Canucks Army Postgame: Regression to the Mean all in One Night

Image via @CanuckClay

There has to be someone out there who saw a Vancouver Canucks game for the 1st time – either this season, or ever – on Friday, November 22nd, and thinks that the team he watched is an offensive juggernaut. Good luck convincing that person that’s not the case, following the 6-goal explosion for the Canucks against a badly depleted Columbus Blue Jackets squad.

For at least 21 hours or so, all is good in Vancouver. Maybe these positive feelings will last even longer if their opponent on Saturday night dabbles in some Roxy action on their night off.

Read on past the jump for a recap of a game which was significantly more viewer-friendly than I anticipated it would be.

The Rundown

I’ve got to admit, I was bracing myself for a game recap in which I’d be forced to eviscerate the Canucks following a second consecutive mind-numbing performance against a subpar team. I’m glad it didn’t come to that, but after the they went down 1-0 just 2:47 in – on Columbus’ first shot of the game, no less – it seemed like a distinct possibility.

The Zack Kassian hate on Twitter was immense, justifiably so in this instance. He panicked near the blueline in the offensive zone as he tried to keep the puck in, turning it over.. and then he did his better matador impression in letting Matt Calvert skate right on by him towards the net. It’s a miracle that he wasn’t permanently glued to the bench following that gaffe.

But pretty much from that point all the way through the final buzzer, it was all Canucks, all the time. The floodgates opened for them, and there’s a few reasons for that (which we’ll get into in some detail in just a little bit). It all started with Daniel Sedin’s first goal on his last 34 shots on goal. It was nice of him to rise up from the casket Undertaker-style, proving he’s still actually alive.

The game remained tied through just past the halfway mark of the 2nd period, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. The Canucks were dominating the play, submitting yet another impressive shot differential performance. Fortunately for them, they were able to turn all of that puck possession into some goals. And it all started with Zack Kassian’s softy, who made up for what happened in the 1st (by the way, how awesome are his goal celebrations? Especially with that tickler he’s sporting these days..)

That was just the beginning. Just 1:54 left, they scored their 3rd and 4th goals of the game a mere 16 seconds apart:

That’s enough of the videos. To sum the rest of the game up, Henrik Sedin showed his true colours when he stole what could’ve been Daniel’s 300th career goal for himself. I’ve also suspected he was selfish, but this.. this was just too much. I’m obviously just kidding.

What I’m not kidding about, though, is the fact that Ryan Stanton put together a 3-assist tonight to raise his point total to 10 on the year. To put that in perspective, Kevin Bieksa is the only defenseman on the team with more points on the season (and he has 11).  Meanwhile, Keith Ballard has a grand total of 16 points in his 3 seasons as a Canuck. But we’ve been onto Stanton’s sneaky good play around these parts for a while now.. 

And finally, congratulations are in order to Jeremy Welsh for his first career NHL goal. Celebrating in style, I see!

The Numbers


Now that, my friends, is a masterpiece.

In just over 43 minutes of 5v5 play on Friday night, the Canucks attempted 45 shots to only 28 by the Blue Jackets. In score close situations, however, that disparity was even more drastic, to the tune of 25 to 8. It was pretty much a complete and utter domination from start to finish.

In the preview for this game I touched on how the newest line combinations weren’t something that we should get too worked up about, because we’d see the Sedins back together soon enough. And that was true. For a large chunk of the game we saw the Sedins and Kesler reunited, to go along with the fan favourite Higgins-Santorelli-Burrows line.

It worked on this night, as the Sedins were on the ice for 10 shots for to just 1 against in score close situations, and combined for 5 points. It’ll be fascinating to see what John Tortorella does with those top two lines against the Blackhawks tomorrow night.

It’s not all good, unfortunately. In a game in which the team scored 6 goals, Jason Garrison failed to register a point (for the 14th consecutive game), and Alex Burrows wasn’t able to score for the first time this season. Obviously both of those guys will eventually snap out of their respective funks, but man, their droughts at the moment are remarkable.

The Conclusion

I really don’t want to come on here and pour cold water over you guys. It’s Friday night, and after the 6 goals in 5 games stretch, I think we can all enjoy a little lamp lighting for what it is.

BUT.. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t try to direct your attention to what really happened here. It wasn’t some magical kick in the butt by John Tortorella that resulted in the 6 goals, but rather a long overdue regression to the mean. We’ve been talking about it on this platform for weeks now, but the Canucks were playing far too well (and most importantly, controlling the play at an impressive rate) to have their scoring woes go on forever.

What you saw on Friday night was some of that "puck luck" they’ve been missing. Cam Atkinson missed a yawning cage in the 2nd period that would’ve made it 2-1 Columbus, and then the Canucks went down and scored a couple of softies on a goalie that has been struggling all year. These games happen.

Regardless, it was a big win – particularly in a Western Conference that is looking more and more stacked by the day – and after what happened on Tuesday against the Panthers, I’m sure everyone will take it. Next up: the Chicago Blackhawks.. 

  • Vintage

    After playing 13 of 24 (54%) games against the East, only 17 of the remaining 58 (29%) games are versus the inferior conference.

    Amongst Western conference teams, the Canucks are tied for 8th in points percentage versus the East.

    However, the Canucks are only 11th in the West by points percentage in intraconference games.

    The only thing we can say with certainty is that the Canucks have played an unsustainably high percentage of games against the inferior conference and are still not in a playoff spot…

    • pheenster

      The only thing we can say with certainty is that NM00 shamelessly cherry-picks often meaningless (certainly the case here – Winnipeg has a better points % vs. the East, should we trade teams with them?) statistics that support his narrative. Which would be super-annoying if he wasn’t a Canucks Army staffer posting blatantly stupid BS in order to drum up page views.

      • pheenster

        Well, points and standings aren’t stats, but I don’t think an Army staffer could be this obtuse.

        I still think the staffers must die a little bit each day reading most posts here, where the basic principals of process vs results are completely misunderstood and context is no where to be found.

        But yet, here they are day after day – props to them.

        • pheenster

          To which process are you referring?

          The one in which the Canucks have a -4 goal differential in their last 81 games?

          The one in which the Canucks have yet to suffer a significant injury, have played a disproportionate number of games against the inferior conference and, at best, are behind SJ & LA again?

          Perhaps you can stretch your brain enough to bring up a concrete point instead of continually going down this path of abstractions as evidence of your superior thought process…

          • Brent

            Probably the process by which the Canucks are 5th in 5v5 Corsi Close, 2nd in 5v4 SF/60, and 3rd in 4v5 SA/60. But yeah I totally agree with you, other than at even strength, on the powerplay, and shorthanded, they’ve been mediocre.

          • Brent

            How do we look where it counts? Goals for? Goals Against? Most importantly, the standings. All these stats tell me is that we’re working our asses off to score goals at the same clip as offensive juggernauts like Calgary and Edmonton. I’m by no means a NMOO fan, but come on man, these stats are meaningless when they equate to a dogfight for 10th place.

          • asdf

            I thought where it counts was the playoffs. Those stats are generally good indicators that the team is strong. Especially over a sample size of 20 games or so, they’re better indicators of team strength than won-loss or GF/GA. And I don’t really care that they’re on the playoff bubble right now — there are still 60 games left in the season. I’m certainly more optimistic about a team with strong underlying numbers and a so-so W-L record after a quarter of the season than the reverse.

          • asdf

            The objective of the game is to outscore the opponent.

            The correct process is the one that aids in outscoring the opponent.

            And after tonight it will be a full season’s worth of games in which the Canucks have been outscored by their respective opponents.

            At some point the “process” has to match the outcome or perhaps the process is flawed…

          • Brent

            I don’t even know where to start with your evaluation. The randomness in goals, games played, schedule and injuries makes me chuckle.

            A dumb guy knows that he knows not.

            A fool is too dumb to know that he knows not.

      • pheenster

        It’s only meaningless if one accepts the tidy strawman you have constructed in regards to Vancouver & Winnipeg.

        It’s particularly amusing considering your groundbreaking discovery about the Eastern conference…

        The Canucks beat up on an Eastern conference team on a night when the West once again beat on the East.

        Nothing to see here…

    • pheenster

      The only thing that we can say with certainty is that the Canucks have played a little more than the quarter of the season. And that they’ve played well for the most part and been competitive and unlucky against most of the better teams in the league.

      San Jose has already been through a slump of its own and Chicago has lost to some terrible teams. Quick is out for a month. Most of the other top teams in the conference are facing challenges of their own. As everyone said at the outset, this is going to be a tough slog. But it’s laughable to hear the critiques of media (and others) like the Cryptkeeper during the intermission last night bemoaning the fact that the Canucks are six points out of the playoffs (four now). Yeah, and seven out of first place. With three quarters of the season left to go, not a week…

      • pheenster

        You watched the intermission? I saw the panel and had to turn the volume down. Still had nightmares about being attacked by the bags under Gallagher’s eyes though. So next time, no video either.

        Seriously though, nice that the effort was there as opposed to what we saw against Florida. But the real measuring stick will be out tonight. Better off facing the Hawks with a little confidence, than if it were just after laying an egg. You are completely right, it’s early when even small streaks carry more weight one way or another.

      • pheenster

        We can say with absolute certainty that the Canucks will face a greater percentage of Western opponents through out the rest of the season.

        And perhaps the Canucks will actually face a significant injury (they haven’t yet).

        Let’s see how this team performs if they are down a core defenseman or two or the centre depth erodes…

        • Brent

          Burrows would have to be considered significant based on his role with the team at the time of injury.

          Utica is dead last in the AHL at 3-10-1, so you already know the answer to how eroded the depth chart is. Hoodoo material.

          I don’t mind playing the teams we are chasing in the Standings more, it’s easier to gauge where we stand. More control of your own fate and less praying against the 3 point out of conference game at the end of the season. Either way, pretty much getting into sink or swim time.

        • asdf

          Yes the Sedins and Kesler or Luongo haven’t been injured but having six 2nd/3rd Fs out at the same time is pretty significant. I don’t really get your point here or at least it’s so obvious as to be pointless. If Marleau, Thornton or Toews and Kane or whatever stars on any number of teams were out it would negatively impact them. Not exactly profound.

          • asdf

            To which six 2nd/3rd forwards are you referring?

            I hope you’re not including Booth, Weise & Schroeder in this. There’s little reason to believe the coach would use these players in significant roles when healthy.

            The centres, top 6 defense, goalies & Daniel have been healthy.

            And the Canucks are still struggling to outscore the opponent specifically good opponents…

          • asdf

            The Canucks played that trip — including some actually tough opponents — missing the better part of forward core. Again, not the stars, but enough of the supporting cast that we had a pile of AHLers and barely NHLers. Missing Higgins, Hansen, Burrows and (before I knew he was a press box regular) Booth all at the same time does constitute a significant injury issue, much as when we lost almost all our defensemen a couple of years ago.

            I don’t disagree with the notion that at the end of the day what counts is actual results rather than underlying characteristics. But it DOES make a difference when the appearance and the effort seem to match the stats if not the results. Given the style of play and the fact that they haven’t been blown away — especially by the better teams, it’s really been the FLA game that was the real stinker — it is far too early to write them off.

            You have a funny way of showing your support. You sign off your posts with what can only be seen as a desire to see your team lose, if only to prove your point. If the Canucks win tonight will you post a retraction of your statement? You never do. As many have pointed out previously you are conspicuously absent any time the Canucks win and don’t prove your worn theories.

            I’ve been as critical as anyone of the Canucks when they don’t perform or play well, including in the most recent run. But hoping that your team actually wins and not being a constant naysayer isn’t the same as being sheep.

          • asdf

            There’s still zero reason to expect the Canucks to beat LA or SJ in a playoff round.

            If one wants to suggest the Canucks are good enough to get up to third or fourth in the division, I won’t disagree.

            Though I’m getting pretty close to the point where I would prefer the team to miss the playoffs entirely as it may be the only way the organization tries something different…

  • Vintage

    You sure you’re a Canucks fan, NM?

    Every post you make is ragging on the boys: trade this guy, this guy is a bum, Gillis sucks, the window is slammed shut.

  • Brent

    While I am happy with the win and the goal “explosion”. I am a little worried about the defensive lapses. Ok a lot worried. We can start with the Kassian one that was incredibly annoying since he didn’t really try to skate back after letting the guy behind him. That resulted in another goal on the first shot. But then there were at least 3 wide open nets Columbus missed. If they get a couple of those, the complexion of the game changes. Somehow I think Chicago won’t miss those, and their goaltending may be a little more consistant. So even though it was great to watch them beat up a team that is low in the standings and missing their top two players, they are going to have to play a tighter defensive game tonight or it is going to get real ugly real fast. Hopefully they saved a bit of their puck luck for tonight.