Commentary

Clutch performers in the West

A team-by-team look at who has really carried every Western Conference squad

Originally Published: December 22, 2011
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider
Jonathan ToewsChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesJonathan Toews has been playing at an MVP level for the Chicago Blackhawks.

As the season continues, a series of surprising early returns has stirred up plenty of NHL conversation. With teams favored to win the Stanley Cup struggling, like the Washington Capitals, and others outpacing expectations, like the Minnesota Wild, there's been plenty of discussion about where to place both the blame and the credit. With the Clutch Performance Indicator, we can get a team-by-team look at exactly who has and hasn't been carrying the weight offensively during the 2011-12 campaign.

As you may recall from the debut of the CPI, this indicator evaluates the role of players in generating goals and the impact of that goal on their team's ability to win the game in which it is scored. For a more detailed explanation, you can revisit the first article.

EAST | WEST

Here is each Western Conference team's top three most clutch players of 2011-12, according to CPI, through Dec. 18:

Chicago Blackhawks

Playing at a high level is nothing new for Jonathan Toews, the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. He won the Stanley Cup during the 2009-10 season and the gold medal as Team Canada's "Best Forward" in the 2010 Olympics. His MVP-caliber performance this season is why the Blackhawks lead the Western Conference and why Chicago is considered one of the most dynamic teams in the league.

Toews is currently tied for third in goals scored this season (18), has dished up 16 assists and leads the league in faceoff percentage at 61 percent. He, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, form the most clutch trio in the Western Conference.

The trio's collective numbers this season: 49 goals, 53 assists and nine game-winning goals. They also combine for a Clutch Performance Indicator of 11.3, the highest total of any three teammates in the Western Conference.

Anaheim Ducks

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.