December 20 2011 01:34AM
Going into this game, some lazy analysts may look at the standings, say "hey, Minnesota has won 20 games and lead the division" and labelled the Wild one of the best teams in hockey. This couldn't be further from the truth, as the team's record is an absolute house of cards, with goaltender Niklas Backstrom's save percentage up beyond sustainable levels, which apparently turns this game into a SHOWDOWN!
The Canucks, despite a slow start, took advantage of some bounces in the crease and the Sedins stole the show on the powerplay, giving the Canucks their second straight win and handing the Wild, suddenly reeling, their fourth straight defeat. To check detailed analysis, scoring chance data, and the statistical three stars, follow us after the jump.
-The Sedin twins are extremely good hockey players, apparently, especially on the powerplay. Tonight they were actually sort of underwhelming at even strength, with the brothers combining for just three shots on goal between them, but the powerplay is their bread and butter, and they went 3-0 there tonight. Henrik Sedin now finds himself tied for the league lead in points with Phil Kessel and Claude Giroux after a one-goal, three-point night. Daniel, after a three-assist night, is tied for fourth, but just a point back of all the leaders.
-As mentioned above, Minnesota are awful. They are the lowest-ranked team going by score-tied Fenwick percentage, which may not matter over a stretch of 30 games but sure does over a stretch of 80 games. Score-tied Fenwick percentage is the total percentage of shots and missed shots that were fired at the other net compared to your own. It's a reliable indicator of puck possession and team quality. The best teams often have the highest score-tied Fenwick percentage.
-The title of the post also references this. Minnesota have been defying math through November, so them taking it on the chin a little bit ought to be expected. By the way, if Canucks Army started giving away Canucks Army-brand calculators, would you buy one?
-In the first period, John Garrett offered three explinations for why the Wild are winning games. Here they are:
"Everybody has bought in; they don't have that star mentality at all"
Of course, the team has been absolutely lost offensively without Mikko Koivu. They have scored a single goal since their leading point-getter has gone down to injury. The reason they don't have a "star mentality" is because the team doesn't really have any stars other than Koivu—Pierre-Marc Bouchard has never broken 20 goals, Dany Heatley has hit a roadblock in his career and Matt Cullen is, well, Matt Cullen, a pseudo-journeyman who won't crack 50 points on a regular season basis. Their leading goal-scorer, Kyle Brodziak, is a complete nutcase on a high shooting kick, never haven broken 20 goals in his four-year career.
They don't have a star mentality, because, really, since they traded Brent Burns, they haven't had any stars. That doesn't make for a good team.
"They're all part of the coach's system"
The "coach's system", which is hinging on this idea that the Wild may not get a lot of shots on net, but they get a lot of "quality" shots on net (whatever THAT means). But Minnesota has shown a lack of this. They're a team that gets out-chanced at even strength, brutally outshot, and, whether or not Mike Yeo is a good coach is out of the question. The team simply lacks good enough players to keep the team winning at a decent rate.
"They're getting great goaltending"
Well this one actually makes sense. Only Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist and (somehow) Nikolai Khabibulin have a higher save percentage than Niklas Backstrom among goalies who have played 1000 or more minutes. Backstrom is first among goalies who have faced 500 shots at even strength (there's no time proxy for EV) and Minnesota is getting the best save percentage in the league at even strength and fourth shorthanded.
So, one out of three ain't bad for Garrett.
-Daniel and Henrik are both pretty good at moving the puck close to the crease, but tonight Daniel was the better passer, recording three "chance assists" to Henrik's one. A chance assist is qualified by a clearly attempted pass which immediately puts the player receiving the puck into a shooting lane uninterrupted. Both the Sedins are great by this metric, finding wide-open players from across the ice, or passing the puck in a phone-booth sized gap in front of the net. It's really uncanny.
-The Canucks failed to let Minnesota sustain any pressure. All of Minny's chances were well-apart from one another, and after 4:07 of the first period, the team didn't let them generate consecutive chances. That's critical, when so many goals in this league are scored off of rebounds. When one team racks up a pretty high chance count, or shot count, that's often done off of shots created off of the first attempt, and the goalie or defenders fail to recover.
-That said, Minnesota's chances were swallowed up by Roberto Luongo. He only made the one flashy-looking save off of Pierre-Marc Bouchard, but he was impenetrable for his first shutout on the night, and well-deserved at that. I've made the point countless times, but Luongo's positioning is the biggest part of his game, so saves that other goalies may make look tough look much easier for Luongo because he moves so well inside his own crease. Minnesota, particularly early, were getting some good shots from key areas and hitting the net a bunch, but Luongo made the early saves, kept the team in it, and the Canucks torched the Wild on the powerplay. That's textbook 2007 right there.
-In fact, the Canucks scored on their only scoring chance where they maintained possession of the puck after the initial chance, Cody Hodgson, after being beaten by Backstrom in tight, went directly after his rebound and the Wild completely failed to bear down on him, and somehow didn't notice Jannik Hansen, who scores a bunch of goals, coming into the middle of the slot.
-Alexandre Burrows led the team with 6 shots, while Jannik Hansen took a total of 5. Hansen has been shooting a lot more lately, he's been getting more minutes, and maybe there's a bit of a confidence factor with him, knowing that he should shoot a bit more. That'll be 20 shots in his last 8 games, and any forward who is keeping a pace of over two is pretty good. HIs defensive game remains strong, as he gave up only one chance at even strength this game, although he didn't play in the toughest of circumstances.
-Heatley, Cullen and Bouchard, who are, I guess, Minnesota's best line with the injuries they have spent a lot of time against Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis tonight. The trio recorded shots on net and won the chance battle, so this is a rare loss for the Bieksa/Hamhuis defensive pairing.
-Along with Koivu, missing was Devin Setoguchi and Casey Wellman. For a while I also assumed that Cal Clutterbuck was hurt, too. He was apparently in the lineup tonight.
-The Canucks fourth line is not very good right now. It's almost making me miss Aaron Volpatti. Even Maxim Lapierre has looked short a step. In other Canucks depth forward news, Manny Malhotra was on for three chances for, which is very inspiring. His offensive game has yet to show up since the season started, although he has been taking on a load of defensive minutes.
-Finally, another big game for the second line, who were doing some buzzing, and taking those long shots, trying to get inside. Chris Higgins passed the puck very well, and Mason Raymond is right up to game shape.
STATISTICAL THREE STARS:
#1 - Roberto Luongo (33/33 stopping shots, 8/8 stopping chance attempts on goal)
#2 - Chris Higgins (37.5% offensive zone start ratio, +1 on chances, two chance assists, three shots on goal)
#3 - Jannik Hansen (25% offensive zone start ratio, +2 on chances, five shots on goal)
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 20486
|VAN||1||1:08||VAN G 1-0 Henrik||1||2||3||17||22||33||2||14||21||32||55||5v4|
|VAN||2||9:32||VAN G 2-0 Kesler||1||6||17||22||23||33||2||7||21||32||55||5v4|
|VAN||2||1:59||VAN G 3-0 Burrows||1||6||14||22||23||33||6||14||16||18||32||46||5v5|
|VAN||3||3:26||VAN G 4-0 Hansen||1||9||27||36||41||52||2||14||16||18||32||55||5v5|
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|