October 16 2013 12:56PM
Fewer offensive zone starts for the Sedins? No problem. (Image via Rich Lam )
We're 7 games into the 2013-14 regular season (meaning ~9% of the way through), which means that it's still super early and everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In the early going, we've made a concerted effort of focusing on game coverage, and news as it relates to Canucks, rather than any sort of in-depth analytical analysis. The reason for that is because of the ridiculously small sample size; there is so much noise in the numbers, and one particularly good or bad game will skew things far too heavily.
Once we get past the 10-game mark we'll probably begin to put more stock into the data we have from this season (which will include the highly anticipated zone entry data that we've been having tracked for each game). There's no right or wrong answer for when things will begin to settle in, and give a truer indication of play, so we'll play it by ear. If you'd like to take advantage of that and get drunk, you should take a drink everytime you see someone use the term "unsustainable". You know, like all that talk about Dan Hamhuis' poor luck.
With all that being said, I did want to give a plug to Rob Vollman (who has done projections for us in the past), who recently updated the invaluable Player Usage Charts for which he has become known for. If you're not familiar with Rob, he released a fantastic book this summer that I'd highly recommend to anyone and everyone.
Read on past the jump for a look at the Player Usage Charts for the Canucks through 6 games (the charts unfortunately haven't been updated since the game against the Flyers on Tuesday night).
So how do you read the following diagrams? Vollman provided a good summary right here. On the horizontal axis you'll see the % of shifts guys have been starting in the Offensive Zone. On the vertical axis you'll see the Quality of Competition that they've faced thus far. In terms of the player bubbles themselves, the bigger it is, the more 5v5 ice time the player is seeing. Meanwhile, the dark blue - like in Henrik Sedin's case - signifies a greater Relative Corsi, while the orange - like the players in the bottom left part of the chart - lets you know that they've been getting hammered in terms of possession. Let's get to it.
“I didn’t pay attention to our offensive zone starts, but I started reading papers and it was all they talked about, why we put up the points we did. It was because we were in the offensive zone,” said Henrik, referring to the way they were deployed under Alain Vigneault. I know it’s good to start in the offensive zone, but I’m not a great faceoff guy. I’m at 50 per cent. I think we scored more starting in our own end and breaking out, scoring on the rush. We want to change people’s opinion of us. We want to show we can play a two-way game. I think we’re more than capable of doing that.”
That was a quote by Henrik Sedin nearly a month ago. At this point they've gone from nearly an 80% offensive zone start rate in '11-'12, to the mid 60's last season, to 56-57% thus far this year. Yet despite starting the fewest percentage of shifts in the attacking zone since '08-'09, they're still managing to crush the possession game while facing the toughest competition out of any of the Canucks forwards.
In last year's shortened campaign they saw their counting totals decline slightly, but still managed to submit what was probably the best two-way performance of their careers. Given the fact that they're 33 years old now, and are playing more minutes than they ever have, it'll be interesting to see whether they're able to hold up at anything near this pace as the season progresses. For now, though, they're silencing all of the critics that wondered whether their best days were behind them.
A few quick notes:
-David Booth seems to be doing it.. again. In 7 games he has only scored 1 goal, and this is leading the league to believe that he has been stinking up the joint. All I've got to say about that is that he's 2nd on the team in penalties drawn (behind just Daniel Sedin), he has been fantastic at entering the offensive zone with controlled possession (more on this in a few days), and is currently rocking a 4.55 on-ice shooting %. My only issue with him is that he has only registered 9 shots on goal, which is a far cry from his rates in the past.
-Speaking of low shot rates, Jannik Hansen will be hard-pressed to reach the 16-17 goals he has been good for over the past 2 seasons if he keeps up the 10 SOG in 7 games rate. I'm not overly concerned about him though, because he has been fantastic driving play as the 3rd man on the 2nd line with Higgins and Kesler.
-What on earth happened to Chris Higgins last year, though? Obviously he missed Ryan Kesler, but still.. after registering a -11.5 Corsi Relative while starting 46.0% of his shifts in the OZ last year, he has jumped back up to a 10.7 Corsi Relative (with a 40.3% OZ rate). He has been awesome thus far, and I was very glad to see that he scored his 1st goal of the season last night (bringing his shooting % all the way up to a whopping 4.2%!).
-Mike Santorelli's WOWYs (With or Without You) are amusing. In 57 minutes at 5v5 without Henrik Sedin, he has registered a 41.9 CF%, and the team has yet to score. When paired with the Sedins, though, he has enjoyed a 63.6 CF%, and an 80 GF%. Playing with the Sedins truly is the one time it feels awesome to be the 3rd wheel.
-Brad Richardson is the new Max Lapierre (except without the dirty plays, and the stigma surrounding him). He's playing tough minutes next to suspect players and is getting absolutely hammered. I wonder if he misses Los Angeles yet.
-Poor Zac Dalpe. Look at him in that bottom left corner. When the Canucks acquired him from the Hurricanes a few days before the season there seemed to be some optimism that the team had acquired itself a young player that could produce offensively on the cheap. After all, he had 34 goals in 76 NCAA games at Ohio State, and 68 goals in 180 AHL games while in Carolina's system. Well.. so much for that. In games he was averaging around 4:30 of ice-time per game, starting a ridiculously low 10% of his shifts in the offensive zone, while attached to Tom Sestito/Dale Weise/Yannick Weber. Now he's the odd man out with Jordan Schroeder back in the lineup.
Dan Hamhuis is the hottest topic of discussion on the team's blueline, no doubt. He has gotten off to a dreadfully unlucky start to the season (by his lofty standards, at least). There's no denying that he has had far more suspect moments than we've become accustomed to over the past few years, but he has still been crushing the possession game. Unless he continues to be slowly and painfully poisoned.. then all bets are off.
His 25.2 Corsi Relative leads the Canucks blueline by a whopping margin (Bieksa is the only other defenseman in the black), and it has really been a really low suppressed PDO (due to the low On Ice Save %) that has held him back. What's interesting is that he's playing roughly 2 minutes less a game, finding himself playing less than Edler, Bieksa, and Garrison. I assume we'll see him get back into that 23 minute range as things begin to settle back in.
A few other notes:
-Kevin Bieksa has kind of quietly been enjoying a bounce back start to the campaign after a terrible injury-riddled season last year. He's back in the black in terms of possession (from -5.0 to 7.0), he's playing substantially more (from 21:56 to 23:33), and he's taking a considerably fewer amount of penalties (1.5/60 min to 0.5/60min).
-The Canucks are generating the 2nd highest shot attempts/60 in the NHL while on the power play (only behind the Sharks), yet only have 2 5v4 goals to show for their efforts. If that keeps up, they'll begin to see an uptick in production on the man advantage. I bring that up because of Jason Garrison, who is well on his way to enjoying a monstrous campaign.
He's logging 24:04/game (including 28:29 in Philadelphia last night), has 7 points in 7 games, and has registered 25 shots on goal (the most by a defenseman). After scoring in the 1st two games he hasn't found the back of the net since, but if he keeps trending this way, I feel pretty confident that he could be pushing 20 by the time the season is up. I hope for your sake that you drafted him in your hockey pool. Especially if it's a league that rewards beards.
-Tanev has been solid, despite what could only be described as an abysmal performance in the season opener against the Sharks. He seemed to take a step-back last year, but has regained his form as a reliable bottom pairing NHL defenseman.
-Ryan Stanton, to my surprise, has proven to be serviceable. As far as I can tell him and Tanev are a pairing that can play anywhere in the ballpark of 12-14ish minutes at 5v5 and not take anything off of the table. That's huge considering the Cam Barker/Andrew Alberts fiasco of 2013.