(It resulted in a loss, but hey! Who’s counting, really?)
Good things never last, so the Canucks – who up to tonight were undefeated and on top of the NHL – finally lost a game.
RIP undefeated 2016/17 Vancouver Canucks. You were fun and weird.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) October 23, 2016
The good news, of course, is that it came in the shootout. Experts agree that the shootout is essentially
the dumbest thing ever rolling the dice, so the win could have gone either way – who was to know that Peter Budaj would stonewall all three shots he faced after some of the goals he allowed in regulation? Replay that shootout five times, and you’ll probably get a different winner each time.
The bad news, though, was that the Kings still look like a better team than the Canucks. Vancouver has started out hot, but they still have a long way to go before they truly look like cup contenders – and tonight was a stark reminder of that.
Still – a point is a point, and that’s now five straight games without a regulation loss.
Now, let’s talk about how the Canucks actually won:
Let the enemy outplay themselves
If there’s one thing the Canucks did that put them well above the Kings all game, it was play with discipline.
The Canucks started out the game taking a slew of penalties, but then tapered off as they gained momentum. The Kings, on the other hand, took the only penalty of the second period and the only three penalties of the third period – including a penalty in the final two minutes of play.
Two of Vancouver’s three goals – the final two, nonetheless – came on the man advantage. The Kings were the stronger possession team from the second period on (sup, weak-third-period-hockey-playing Canucks?), but the Canucks managed to finish the game fairly close in shots simply by virtue of getting more shooting opportunities with the man advantage.
The Kings had a weak goaltender, and playing with an extra skater on the ice as often as Vancouver did certainly helped them take advantage of that.
Which, speaking of goaltending…
Battle in the Crease
The Kings ultimately walked away with the win, but that can’t be placed on Jacob Markstrom at all.
Vancouver always gets knocked for dealing away promising goaltenders, but Markstrom certainly seems like he has a strong future as a starter. His depth was excellent – I’d nitpick that he occasionally plays too deep when the play is behind the net, but there’s not much else to criticize there – and he exercised good rebound control and strong tracking against a barrage of shots. His biggest flaw, ultimately, was that his upright stance burned him on the shootout-winning goal. He doesn’t drop too early, and that’s a strength – but sometimes, that means he drops too late. That happened when Tanner Pearson fired five-hole, and so it goes.
The Canucks definitely benefitted from having Budaj in net, though. Make no mistake; if Markstrom didn’t lose Vancouver the game, Budaj certainly didn’t win his team the game, either. Behind a weaker defense, the Kings wouldn’t have made it to the shootout at all.
HIs depth was a bit too aggressive, and he made a few positioning mistakes that burned him. Add that to that one goal he probably wants to get back, and the Kings were certainly a tale of two teams when you looked at their skaters vs. their goaltender.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 23, 2016
Numbers for the Nerds
Read it and weep, calculator-carrying number crunchers.
The Kings are so effective because… well, they understand the purpose behind all these possession stats.
We can mock Corsi to the ends of the Earth, but the bottom line is this: if your team is constantly throwing pucks at the net, your odds of the game going in your favor simply go up. There’s uncertainty in probability, but why not gamble with house money and put the shots in your favor?
LA ultimately took home the win in the shootout, and there’s plenty the Canucks did right to help them get to that point. With a weak goaltender and plenty of penalties, though, the Kings certainly put the Canucks in a position to win situationally – then their possession stats, as per usual, helped them stay in a game they were doing their best to play entirely a man down.
The Canucks hurt themselves so much with weak late-game shooting metrics. When they aren’t playing a team taking a ton of penalties, they’ll run the risk of continuing to lose games due to late-game play.