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Is the Top 6 Scoring Sustainable?

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As mentioned here at All About the Jersey before, the New Jersey Devils have gotten the majority of their offensive production from their top 2 lines. The question I pose here today is whether or not that scoring is sustainable. Let's take a look.

He is one that needs to sustain success.
He is one that needs to sustain success.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

This season, the New Jersey Devils have gotten exceptional production out of their top 6 (5 really).  Mike Cammalleri is producing at basically a point per game level, Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri are producing at career paces, Travis Zajac isn't playing like just a defensive center, and Lee Stempniak is currently looking like one of the best cheap free agent signings ever.  The question on everyone's mind, of course, is whether or not such production is sustainable.

Now, the obvious answer is that no one knows.  Even if all of the numbers out there dictate that someone should not continue to produce at the rate that they are, sometimes you just cannot account for a skater being red hot.  It happens.  Despite that knowledge, however, I wanted to just look specifically at shots per game and shooting percentages with the top scorers on the New Jersey Devils, and compare those numbers with their career averages.  Are these skaters shooting considerably more or less than they usually do?  And, are their shooting percentages bloated, or are they actually sustainable when compared to career norms?  I will also quickly look at shooting charts to see where some of these guys are shooting, as I want to know if their shots are of higher quality, or if luck is a large factor in pucks bouncing in.

Some Numbers

Before I can get into my stats, I should probably update everyone on their point production up to this point.  So, here it is: Note: All statistics before last night's game against Philadelphia.

Player

Games

Goals

Assists

Points

Mike Cammalleri

25

9

17

26

Adam Henrique

25

12

8

20

Lee Stempniak

25

5

14

19

Kyle Palmieri

25

9

9

18

Travis Zajac

24

6

9

15

So clearly, they are all performing well.  Henrique leads with 12 goals, but Cammalleri is producing at over a point per game right now with 26 points in 25 games.  Stempniak does not score a lot of goals, but he has been benefiting greatly by playing on a line with Cammalleri and Henrique, as he has 14 assists.  Palmieri and Zajac have been the second line mainstays (before Zajac's injury), and have done well there, with 15 goals and 18 assists between them.  If these 5 can keep this pace throughout the entire season, the Devils could very well find themselves in a wild card position come April.

For the set of shooting numbers to help give an idea of sustainability, I will create a chart of shots and shot-related stats.  These statistics will come courtesy of NHL.comNote: All statistics before last night's game against Philadelphia.

Player

Shots

S/GM

S/GM Career

S%

S% Career

Mike Cammalleri

67

2.68

2.84

13.4%

12.6%

Adam Henrique

61

2.44

1.82

19.7%

14.9%

Lee Stempniak

57

2.28

2.19

8.8%

10.6%

Kyle Palmieri

69

2.76

2.08

13.0%

11.2%

Travis Zajac

37

1.54

1.97

16.2%

10.4%

Ok so first, this season everyone but Zajac has done a good job at getting pucks at net.  Palmieri's 69 shots are quality, but Stempniak's 57 are not terrible either.  Zajac is the only one that has been too selective with the shot, and it has been even more so than his career norm.  Zajac certainly needs to shoot more if he wants to continue his point producing pace, as his 16.2% shooting percentage is still bloated, and will continue to fall closer to his career average.  Shoot away Travis!

Other than him, the only person with a lower current shots per game average than his career average is Cammalleri, but it is not considerably lower.  2.68 shots per game is still quality.  This is a good sign in my opinion.  Shots per game for Palmieri, Stempniak and Henrique do not necessarily have to regress to the career mean.  Under this new system, and with these new lines, those shot rates could maintain themselves as these guys acclimate to their new roles as shooters and relied on point producers.

The stat that usually does regress to the mean, however, is shooting percentage.  I've already discussed Zajac's, which is not a good sign.  The other skater with a bloated shooting percentage this year is Henrique.  19.7% is much higher than his career 14.9%, which in and of itself is a pretty high career average.  He could certainly see a cold spell at some point this season as his shooting percentage drops below 15%.  That would not be the best thing for New Jersey, but hopefully someone else from the bottom 6 picks up his slack at that time.

Other than them, there are no huge differences in the negative.  Cammy is a little above his career average at this point, but it is close enough where he could potentially maintain it.  Same goes with Palmieri.  Stempniak is actually snake bitten a little bit, with an 8.8% shooting percentage that is almost 2 percentage points lower than his career average.  If he continues to shoot, extra goals should eventually come his way.

Overall, I am encouraged by looking at this chart.  I am a little concerned with the bloated shooting percentages of Henrique and Zajac, but the others could certainly maintain their paces throughout the season, at least based on shooting percentages and shots per game.

Where Are They Shooting?

Finally, let's look real quick at where these guys are exactly shooting, and if they are in fact quality shots most of the time or not.  Information here comes from Sporting Charts, with each player's name having a link to their specific chart.  Check them out if you want a better visual than what I can give.

Mike Cammalleri's shots have been pretty quality this season.  Only 10 of his 67 shots have been from behind the faceoff circles (but 3 goals of those 10), and only 2 have been from outside of them to the left or right.  On the reverse side, around 23 of his shots have been from right around the net or in the low slot.  Those are good scoring chances, and it is why he is producing so many points.  He is getting good looks.

Adam Henrique also has a quality looking chart.  Of his 61 shots, only 4 have been from behind the faceoff circles (with one goal of those 4), and none have been from outside the circles to the left or right.  However, he does have two shots from behind the goal line, with one of those actually being a goal.  Conversely, he has around 20 shots in the low slot alone, and another 3 from the high slot, and he has been particularly effective in those areas as one would expect.  He is getting good chances just like Cammalleri is, which is a good sign that the production can continue.

Lee Stempniak continues the trend with a good looking chart.  Only 4 of his shots have been from behind the circles, and none are near the boards.  However, around 20 shots have been from the low slot or right around the net, and another four have been in the high slot.  He is clearly snake bitten, just from looking at his chart.  If he keeps getting these good chances, however, goals should come for him.  He is not taking weak shots.

Kyle Palmieri perhaps has the weakest chart of the top 4 I've mentioned.  15 of his shots, with 2 goals, have come from behind the circles.  Furthermore, most of his shots come from the left side of the ice, with only a few coming directly from the middle slot.  However,          the majority of his shots are still coming from within the home plate area, so it is not like his chances are all terrible.  He could sustain this pace if he keeps getting shots from that home plate area.  He just has some tough competition here.

Travis Zajac's chart is considerably whiter than anyone else's, as he has taken so many fewer shots.  When he has shot, however, they have been good chances for the most part.  Only 2 of his 37 shots are from behind the circles, and only 7 total are outside of the home plate area.  Most come from the low slot.  If he manages to shoot more, and keep shooting from where he has been, then he could continue to score, even with some regression in his shooting percentage.

Conclusion

So, are their scoring numbers sustainable?  I would say that for the most part, they could be.  Only 2 of the 5 skaters have bloated shooting percentages, and Stempniak can even gain some more goals if his jumps up closer to his career mean.  Furthermore, all of them are regularly shooting from high quality positions on the ice, meaning that their lines are working well together to create space and generate good opportunities.  John Hynes has been very smart in leaving the top line completely intact, and also with leaving Zajac and Palmieri together.  Hopefully with Elias' return, he can become the third staple on the second line, and that group can really gel together like the top line has.  Let's hope that Zajac can return soon for that to happen.

Now again, this is all speculation.  Anyone of them at any time could hit an ice cold spell and disappear for weeks or even months.  It has happened to many Devils over the course of the team's history.  However, given what we have seen, I think that hoping for sustainability is not being overly optimistic.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts about this topic?  Do you think that these guys can sustain their scoring ways throughout the season?  If so, do you think all of them can, or do you think some of them will fall to the wayside?  If so, who will sustain and who will fall?  If some do fall, who could take their places?  Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.