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Analysis

New York Islanders: Defensive Pairing Shuffle Isn’t Worth It

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 23: Johnny Boychuk #55 of the New York Islanders congratulates Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders after he scored in the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on November 23, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 23: Johnny Boychuk #55 of the New York Islanders congratulates Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders after he scored in the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on November 23, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders briefly shuffled the Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk and Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock pairing. Based on the last two years, it’s not worth it.

Last night, the New York Islanders won their first game of the season against a beat-up Winnipeg Jets team. In route to the Islanders 4-1 win, they decided to change up the defensive pairs for a brief period of time.

Nick Leddy played with Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech was paired with Johnny Boychuk during the end of the second period. It didn’t last very long but it got me wondering, what are the numbers for those guys in the different pairs.

It seems like there’s a good reason, Barry Trotz didn’t switch the pairs very often. Here’s what I found over the last two season’s courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

Pairs

Pelech – Boychuk: 189:12 TOI – 50.4 CF% – 55.1 cGF% – 56.1 SCF%

Pelech – Pulock: 851:22 TOI – 47.4 CF% – 51.67 xGF% – 48.99 SCF%

Leddy – Boychuk: 867:30 TOI – 44.46 CF% – 43.98 xGF% – 46.32 SCF%

Leddy – Pulock: 291:37 TOI – 44.4 CF% – 42.59 xGF% – 43.87 SCF%

We’ll start at the top with Adam Pelech and Johnny Boychuk. This swap is actually okay in their limited sample size. Their CF% is over 50 which is a positive, their xGF% is the highest of any of the pairs on the list and their scoring chances for percentage at 56.1 is a real solid number.

Unfortunately, while that pair works, the Leddy – Pulock pairing leaves a lot to be desired. Their CF%, xGF%, and SCF% are the lowest of the four combinations. It’s not worth it to swap the pairings with Leddy and Pulock, who are the better offensive defenseman, they can’t afford for those guys to regress offensively.

The original pairs, as you can see put up fine numbers. It’s not great, the Isles Corsi numbers aren’t good to begin with, but it’s the better alternative, pairing one of the more offensive guys with one of the more defensive guys rather than putting both offensive and both defensive guys together.

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Plus, there’s another pairing that we didn’t even talk about yet. The Toews – Mayfield pair is very good in all three of the categories mentioned. They have a 52.8 CF%, a 56.4 xGF%, and 52.8 SCF%. The Isles defense isn’t the issue, don’t mess with it if it’s working.

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