The eye test surely tells the story of the Devils struggles without Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac in the lineup.
To no surprise, the Corsi numbers back up that claim, as Elias and Zajac are one and two respectively on the team in on ice-Corsi rating.
In case you're not familiar with what Corsi rating is, it's basically a metric that rates players based on the amount of shots directed towards the net in the offensive zone, versus shots towards the net in the defensive zone.
For Zajac, his 17.10 CorsiOn rating is almost four points higher than the next forward, which is Jaromir Jagr at 13.32. The value of No. 19 in the lineup is so big not just because of his play, but his ability to win faceoffs.
Zajac has won 51 percent of his draws on the season. Though that's nothing astronomical, compared to the rest of the team, he's easily the best man in the dot. Andrei Loktionov's 41.1 percent and Adam Henrique's 40.2 percent are among the lowest in the league for any player who has taken a consistent amount of draws.
You can also make the case that Zajac is a vital cog on the power play, as he's won 20 power play face offs to 16 losses on the man advantage. Corsi numbers will always reflect well on a centerman that can win draws. If you're controlling the puck off the faceoff, chances are you're either not giving up shots in your own end, or at least getting opportunities in the offensive end.
Zajac's offensive numbers are far from spectacular, as he only has one goal and three assists on the season, but he means more to this team than just point production. Being the only center on the roster above 50 percent in the faceoff dot is huge, as his absence hurts in all three zones in that regard. As the Corsi numbers dictate though, when he's on the ice, the team is creating more shots than they're giving up.
As for Elias, his presence is felt in many ways as well. Playing on the top line with Loktionov and Jagr for most of the season, he has three goals and four assists in ten games. As Patrik has done so well throughout his long career, he creates offense. The first line had been very good before he left the lineup and his team-leading 18.13 Corsi rating reflects that. There's a large discrepancy between the amount of shots for and against when Elias is on the ice.
Sidney Crosby has an 18.94 Corsi rating, which puts into perspective just how valuable Elias has been to this club.
Though the recent struggles aren't just about the losses of these two players, it's clear that the Devils are a much better team with both Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac in the lineup. The numbers point to the fact that both of those players generate the most offense for this team.