Six years ago, Steve Downie was an unpolished first-round pick known for his hit on Dean McAmmond. Today, he is a much improved asset to the Philadelphia Flyers and one of the reasons the orange and black have taken a turn for the better.
The Flyers reacquired Downie for Max Talbot in a trade completed on Oct. 31. Downie is six games into his second stint with the orange and black and in those six games, the Flyers have gone 4-1-1. Downie has also contributed five points, but his impact on the third line is what stands out .
Prior to the Talbot deal, the Flyers’ third line was a turnstile for wingers. Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Max Talbot had each spent time with Sean Couturier on the third line until the Downie acquisition.
Since Downie joined the third line, he, Read and Couturier have combined for 13 points. When Downie was out of the lineup for four games, Read and Couturier only mustered one point.
As much of a fan favorite Max Talbot was, he was not going to make much noise with his offense. During the course of his career, Talbot averaged 20 points a season, while Downie has averaged 40 points and the more offensive-minded Downie has helped spark the third line. Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres showed what Downie brings to this team. Matt Read’s two-goal night was because of Downie’s superb passing.
While the statistics on the box score tell some of the story, Downie’s Corsi statistics reveal even more. (*Those who are familiar with Corsi, skip this and the next paragraph.) For those who are unfamiliar with Corsi, it is a more advanced version of the plus/minus rating. Corsi measures how many shots are directed on the opponent’s net and how many shots are directed against the player’s own net. A higher the Corsi rating means more scoring opportunities.
One of the most telling Corsi statistics is Relative Corsi Number. This measures how many shots a player attempts per game (60 minutes).
Downie’s Relative Corsi Number is 7.5. This means he created seven scoring opportunities per game. Read’s Corsi is -4.1, meaning four shots are directed at Steve Mason or Ray Emery when Read is on the ice. Couturier’s Relative Corsi is only 0.3, but considering how often he plays against the top lines that rating is rather impressive. Although Read’s and Couturier’s Corsi ratings do not jump off the page with offensive potential, both of their numbers should improve with more time spent with Downie.
As members of the checking line, Read, Couturier and Downie often play the toughest minutes on the team. This means they will often start their shifts in the defensive zone. Aside from the fourth line, each of them have the lowest percentages of the offensive zone starts on the Flyers. What is most surprising about this line is that despite each of them starting the majority of their shifts in the defensive zone, all three are finishing close to 50 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone. Below are the percentages:
|PLAYER||DEFENSIVE ZONE START||OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH|
These statistics show that all three are competent, two-way forwards who can be relied upon to not only shut down the top lines of each opponent, but also provide more offensive depth. The Talbot-Downie trade may have shipped out a fan favorite, but Paul Holmgren saw an opportunity to balance this team. Specialty players like Talbot can be found anywhere in the league, but good two-way forwards are harder to find.
*For a well-done article on how the Chicago Blackhawks have used advanced statistics, check out “‘Money Puck’ An Advanced Statistical Look at the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL.”