Canucks Army Postgame: Regression be Damned!

It isn’t news that the Colorado Avalanche are in tough this season. Despite an impressive GoalsFor% north of 53% last year, the Avs underlying numbers told the story of a club that was benefiting from favourable bounces at all ends of the ice. Their combined sh% and sv% at even strength made for an unsustainable PDO well north of the mean 1000.

Those factors made the Avalanche a poster boy for regression heading into this season. In large part, they have been. Small samples have driven the needle several ticks below expected percentages though and it seemed reasonable to expect them to bounce back. And oh, how they did against our beloved Vancouver Canucks.

Whether it was regression to the mean, some of Colorado’s newer and more legal NOT marijuana related attractions or a combination of both, Vancouver left the Pepsi Center a disheveled shell of their former selves of last night. I’m not saying the Canucks embarrassed themselves, but the final score was 7-3 and they gave up almost 50 shots. 

More on the other side of the jump!

The Rundown

The Canucks entered tonight on somewhat of a high, fresh off their 4-1 victory over the highly talented St.Louis Blues. Ryan Miller was the starting goaltender for that match and with his 31 save performance, he surely made the “hot-hand” temptation an enticing one for first year head coach, Willie Desjardins. In a stroke of reasoned coaching – the likes of which I’m still having a hard time getting used to – Desjardins went with Eddie Lack for tonight’s match in Colorado.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In practice, Lack was shelled and looked much more reminiscent of his post-Olympics self from last year than the pre-Olympics Lack that was dominating for Vancouver. How much of this is workload related, I can’t be certain of. The Canucks did surrender 48 shots to the shot-volume adverse Avalanche tonight.

Before we delve too far into the mess that was tonight’s final, it bears mentioning that the Canucks were able to hang in there with the Avalanche for much of the first half of this game. At two points, even, they had a lead. The first such occasion came ten seconds into the game, when an Avs clearing attempt was intercepted along the half wall and just as quickly launched onto the waiting stick of Henrik Sedin, who notched his third-goal of the young season with a low snap-shot. It took the Avalanche multiple scoring chances and over ten minutes of a monopoly on puck possession before potting the tying goal on Jarome Iginla backhand.

This goal was summarily topped by a disputed Alex Burrows goal only minutes before the intermission. The goal was originally called off due to an apparent kick, but the combination of an overruling in the newly minted “huddle” and a video review were enough to prove Burrows innocence. 

An otherwise open second period led to traded chances by both clubs and an otherwise entertaining on-ice product. I’d hardly say the flow of play was opposite the Canucks net, but it was still competitive at this point. On one of these traded chances, though, Luca Sbisa had a moment. After defending a Ryan O’Reilly rush about as perfectly as is humanly possible, he proceeds to take an imbecilic slashing penalty on a completely disengaged O’Reilly. While the Avs didn’t capitalize on this opportunity directly through the power play, they would score on an extended series of puck possession that led to their scoring immediately after it. Believe it or not, it was Sbisa had come out of the box and had actually failed to properly track the scoring Av, Matt Duchene. So much bad in such a short period and somehow it always gets worse for Sbisa.

Everything went downhill from there. To say the Canucks unraveled seems like an understatement, and gives off the impression that they had been keeping pace in terms of possession. Still, the goal totals indicate that they did lose themselves at this point to the untrained eye. What a mess.

The Canucks would give up another power play goal only minutes after the first, making it two unanswered. Nick Bonino, in an act of unmitigated stupidity, attempted to channel his inner Barry Bonds and knock a puck mid-air into the stands behind Semyon Varlamov. Unfortunately, his stick caught the face of an Avs forward in the process. This led to another Coloradp power play, which was compounded by a Shawn Matthias hook and an ensuing two-man advantage. The Avs would capitalize on this with an Erik Johnson goal from the point. 

It didn’t seem imaginable at this point that the Canucks situation could get more bleak. Then the third period started. The Canucks surrendered two goals in the first six minutes. The rest of the game was a formality. The Canucks would tally another goal, but it was matched by another two for Colorado. The inhumanity.

The Numbers

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The Canucks don’t know how to score effects. None of this makes sense. The Avs are considered one of the poorest possession teams in the league and despite all their woes last season the Canucks entered this one respectable in that regard. I’d like to write this off as an anomaly, but they weren’t exactly great last night as far as puck possession goes.

A chief contributor to this discrepancy in possession is none other than Luca Sbisa. I’m not saying he’s the worst defenceman in the league (editor’s note: he’s not), but I’m starting to entertain the thought. Here’s Rhys on how I should handle this: 

It’s funny because it’s true. In the early goings of this season I was advised against ragging on Sbisa too heavily. It will happen organically, so why force it? Rhys was right in this sense. Rhys did, however, give me the go-ahead under the above listed conditions. It should be noted that his Corsi% was 29% for the night, but he was also a team leading -5.

Let Frankie Corrado play. Make a trade. Force Ryan Stanton into the lineup before he’s healthy. Call up Bobby Sanguinetti. I dont care. Save us from this lumbering funeral pyre of a former first-rounder. He’s not costing the Canucks the season, but he’s a serious hinderance all the same.

The Conclusion

The Canucks have a chance to get back in the win column on Sunday as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals pay a rare visit to Rogers Arena. Puck drop is at 6:30 PM, and hopefully the Canucks actually come to play at that time, seeing as they haven’t exactly arrived for the opening faceoff in 2 of the 3 games on this road trip.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I just finished watching the game before I read this article. I didn’t look at any stats before reading the article, either, which is why I’m glad I’m apparently not the the only one who considers the Sbisa-Weber pairing a colossal flaming bag of dog poop on the door step of a tire fire. Corrado might not be ready, he might not even be a good option once we have the benefit of hindsight, but how can anyone expect anything from either Miller or Lack with a tragic defense pairing like this in front of them?

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Well well well. With that score is there anything I can say?

    Yes there is! lol. I wonder where the fans that were calling for Torts head are thinking now?

    The team isn’t stale, all it needs is Trevor linden and the sky will be lifting again. Run for the hills momma, I can see clearly now- the rain has gone! lol

    Hey here’s a great new Canuck logo.

    Canucks – unlike Charlie Sheen, WE HATE WINNING!

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    a scheduled loss. van to dallas to st.louis to the mile high city in 4 days. that’s nightmare travel. they’ll not look so slow and tired the next time they play these guys.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      You’re blaming that disaster on travel? Really?

      I’d love to blame it on the refs and bad calls or bad bounces but those penalties were deserved and I have zero idea what some of our players were thinking on some of those plays. Sbisa is Michel Petit 2014 but somehow dumber.

      That, unfortunately, was the least entertaining of the games so far this season — even the Dallas one was relatively watchable. Still early but this season is shaping up not to be too shocking. As I track the Sabres to see where we might stand in the McDavid sweepstakes (since that’s my fallback goal) I see that the great white hope Hodgson has 1 assist through 8 games compared to the new hobo on skates Kassian who has 2 goals so far. Just saying.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        i agree. the penalties were deserved. they were chasing the game from the start. didn’t you notice how tired they were? have you traveled by plane before? do you know how many miles they covered on those flights? how many hours on the flight and then bus? it played into the drastic difference in play, that’s not blame, it’s circumstance.

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          No, I have never traveled by plane before. What is this magic of which you speak?

          I didn’t realize the Canucks were the only team in the NHL to have to deal with the rigors of travel or go on long road trips. Or maybe it’s the reason that LA and Anaheim are such bad teams these days, because they spend so much time in the air and on long road trips.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        I don’t think we can pin all the blame on Sbisa (despite the -5). Matthias is one of those odd duck bottom-6 C that can’t seem to contribute from any position other than centre. Having him on the 3rd line with Richardson is just odd to me. Richardson can play wing, so put Vey in with Richardson & Kassian, and move Matthias to centre the 4th line until they can give it unto the Heir Apparent. If they can’t have Vey as 3C, then move Hansen up to the 3L spot and have Matthias (a LH centre) insulate Vey against having to take weak side draws on the 4th line.

        I think the coaching staff are trying to put the bottom-6 jigsaw puzzle together as best they can, but that all their schemes depend on Kassian being further along in his development than he is, especially as regards his defensive play.

        • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

          I agree that it’s not all Sbisa — it doesn’t help that Weber gets pushed off the puck so easily or seems to be roving everywhere. Edler has looked better (though with the occasional brain fart pass to the opposition each game) but Tanev seems oddly out of position and always sliding to try and block a shot, Bieksa I think is still injured and Hamhuis is clearly hampered by the cage. In short the D look out of sorts. The goaltending has been uneven, and while the top two lines look pretty good and the bottom line pretty decent that third line as the original post says is a total disaster. While I was hoping not to waste Horvat on a fourth line role I’m increasingly hoping that he comes up and pushes Matthias out of the lineup entirely. My preference would be to have Richardson centering the fourth — which I think would give a really strong checking/energy line with Hansen and Dorsett that could play ten minutes a game, and a decent third line with Vey and Kassian on the wings and Horvat in the middle.

          I agree that they are figuring it out but I think Sbisa, Weber and Matthias — even in limited roles — are worse than the alternatives.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Canucks give up 14 goals in three games on the road. Yes, I know Corsi and Fenwick will tell us the team is on the right track, and if we hold on, David Booth will be a player.

    There is no changing this fact: the Canucks gave up 14 goals in three games. How 1980s of them.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I will be curious to see if the Avalanche actually fall back to earth this year. Stats enthusiasts act as though it is a foregone conclusion. But if you look at last year, they had the seventh highest goal differential (+30), and the third best record. To me, that indicates they only slightly overachieved. If you look at corsi, the over-achievement seems more drastic.
    What corsi doesn’t take into account, however, is that not all shots are equal (and this has been mentioned often). Look at last night – when you have Matt Duchene leaving everyone in his dust, there is a good chance he will score on his shot on the breakaway. High percentage plays like that are, in some ways, a result of the system you play – shooting percentage varies depending on the type of system being deployed. The fact is, the Avalanche consistently outscored opponents last year – that is what wins hockey games. The claim that their high shooting percentage is a result of puck luck doesn’t hold any water when you consider the sample size – some 2500 shots taken. Puck luck can win you a game or two, but doesn’t get you into the playoffs.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      They will “fall back to earth” as you put it; however, even if they fall proportionately as hard as the Leafs did last year over the year before, the Avs would still end up with 98-99 points, or thereabouts. Last year that would have put them at 7th place in the West.

      Personally, I’ve not watched many Avs games (listened to two over the inter webs in the last 2 years; both vs the Canucks). I’ve wondered if *some* of the Av’s outlier status vis. possession metrics can be blamed on score effects, as opposed to “dumb luck”.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    That Kesler trade looks better and better with every game.

    It’s a good thing Sir Bennington and the Lord weren’t brought in to fix this club. Oh, wait…