Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul currently sit at one and three in the NHL in scoring with a very successful first quarter to the season. Offensively, that is. On defense, there is still a lot of work to be done.
It’s not a secret that I’m not the biggest fan of having Lupul play with Kessel on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top line. I think that the possession numbers speak for themselves, and while the high-event Kessel has been scoring more since the Joffrey Lupul trade, he’s spending more time at the other end of the ice.
I’ve divided Phil Kessel’s time in Toronto before the Lupul trade and after the Lupul trade to compare. The relevant numbers include Corsi%, a reliable indicator of how often the puck spent time in the other team’s end versus a player’s own zone when he was on the ice. These numbers are taken via timeonice.com in even strength, score-tied situations.
|Before Lupul Trade||7.1%||90.8%||97.9%||49.7%|
|Since Lupul Trade||11.2%||92.5%||103.7%||46.4%|
While there may be something to be said about the way that Kessel has been shooting the puck post-Lupul, in that the team is generating more scoring chance off of rushes, the team is still bleeding shots against in their own end with Kessel on the ice.
Here are Kessel’s individual numbers:
|Before Lupul Trade||4.24||9.3%|
|Since Lupul Trade||3.43||15.7%|
Whatever Lupul’s effect is, he is certainly taking away shots from the Leafs best player in some regard, whether there are simply fewer to go around due to the Leafs propensity to not have the puck with the pairing on the ice, or whether Lupul, is, himself shooting more. Kessel has so rarely played in Toronto with a player who could shoot the puck as much as Lupul does and that has contributed to Kessel’s lower shot totals.
So what of Lupul pre-and-post trade? Well, Toronto has obviously helped him:
That said, it appears that Lupul is a player who plays continually with “high-percentage” numbers, meaning that he’s going to give up a lot of possession in turn for generating rushes. Funnily enough, his Corsi % is higher in Toronto than it was in Anaheim but his PDO dropped, still being over 100 in the last 103 games played.
Here are Lupul’s individual numbers:
He’s taking more shots, he’s playing with better players, and his possession and his shooting percentages have increased.
That said, the unit is still a harbinger. We have yet to see Kessel and Lupul play without an extended period without shooting over 11%. James Mirtle noted that Phil Kessel is a minus-11 in the last 11 games, and while there is certainly an issue with that statistic, it is an indication of what can happen if the Leafs top line suddenly isn’t putting the puck in the net at a higher rate.
In that period, the Leafs have controlled the puck 43.5% of the time with Kessel on the ice at even strength with the score-tied. As a team, the Leafs are shooting just 3.1% with him on the ice. This may be the start of a stretch where people begin to question the effectiveness of the top line.