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Who Scores Alone?

So sayeth the Muse, "it takes two to make a thing go right." In the NHL, that translates to elite scorers who rely upon particular playmakers to set them up. Which elite snipers are most reliant on particular linemates? Let's take a look inside the numbers from the 2006-7 NHL regular season.

The following is a list of those prominent goal scorers (anyone with 20 or more goals last season) in order of their reliance on a particular teammate for the 1st assist on their goals. In other words, what portion of their total goals came directly after a specific teammate played the puck? May I have the envelope please...

Top 30 Goal-Scorers Ranked by Reliance
Scorer Goals Top 1st Assist Man Assists Pct
Daniel Sedin, VAN 36 Henrik Sedin, VAN 20 55.6%
Slava Kozlov, ATL 28 Marian Hossa, ATL 15 53.6%
Jason Pominville, BUF 34 Daniel Briere, BUF 17 50.0%
Chris Kunitz, ANA 25 Teemu Selanne, ANA 12 48.0%
Milan Michalek, SJS 26 Joe Thornton, SJS 12 46.2%
Dainius Zubrus, WSH 24 Alex Ovechkin, WSH 11 45.8%
Marian Gaborik, MIN 30 Pavol Demitra, MIN 13 43.3%
Martin Straka, NYR 29 Michal Nylander, NYR 12 41.4%
Jonathan Cheechoo, SJS 37 Joe Thornton, SJS 15 40.5%
Michael Ryder, MTL 30 Saku Koivu, MTL 12 40.0%
Trent Hunter, NYI 20 Mike Sillinger, NYI 8 40.0%
Martin St. Louis, TAM 43 Vincent Lecavalier, TAM 17 39.5%
Damond Langkow, CGY 33 Jarome Iginla, CGY 13 39.4%
Zack Parise, NJD 31 Travis Zajac, NJD 12 38.7%
Alexei Ponikarovsky, TOR 21 Mats Sundin, TOR 8 38.1%
Paul Kariya, NSH 24 Martin Erat, NSH 9 37.5%
Marco Sturm, BOS 27 Patrice Bergeron, BOS 10 37.0%
Petr Sykora, EDM 22 Ales Hemsky, EDM 8 36.4%
Alex Tanguay, CGY 22 Jarome Iginla, CGY 8 36.4%
Mike Fisher, OTT 22 Daniel Alfredsson, OTT 8 36.4%
Joe Sakic, COL 36 Andrew Brunette, COL 13 36.1%
Dany Heatley, OTT 50 Jason Spezza, OTT 18 36.0%
Daniel Alfredsson, OTT 29 Dany Heatley, OTT 10 34.5%
Ray Whitney, CAR 32 Rod Brind'Amour, CAR 11 34.4%
Sidney Crosby, PIT36Mark Recchi, PIT1233.3%
Mark Recchi, PIT24Sidney Crosby, PIT833.3%
Patrik Elias, NJD 21 Scott Gomez, NJD7 33.3%
Jason Spezza, OTT 34 Dany Heatley, OTT 11 32.4%
Steve Sullivan, NSH 22 J.P. Dumont, NSH 7 31.8%
Teemu Selanne, ANA 48 Andy McDonald, ANA 15 31.2%

While it's no surprise to see the Sedin twins atop this list, there are a few noteworthy entries in this table that warrant your attention. Notice, for example, how the Ottawa top line of Heatley/Spezza/Alfredsson are intertwined, and how the playmaking skills of Joe Thornton are so vital to the production of both Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo. Take special notice, as well, of players who have changed teams - how will Dainius Zubrus fare without Alex Ovechkin, or Jason Pominville without Daniel Briere? Will Martin Straka miss Michal Nylander, or Patrik Elias miss Scott Gomez? While it's possible that they'll find new linemates with which they'll develop the ever-elusive "chemistry," I wouldn't bet on it. But what about the opposite end of this scale? Which goal scorers relied the least upon a specific teammate for that First Assist?

Top 30 Goal Scorers Ranked by Independence
Scorer Goals Top 1st Assist Man Assists Pct
Patrick Sharp, CHI 20 6 players 2 10.0%
Ilya Kovalchuk, ATL 42 Slava Kolzov, ATL 6 14.3%
Scott Walker, CAR 21 Eric Staal, CAR 3 14.3%
Miroslav Satan, NYI 27 Viktor Kozlov, NYI 4 14.8%
Shane Doan, PHX 27 Steve Reinprecht, PHX 4 14.8%
Mats Sundin, TOR 27 Kaberle & Tucker 4 14.8%
Matthew Lombardi, CGY 20 4 players 3 15.0%
Martin Havlat, CHI 25 Keith & Vrbata 4 16.0%
Erik Cole, CAR 29 Stillman & Whitney 5 17.2%
Alex Ovechkin, WSH 46 Dainius Zubrus, WSH 8 17.4%
Mike Modano, DAL 22 Lehtinen & Lindros 4 18.2%
Patrice Bergeron, BOS 22 Marc Savard, BOS 4 18.2%
Alexander Semin, WSH 38 Alex Ovechkin, WSH 7 18.4%
Lee Stempniak, STL 27 Bill Guerin, STL 5 18.5%
Chris Drury, BUF 37 Daniel Briere, BUF 7 18.9%
Mike Sillinger, NYI 26 Trent Hunter, NYI 5 19.2%
Nathan Horton, FLA 31 Olli Jokinen, FLA 6 19.4%
Bill Guerin, STL 36 Doug Weight, STL 7 19.4%
Alexander Frolov, LAK 35 Mike Cammalieri, LAK 7 20.0%
Jaromir Jagr, NYR 30 Michal Nylander, NYR 6 20.0%
Chris Clark, WSH 30 3 players 6 20.0%
Brad Richards, TAM 25 Martin St. Louis, TAM 5 20.0%
Ryan Getzlaf, ANA 25 Chris Perry, ANA 5 20.0%
Stephen Weiss, FLA 20 Martin Gelinas, FLA 4 20.0%
Gary Roberts, FLA 20 Olli Jokinen, FLA 4 20.0%
Dan Boyle, TAM 20 Lecavalier & Richards 4 20.0%
Mike Cammalieri, LAK 34 Anze Kopitar, LAK 7 20.6%
Dustin Penner, ANA 29 Marchant & Perry 6 20.7%
Pavel Datsyuk, DET 27 Tomas Holmstrom, DET 6 22.2%
Ryan Smyth, EDM 36 Shawn Horcoff, EDM 8 22.2%

Taking the reverse analytical angle from above, it's impressive how these individuals light the lamp without leaning on a particular playmaker, especially leading goal-scorers like Kovalchuk & Ovechkin.

This kind of reasoning leads to some interesting considerations for game-by-game analysis. When facing the Canucks, does it make sense to focus on denying Henrik Sedin the puck, so he can't set up his goal-scoring brother? That might prove more effective than putting a shadow on Daniel. Conversely, those scorers on the second list seem to be more adaptable in creating shots for themselves and deserve the full attention of an opposing defense.

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