Canucks Army GDT #9: Canucks vs. Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes are not a good hockey team. Cam Ward is a flaming disaster in net. Their #2 centre is injured long-term. Something called a “Riley Nash” is in their top-6 forward group. They are the only team without a win on the year. If the season ended today, they’d stand a better chance of drafting Connor McDavid than Tim Murray’s abomination in Buffalo.

And yet the woeful ‘Canes are a better team than their 0-5-2 record and -15 goal differential indicate, and are due for some serious positive regression. They aren’t good, but they might be better than the Colorado Avalanche team that lay a beatdown on Vancouver just a few days ago. It’s a dangerous game for the Canucks, and it’s far from the guaranteed win night you’d be tempted to expect from the last winless team in the NHL.

Read past the jump for a full preview.

Broadcast Info

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM PST

TV: Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey

Radio: TSN 1040

Lineups

Defensive Pairings
Alexander Edler 
Alexander Edler
Chris Tanev 
Chris Tanev
Dan Hamhuis 
Dan Hamhuis
Kevin Bieksa 
Kevin Bieksa
Luca Sbisa 
Luca Sbisa
Yannick Weber 
Yannick Weber

Ryan Stanton took the optional morning skate. No word yet on any lineup changes for tonight. Ryan Miller will start in goal.

LW C RW
Jiri Tlusty 
Jiri Tlusty
Eric Staal 
Eric Staal
Alexander Semin 
Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner 
Jeff Skinner
Riley Nash 
Riley Nash
Elias Lindholm 
Elias Lindholm
Chris Terry 
Chris Terry
Jay McClement 
Jay McClement
Zach Boychuk 
Zach Boychuk
Brad Malone 
Brad Malone
Victor Rask 
Victor Rask
Patrick Brown 
Patrick Brown
Defensive Pairings
Andrej Sekera 
Andrej Sekera
Justin Faulk 
Justin Faulk
Tim Gleason 
Tim Gleason
Ryan Murphy 
Ryan Murphy
Ron Hainsey 
Ron Hainsey
John-Michael Liles 
John-Michael Liles


Eric Staal returns to the Carolina lineup after missing 5 games with an upper body injury.

Preview

Vancouver hasn’t received strong goaltending from the duo of Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack to start the year, as only two teams in the NHL have a lower team 5-on-5 save percentage: the PhoenixGlendaleArizona Coyotes, and their opponents tonight, the lowly Hurricanes. The ‘Canes are also dealing with some awful shooting percentages too, resulting in a league low 918 PDO. To put how awful that is into perspective, 17 teams have a higher 5v5 save percentage than that.

Cam Ward, who will start tonight, is the only goaltender in the NHL off to a worse start than Eddie Lack. Through three games, Ward has an NHL-worst 0.829 save percentage, and NHL-worst 0.814 save percentage at even strength, and an NHL-worst 0.804 save percentage at 5-on-5. Ward has been on the decline for a few years now and isn’t the goalie he once was, but unless his arms and legs have fallen off and he’s just a torso flopping uncontrollably around the crease, he’s due for an upswing in those numbers.

I’m seeing a lot of “trap game” banter this morning, and this is concerning because it’s kinda missing the point of what’s happened to Carolina in the early going. They’re a below average team that’s being sunk by unfavourable percentages and god awful injury luck. The biggest reason why Vancouver could lose this game isn’t because they risk overlooking an inferior opponent. The biggest reason why Vancouver could lose this game is because the margin between awful teams and decent teams is razor thin and anything can happen in a one-game sample.

There’s a reason why the NHL is statistically identical to a simulated league in which 76% of the games are determined by a coin flip: talent gaps between the best teams and everyone except the Buffalo Sabres are small enough that the vast majority of teams are going to fall in between the 30 wins-50 losses to the 50 wins-30 losses range.

All this is to say that even if Vancouver doesn’t overlook a team that has just a 0.9% lower 5v5 Corsi than them and plays their best game of the year, they could still lose because hey, that’s just how hockey works sometimes. I’ll channel Alain Vigneault here and say that past process is more important than the past results, because it’s the process that’s the better determinant of future results. And all we care about right now is future results.

Still, if you’re a betting man or woman, this is a game that the Canucks should win. Despite the teams being quite close in raw 5v5 Corsi%, the ‘Canes have been a hot mess in score close and score tied situations (26th and 28th in the NHL in Corsi%), while Vancouver has been quite good (12th and 5th respectively). I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but it’s still too early to tell if these numbers are truly reflective of team talent. It does, however, tell us that Vancouver’s process has been better than Carolina’s, and we can infer that the Canucks are likely the better team. You already knew that though.

Regardless, a loss tonight would still be embarrassing since no one wants to be that team which gives a winless club it’s first victory, and a win would vault the Canucks into 3rd in the Pacific division, ahead of the Sharks and Flames. It may seem a little early to be looking at the standings, but two points are two points, and if Vancouver wants to make the playoffs (they do), they can’t afford to give up any ground in the tough Western Conference.

  • McRib

    It seems like a good time for the first NM00 poll of the season as it’s early enough for most – including myself – to have some sense of optimism.

    Props if you would like the Canucks to make the playoffs.

    Trash if you would like the Canucks to miss the playoffs…

  • Chungus

    Other than Eric Staal, I don’t recognize another name of the roster.

    The Canes will win a game eventually but let’s not be the team that helps them get in the win column.

    Let’s have dominant complete game with scoring on all four lines. And yes, I’m looking at you guys on the 3rd line – especially Matthias to make a contribution.

    • Chungus

      Really? Alex Semin, Cam Ward, Jeff Skinner, at least? I guess I can forgive not remembering #5 overall pick Elias Lindholm (i.e. the guy who got picked instead of Horvat that year that Gilman and Gillis were worried about), or top 10 defensive scorer from last season Andrej Sekera (44 points!) or the underrated Jiri Tlusty or the even more underrated Justin Faulk.

      But seriously, Eric Staal and that’s it?

      Personally, I looked at that lineup and was surprised how bad it isn’t, considering what’s happened to them. I then realized it would indeed be pretty broken without either Staal brother and with no Skinner, which has been a thing. But that’s sort of like asking how good the Canucks would be if the entire top line was hurt. They’ve had crazy bad luck in more ways than one.

  • Brent

    I think the Canucks had better be ready, it isn’t going to be easy. I hate to say trap game but with Staal back and nary a win this season and well rested to boot, Canucks had better be very careful how they approach this one.