Full Metal Blue Jackets

Mason Raymond earns his team an extra point in the coin flip shootout.
Cool shot by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

From an entertainment and results perspective, this now concluded Canucks road trip was pretty much the road trip from hell. It began last Thursday in Ohio, as the Canucks played a joyless contest against the Blue Jackets and lost in over-ime. From there the Canucks ventured to Minnesota and got the snot kicked out of them by the Wild on Sunday. Finally, like good tin-soldiers, they returned to Ohio on Thursday to try and salvage some dignity. They managed too by the skin of their teeth, as Roberto Luongo, Mason Raymond and Jason Garrison led the club to a 2-1 victory in the skills competition.

Analysis and scoring chance data on the other side of the jump.

We’ll begin with the core numbers, the scoring chance data. The Canucks were handily out-chanced by the Blue Jackets in this one, recording only seven scoring chances to Columbus’ fifteen. At even-strength the differential was even more pronounced as the Blue Jackets recorded fourteen quality looks in comparison to Vancouver’s four. Oddly enough Columbus didn’t record a single scoring chance in the thirteen minutes during which they held a one goal lead, so with the score-tied Columbus kicked the Canucks’ teeth in to the tune of 15 to 3.

Roberto Luongo had a strong game tonight, and I’d expect he’ll get a bit of burn here. In Kesler and BIeksa’s absence, the Canucks need a goaltender to get hot and steal some games for them, and I tend to think Luongo is the better bet to do that at the moment. He recorded another quality start tonight, stopped ten of twelve difficult shots and twenty-six of twenty-seven overall. He’s pretty much performing like an elite goaltender.

Coming off of his worst game in a Canucks uniform – and to his credit, there aren’t too many other candidates because he’s as solid as a rock – Dan Hamhuis was easily Vancouver’s best defenseman in this one. While the Canucks got tuned in the scoring chance battle, he managed to salvage a -1 individual chance differential against Columbus’ best players. He also led the Canucks in scoring chances taken thanks to a flurry of opportunities on the power-play in the middle of the second period.

Jason Garrison scored using a shot he didn’t use much last season, but that he’s used to great effect this year. In fact, both of his most recent two goals have come off of similar shots. Rather than winding up for a big slapper, Jason Garrison’s third and fourth goals of the year have come off of chip shots for which he only wound up about half way. Garrison’s sand-wedge seems like a pretty effective weapon, as the shot goes hard and low at the opposition netminder. 

A bit ironic that Dan Hamhuis had a flurry of power-play opportunities, and then Jason Garrison is the guy who beats Bobrovsky just as the power-play expires. That was the best power-play shift the Canucks have had in four weeks, so I would probably leave Dan Hamhuis on the top-unit for now. But that sequence should reenforce which Canucks defenseman (non-Alex Edler category) has the most power-play upside going forward.

I want to talk about Cam Barker, who has exceeded my non-existent expectations for him in his limited action so far this season. Yes his defense leaves a lot to be desired (check out the Cam Atkinson deflection in the first period, in which Cam Barker gets completely man-handled in the slot by Mark Letetsu), but the Canucks are controlling play with Barker on the ice in third pairing minutes. Moreover, Barker is attempting a lot of shots and has an uncanny ability to walk the line and thread the needle past the first defender in the offensive end. I wouldn’t say that Barker has been "spectacular" or that he deserves a place in the top-four or anything, he most certainly does not, but he looks to be performing more or less the way you’d want an offensive specialist eighth defenseman to perform. So yeah, I’ll give him some credit for that. 

The Sedin twins had a really good game, despite struggling to convert their territorial dominance into  much of anything in the way of scoring chances. They battled Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson for most of the evening and I’d conservatively estimate that Columbus’ top-pairing got away with somewhere in the neighbourhood of eight obvious holding penalties, and an obvious slashing penalty in the contest. Goals are down league wide and apparently the NHL is going to discuss bigger nets and smaller goaltending equipment as possible remedies to that situation. I’ve got an alternative proposal though: how about just calling the rules that are in place? Seriously, after Tuesday night’s game Fedor Tyutin is no longer an NHL defenseman. Instead he’s morphed into Henrik Sedin’s permanent backpack.

Beyond the twins, the Canucks forwards were brutal. The Chris Higgins at center experiment was, in my view, an abject failure as his line got smoked by the possession data and by the chance data as well. Andrew Ebbett had some good moments on the forecheck in this one and his line faired a bit better by the possession numbers, but realistically it was more of the same from his group with Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen as well. 

Hate to say it, but the Canucks have only one winger who can legitimately hold his own as a center and it’s not Mason Raymond, nor is it Chris Higgins. It’s the Sedin twins’ triggerman Alex Burrows. Burrows won’t win face-offs as a centreman, but if you play him with a couple of quality possession forwards (like Hansen and Higgins) he can at least do battle against the oppositions top-line and allow Alain Vigneault to play the matchup game he excels at. The problem with that is that Burrows makes the twins better, so you incur some opportunity cost if you bump him down the lineup. At this point, I’d consider doing that (and playing either Booth or Kassian with the twins) because the middle of Vancouver’s lineup is just getting gutted in Ryan Kesler’s absence.

Tom Sestito found himself benched for much of the third period. To my eyes he hasn’t worked out too well as a Volpatti replacement and I’d be surprised if he was still on the roster come this weekend. 

Scoring Chance Data

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.

Scoring Chance Totals:

Chance Totals 1st 2nd 3rd OT Total
Columbus (EV) 3 (2) 3 (3) 9 (9) 0 (0) 15 (14)
Vancouver (EV) 1 (1) 4 (1) 2 (2) 0 (0) 7 (4)

Individual Scoring Chances

Individual Chances Chances Taken Chance Assists Total
Dan Hamhuis 3 0 3
Daniel Sedin 2 1 3
Henrik Sedin 0 2 2
Alex Burrows 1 0 1
David Booth 1 0 1

Individual Scoring Chance Differential

Chance Diff. EV F – A SH F – A PP F – A Total F – A
Dan Hamhuis 3 – 4 0 – 0 3 – 0 6 – 4
Jason Garrison 2 – 4 0 – 0 0 – 0 2 – 4
David Booth 1 – 5 0 – 0 0 – 0 1 – 5
Chris Tanev 1 – 6 0 – 1 0 – 0 1 – 7
Zack Kassian 1 – 7 0 – 0 0 – 0 1 – 6
Alex Burrows 3 – 2 0 – 0 3 – 0 6 – 2
Cam Barker 1 – 4 0 – 0 0 – 0 1 – 4
Chris Higgins 1 – 5 0 – 1 0 – 0 1 – 6
Mason Raymond 0 – 5 0 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 5
Daniel Sedin 3 – 2 0 – 0 3 – 0 6 – 2
Alex Edler 1 – 6 0 – 1 3 – 0 4 – 7
Andrew Ebbett 0 – 4 0 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 4
Tom Sestito 0 – 1 0 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 1
Dale Weise 0 – 3 0 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 3
Henrik Sedin 3 – 2 0 – 0 3 – 0 6 – 2
Jannik Hansen 0 – 3 0 – 1 0 – 0 0 – 4
Maxim Lapierre 0 – 3 0 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 3
Andrew Alberts 0 – 4 0 – 0 0 – 0 0 – 4
  • goat10000

    Great recap, like reading the chance data.

    But what in blue hell is wrong with Vancouver? They haven’t created normal scoring chance rates in a long time. 7 scoring chances – I must be dreaming.

  • goat10000

    I can’t stand this “true blue fan” BS.

    I’m glad the Canucks won, but kind of surprised seeing as they honestly haven’t been a very good team pretty much since the season started, with the exception of a 6 game win streak over the bottom-dwellers known as the NW Division.

    I hope the Canucks shape up soon, otherwise, it’s going to be a very short April. I’m worried that even with Kesler back, the team just isn’t sharp or polished enough to go anywhere.

    • goat10000

      I could care less what you think of “this true Blue fan,” BS, as you call it.This isn’t “Life and Death” It’s a HOCKEY GAME! Get bloody “REAL”. Doom AND Gloom.

    • goat10000

      I’m surprised and I’m also not surprised, if that makes sense.

      Compared to the last 2 yrs, they’re almost exactly where they were through 24 games (point totals). Except they’re not scoring goals, and last few games – they’re not creating many chances. It’s def a concern. Guys like Booth and Burrows have disappeared offensively, I’d suggest that’s where the problem lies. It’s not the loss of Salo, or Hodgson, it’s the current roster players who aren’t producing. I know they’re riding really low shooting %, but they’re just not scoring goals. And they’re needed to score goals.

      Gillis also needs a centre. He should have signed one given their situation, but I guess he was expecting one back in a goalie trade. Well, the goalie trade never happened and now they’re without natural centres. Some of this blame falls on Gillis.

  • goat10000

    Great write up. You’re right about Barker, he’s been a genuine contributor in the (very) limited time he’s gotten this season. Don’t know if he warrants anything more than what he’s gotten, but it looks like he’s one of those players whose career has been hampered by too-high expectations arising from his draft position.

    • canuckistanian

      I couldn’t agree more. Though seeing Ballard barely playing reminds me of how much we could use Grabner and that 1st we traded for him. This should also show you how much I care about Bernier.

  • canuckistanian

    Am I reading this wrong?

    The “Individual Scoring Chance Differential” table seems to show a lot more than 7(4) chances for the Canucks and 15(14) for the enemy.

    It looks to me like “EV F-A” means even strength For-Against, and SH is Short Handed, PP is Power Play.

    If so, in that table I count for the Canucks 20 at evens, and 15 on the PP; versus the bad guys 68 EV, and 4 on their PP.

    I guessed that it included “Chance Assists” whatever they are, but looking at a couple of players in the second table that does not add up either.

    The ratios are not far off, so maybe I’m just not understanding the abbreviations, or something else.

    Care to explain to a dumb-head like me?

  • @Tengerez hey you’re not a dumb head you’re just unfamiliar with our basic chance explanation structure and that’s totally understandable. Thanks for taking the time to ask, I’ll now clarify:

    EV F – A is even-strength for and against, SH F – A is short-handed for and against, PP F – A is power-play for and against and Total F – A is self explanatory. The individual chances are just a player’s personal contribution to offensive chances. A chance taken is scored to every Canucks player who takes a scoring chance and a chance created is scored only on the primary assist that sets up a scoring chance. Those numbers don’t impact the chance differential counts.

    So yeah, for the 68 count that’s just a counting error on my end. I went back and double checked and added an extra chance against for Edler and an extra for Kassian. I’d missed them because I posted the data (which I tabulate manually) while rushing out to have dinner with my family. That’s my mistake! 70 divided by 5 = 14 which is the correct # of EV chances the opposition would’ve recorded at even-strength. As for only four players being being credited with a short-handed chance against, that was because it was a 5-on-4 situation so only 4 Canucks skaters were on the ice!

    Hope that makes sense and thanks for alerting me to the error.

  • canuckistanian

    What do the chance numbers look like overall for the Canucks this season? They seem to be underwater most games, which is a stark contrast to their Fenwick and Corsi numbers. This game is a great example, outshooting Columbus 38-27, but getting buried in scoring chances 15-7. Also, I know that missed shots can be scoring chances, but 15 chances on 27 shots seems pretty outrageous (and that kind of ratio seems to be par for the course for a lot of Canuck opponents this year).

  • goat10000

    I am glad the Canucks won but it seems like they are consistently doing poorly from a chances point of view. This is despite a solid Fenwick/Corsi %. It doesn’t make me too confident about the future performance in the playoffs this year.

    When was their last regulation win? I think 1-0 vs Nashville. When was their last clear victory?

  • I agree with the sentiment of @Rob and @Josh: I don’t remember clearly, but I thought that long run, teams with edges in Fenwick/Corsi (close or whatever) tend to have the edge in scoring chances. In some sense, it seems the team is good enough to control the puck, but not good enough to penetrate the chance zone and get a shot off. I guess that’s one of those things that happen.

    This may also be due to the problem of being down 2 centers really, Kesler and the 3rd line checking center that hasn’t materialized consistently since Malhotra’s eye injury.