Not quite sure what happened here, but the crowd sure liked it.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Canucks, who play in a city generally well disposed towards the monarchy, toppled the Kings this evening in a hard-fought if offensively challenged affair. The only goal was scored within the first five minutes of puck drop, and came off of the stick of Manny Malhotra, who rarely so much as sniffs the offensive end, for his seventh tally of the year.
Though it was a low-event game that sagged in the second period, it was tightly contested and fraught with intensity. Usually games with so few scoring chances (there were 23 total in the game) bore me, but from my vantage point tonight’s game was an excellent tight-checking confection, infused with a helping of playoff-like intensity.
A thorough recap, chance data and the statistical three stars after the jump!
– We’ll begin, as usual, with the rudimentary numbers. The Kings out-chanced the Canucks 11-9 overall and 10-7 at even-strength. The Canucks scored on their first scoring chance of the game, and it held up as the only scoring chance to take place with an even score.
– A quick note on the chance data, which, can be found at the bottom of this post: the timeline includes L.A’s three scoring chances with Quick on the bench, but the skater data + total data doesn’t reflect those three chances. Scoring chances with an empty net are essentially random, so we disregard them for analytical purposes.
– The teams "new" third line of Samme Pahlsson, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen continued their run of strong play with a stellar defensive outing this evening. All three forwards played tough minutes, starting most of their shifts in the defensive zone against the Kings’ top-line of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown and they all came out ahead in terms of possession. Chris Higgins especially came on in the third period, when he personally took two of the Canucks five scoring chances, and Jannik Hansen was easily the best Canucks forward tonight.
– What makes this third line so valuable, is what it allows Vigneault to do with Ryan Kesler and his linemates. Kesler played difficult minutes tonight, starting eight shifts in the defensive zone and facing a soft-matchup against the Richards/Carter/King line – but he also played five even-strength minutes against the Kings’ bottom-six forwards. With Henrik’s line soaking up the oppositions top defensive pairing; and Pahlsson’s group neutralizing the oppositions top-offensive forward – Vigneault is able to play his match-ups to maximize the amount of ice-time Kesler’s group sees against inferior competition. Tonight, Kesler’s group didn’t take full advantage of these opportunities, but this deployment strategy makes the Canucks a matchup nightmare for opponents.
– The way Vigneault handled the matchup against Kopitar’s line tonight was very interesting. Not only did he have a "hard" matchup with Pahlsson on Kopitar, but Vigneault basically had a whole "tough minutes" five-some rolling all game long against the Kings first line. Kopitar saw over ten minutes of even-strength ice-time against Pahlsson, Hansen, Higgins, Edler and Bieksa, and only three and a half minutes of ice-time matched up against Vancouver’s second defensive pairing (Hamhuis-Tanev).
– Hamhuis and Tanev enjoyed the soft zone-starts tonight and maximized their advantage. In terms of possession, these two blueliners are the best on the team and it showed tonight as their pairing carried a +7 fenwick number in a game in which the Kings handily out-possessed the Canucks.
– Gragnani and Salo don’t look like a feasible defensive pairing to me, not even in the short-term. Gragnani had some good moments tonight, his give and go with Kesler in the first and his rush with Higgins in the third period (which nearly resulted in Gragnani’s first as a Canuck) were nice plays, but he was prone to giveaways, and was consistently beat along the boards in his own end. Together, they were on the ice for five of LA’s ten scoring chances at evens.
– Going into tonight’s game, Gragnani’s PDO with the Canucks through 8 games was at 93.1, and he had a 1.7% on-ice shooting percentage. After that whiff tonight on the gimme rebound in the third period, that number will have dropped even further by tomorrow. Though he didn’t have his best defensive game tonight, Gragnani’s possession numbers are solid overall and his lack of production is pure luck. This dude is due.
– You could tell early on that the Canucks were going to be "on" tonight, mostly from their gap control in the neutral zone. Sad but true, the Canucks often trap in the neutral zone, and when they’re "on" their game defensively, their neutral zone formation is as impenetrable as the Spanish National side’s midfield. Another sign that the Canucks are "on": Luongo looks like he was dipped in Elmer’s before the game, and every rebound sticks to him. He definitely looked like that tonight.
Statistical Three Stars
- Roberto Luongo
- Mike Richards
- Jannik Hansen
Statistical Three Goats
- Sami Salo
- Zack Kassian
- Marc-Andre Gragnani
A chance is counted any time a team directs a shot cleanly on-net from within home-plate. Shots on goal and misses are counted, but blocked shots are not (unless the player who blocks the shot is “acting like a goaltender”). Generally speaking, we are more generous with the boundaries of home-plate if there is dangerous puck movement immediately preceding the scoring chance, or if the scoring chance is screened. If you want to get a visual handle on home-plate, check this image. A thank you to Vic Ferrari is in order, as his Timeonice.com scripts enabler this entire operation. Yes, there is an app for this.
Scoring Chances for NHL Game Number 21138
Scoring Chance Totals (Canucks on the left, Kings on the right)
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