It probably shouldn’t have been a huge surprise when the Canucks acquired Samuel Pahlsson. Pahlsson has long been one of the league’s truly elite defensive zone specialists, and no team matches given lines to given zones like the Vancouver Canucks.
It also shouldn’t be a surprise to note that instead of having one line take all the defensive zone draws, Alain Vigneault has responded to the addition of Pahlsson by giving almost all of the defensive zone draws to two lines.
Via Vic Ferrari’s timeonice.com, here are the even-strength faceoffs by zone that each Canucks centre has been on the ice for in the three games since the NHL trade deadline:
The really interesting number here is that of Ryan Kesler. Henrik Sedin has been taking a lot of offensive zone starts for years now – he’s not starting in the offensive zone 9-%+ of the time, but he is starting there a lot. Kesler, however, has started more than half of his shifts at his own end of the ice this year, and we can see the impact that subbing a player like Pahlsson in for Hodgson has. With Hodgson on the third line, Vigneault was forced to use Kesler in a more defensive role, and Hodgson in a more offensive role. By bringing in Pahlsson, Vigneault now has the freedom to use Kesler primarily in an offensive role.
This is a significant point, and one that gets underplayed. In analyzing the Canucks’ deadline moves, many have assumed the team lost offense up front because Pahlsson/Kassian don’t provide as much scoring as Hodgson. In fact, some of the offense lost in the Hodgson trade is going to be made up for simply by shifting Kesler into a more offensive role.
I’ve also included zonestarts by line; at least one of the Canucks’ lines has featured two centres on it, and for two games Pahlsson/Malhotra was the third line with Lapierre on the fourth, while against the Sabres last night Vigneault chose to swap Lapierre with Malhotra.