows that, because when Fehr's on the top line and they face the most shots against, it therefore must mean that they're facing the toughest quality competition. I.e., if Pitt had their big 2 back and Staal was centering their 3rd line as they've done in the past, Staal's line wouldn't be expected to generate a lot of offense - on non-BB coached teams, 3rd lines are out there to stifle top scoring lines; any offense they generate is a bonus.

It could just mean what our eyes tell us - that, when he doesn't have the puck in a shooting position, E Fehr is a liability Slow and soft = not typically a good NHL combo.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 7, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Neil: I guess what I am curious is what are goals allowed per game before/after Hannan?

Also, maybe, which group of 6 d-men when on ice have lowest goals allowed?

I guess this would be ES and 4-on-5.

My thoughts are Green, Hannan, Erskine, Alzner and Carlson are the best, followed by Schultz, Poti and Sloan. Thanks.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 7, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1 & @bqts

Sounds good. I'll put something together.


Posted by: NeilRMNB | February 7, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I like Chimera on the top line. He has unbelievable quicks out there and he can put pressure on the defense with just his wheels which should help create space for Backstrom and Ovie when he stretches the D a full 200 feet. It is funny to me that us Caps fans are so spoiled from the last 2-3 years that when the club is just a few points out of first in their division, and just 7 from an Eastern Conference top seed, is cause for a national debate. Go Caps!

Posted by: np2131 | February 7, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I like Chimera on the top line. He has unbelievable quicks out there and he can put pressure on the defense with just his wheels which should help create space for Backstrom and Ovie when he stretches the D a full 200 feet. It is funny to me that us Caps fans are so spoiled from the last 2-3 years that when the club is just a few points out of first in their division, and just 7 from an Eastern Conference top seed, is cause for a national debate. Go Caps!

Posted by: np2131 | February 7, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I like Chimera on the top line. He has unbelievable quicks out there and he can put pressure on the defense with just his wheels which should help create space for Backstrom and Ovie when he stretches the D a full 200 feet. It is funny to me that us Caps fans are so spoiled from the last 2-3 years that when the club is just a few points out of first in their division, and just 7 from an Eastern Conference top seed, is cause for a national debate. Go Caps!

Posted by: np2131 | February 7, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

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