So if Barzal still performs well against good defenders is the issue the players around him?
While Barzal has increased his goal production this season, he’s still primarily a setup man. Having the guys next to him produce is key. Simply, a setup man needs the players around him to shoot and convert those shots to goals.
In 2017-18, Barzal spent most of his 5on5 time with Jordan Eberle (844:07) and Anthony Beauvillier (444:13) combining for 149 shots and converting on 13.98 percent and 14.29 percent of their shots, respectively.
The following years, Barzal lineup with noted shooter Josh Bailey (657:25) and Anthony Beauvillier (602:21) combining for 129 shots and converting on 14.71 percent and 14.75 percent of their shots, respectively.
When your linemates are a guy like Josh Bailey who isn’t much of a shooter and player who’s still learning his craft in the NHL under his second coach in two seasons, a drop in production for Barzal can be expected.
This season Barzal’s primary linemates were Anders Lee (788:51) and Jordan Eberle (580:25) who had 147 shots on goal but converted on 11.9 percent and 7.94 percent of their shots.
(All ice times are at 5on5)
Those shooting percentages tell the entire story for Barzal’s drop in 19-20. Both Lee and Eberle were converting well below their career averages. Lee typically converts at 13.8 percent while Eberle is at 13.1 percent.
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The main factor that Barzal isn’t putting up the numbers he used to is due in part to the guys around him. Just look at how the guys around him halved their career-average shooting percentages in 2019-20.
If Lee and Eberle were converting at career-average levels Barzal’s stats would look much much better.