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Photo Credit: www.canucks.com

Were The Canucks Lucky Or Good During Their Six-Game Point Streak?

The Vancouver Canucks recently put up their best segment of the season to date—earning points in six straight games between December 6 and 16, and scoring a ton of goals while doing so.

The Canucks have been a mercurial team in 2018/19, seeming to vacillate between scorching hot streaks and ice cold losing skids, and that raises the question of how indicative this recent streak was of the team’s overall ability level—and how much can be chalked up to puck luck. As some of the stats from those six games suggest, the real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

 

Good: The Penalty Kill 

  Six-Game Streak (Dec. 6-16) Season Totals
Penalty Kill% 100% 78.1%
Total Penalties 11 128

To say that the Canucks’ penalty kill during their six-game point streak was perfect isn’t an understatement—the PK unit was successful all 11 times the team was shorthanded. This represents a drastic improvement on the team’s season total of 78.1%, but it’s also the first time that the entire PK corps—minus Brandon Sutter—has been available, so this is probably a truer indication of the team’s shorthanded ability than the previous months of the season.

Vancouver’s penalty killing obviously won’t continue to be impeccable, but this is still a dramatic gain in an area that looked like a major weakness just a couple of weeks ago. A healthy Jay Beagle, Chris Tanev, and Alex Edler certainly make a difference, and they can elevate the Canucks’ PK to one of the league’s best—as long as they remain in the lineup.

 

Lucky: The Canuck Shooters 

  Six-Game Streak (Dec. 6-16) Season Totals
Team Shooting % 17.1% 10.6%
Elias Pettersson Shooting % 40% 27.9%
Brock Boeser Shooting % 40% 17.6%

During their six-game point streak, the Canucks scored 26 goals on 152 shots for a ridiculous team shooting percentage of 17.1%. Even more eye-popping numbers were achieved by Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, who each scored on exactly 40% of these shots.

For Pettersson, this represents a moderate bump from his season average, but Boeser more than doubled his average shooting percentage over these six games. As a team, the Canucks’ shooting percentage increased by more than 50% during the hot streak, which indicates that they were getting a little luckier than usual on their shots—especially those taken by their two scoring stars.

It’s reasonable to expect both Pettersson and Boeser to continue scoring at an impressive rate, but not quite as impressive as they did during the six-game streak. As the rest of the team also experiences a return to the median shooting percentage around them, the wins will be more than a little harder to come by.

 

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Good: Jacob Markstrom

  Six-Game Streak (Dec. 6-16) Season Totals
Save Percentage .937 .904
Even Strength Save % .929 .910
Penalty Kill Save % 1.000 .858

Jacob Markstrom put up a .937 save percentage during the six-game point streak, which dwarfs his season total of .904—and that might seem to indicate that Markstrom, too, was receiving some serious puck luck. However, when one breaks down his stats by situation, a different picture emerges.

In terms of five-on-five play, Markstrom’s save percentage only increased from .910 to .929 during the period from December 6 to 16. His shorthanded save percentage, on the other hand, rose from a dreadful .858 to a flawless 1.000. It seems that as the penalty kill has improved in front of him, Markstrom’s overall stats have started to reflect his quality of play more closely—and it’s a quality of play that is further solidifying him as a legitimate starting goaltender in the NHL.

 

Lucky: The Team Defense  

Six-Game Streak (Dec. 6-16) Season Totals
Shot Attempt % 42.89% 46.63%
Zone Start % 45.3% 47.8%

Vancouver’s special teams have been on point of late, and there was little to complain about in regard to their five-on-five play during the six-game streak—at least, on the surface. The underlying stats, however, paint a slightly different picture that backs up what the “eye test” and common sense suggest—that an offensive outburst by the Canucks helped to paper over some of their defensive inadequacies during their point streak, and that they can’t count on that continuing.

Shockingly, the Canucks’ Shot Attempt Percentage—also known as Corsi For Percentage—was actually lower during their hot streak than their season average. Their Zone Start Percentage—a similar measure of the amount a team starts in the offensive zone versus the defensive zone—also dropped a bit during the streak.

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This means that the Canucks were actually doing a worse job of controlling the puck and dictating the flow of play than they usually do, despite all those goals, and sooner or later that is eventually going to catch up with them—as it did last night against Tampa Bay.

 

Good And Lucky: The Powerplay 

  Six-Game Streak (Dec. 6-16) Season Totals
Powerplay % 27.8% 18.2%
Goals Per Powerplay Minute 0.19 0.11

As was previously discussed, the Vancouver offense was definitely the beneficiary of some lucky shooting during the period of December 6 to 16, but that’s not the only reason that the powerplay came to life. Both PP units set up quicker and used their time more efficiently, with the team nearly increasing their rate of goals-per-powerplay-minute to an astonishing 0.19—nearly double their season average, and impressive by any standard.

 

Unlucky: The Canucks’ Standing In The Pacific Division 

  Calgary Flames Edmonton Oilers Vegas Golden Knights San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks
Dec. 6-16 Record 5-1-0 4-1-1 4-1-1 4-1-0 3-1-0

It doesn’t really matter when a team puts up points during a season—all that matters is their final place in the standings when April rolls around. That being said, when it comes to optics, the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t have picked a worse time to go on a 5-0-1 streak. While the Canucks were putting up points in six straight, five other teams in the Pacific Division were putting together streaks of their own, ensuring that the Canucks didn’t make up much ground in the overall standings.

This could be seen as bad luck, but it’s also a reminder of how difficult it will still be for the Canucks to make the playoffs in 2018/19—even if they put up another six-game streak or two.

 

Conclusion 

The Canucks demonstrated some great things during their six-game point streak, including a special teams performance that hints at a dominant powerplay and penalty kill of the future. The underlying stats aren’t a perfect picture for the team’s overall defense, but most fans could see that already via the “eye test”—and it’s not exactly a secret that the roster is in need of some upgrades on the backend.

Were the Canucks lucky during their six-game point streak? Absolutely. But they were also pretty damn good, and that can only be looked at as a thrilling indicator of what this team will be capable of in a few years—once it gains consistency, maturity, and another top-end asset or two.



  • Goon

    “In terms of five-on-five play, Markstrom’s save percentage only increased from .910 to .929 during the period from December 6 to 16. His shorthanded save percentage, on the other hand, rose from a dreadful .858 to a flawless 1.000. It seems that as the penalty kill has improved in front of him, Markstrom’s overall stats have started to reflect his quality of play more closely—and it’s a quality of play that is further solidifying him as a legitimate starting goaltender in the NHL.”

    The increase in even-strength save percentage is almost certainly more significant than the increase in shorthanded save percentage, because of the massive differences in sample size. The Canucks were shorthanded 11 times over the six game stretch, or for 22 minutes, while they played over 300 minutes at even strength. Literally 2-3 power play goals saved above his season average accounts for the difference in Markstrom’s shorthanded save percentage. I’m not sure how many even-strength shots Markstrom faced over that six-game stretch, but expect it’s in the neighbourhood of 150. So Markstrom likely saved around twice as many goals above average at even-strength over this stretch than he saved on the penalty kill.

    • Goon

      Also, it’s worth pointing out that a .910 even strength save percentage is not very good, while an .858 shorthanded save percentage is pretty typical – last year the league average was around 0.87 if memory serves, and scoring on the power play is up this year.

    • That’s a more than fair point. I had a tough time drawing conclusions out of Markstrom’s stats to be honest. What I was trying to show was that (in my opinion) his stats during the streak more closely coincide with his performance–as per the “eye test”–than his overall stats for the season…if that makes sense.

  • crofton

    “the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t have picked a worse time to go on a 5-0-1 streak.” Really? What if they hadn’t gone on that point streak while the rest of the Pacific was? Where would they be now? In fact, it may have been the best time to go on that streak. And is there even such a thing as a bad time to go on that type of streak?

    • “It doesn’t really matter when a team puts up points during a season—all that matters is their final place in the standings when April rolls around. That being said, when it comes to optics…five other teams in the Pacific Division were putting together streaks of their own, ensuring that the Canucks didn’t make up much ground in the overall standings.”

      That is what I literally said.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Ideally luck is a concept where preparation meets opportunity to a favourable outcome. Yes, the Canucks were lucky with their recent win streak and not lucky aprevious to that. Through both streaks they were just as prepared as they have been all season. Intangibles which address “luck” are far too numerous to discuss here. All I’m saying is Luck is the Residue of Hard Work which the Canucks recently experienced, and hopefully will continue to do so.

  • Kootenaydude

    The Canucks took a LOT of penalties early in the season. The PK benefitted from the return of Beagle. Boeser was obviously not 100% earlier in the season. Couldn’t make a decent wrist shot. Now he’s starting to shoot the puck and that is a good thing for Vancouver. Analytics don’t show that this team is playing with heart and doesn’t give up. Even when the team they are playing against is better than them.

  • LACANUCK

    Ok, I have to say this is a necessary… ridiculous article.

    The Canucks have had injuries, played rookies and not only battled to the last minute, but won. Underlining numbers mean jack if you don’t put them in context.

    As someone who used to teach, grades don’t determine Jack! In fact most of the folks that came up with analytics didn’t graduate college. Im the tech industry now and it’s wave. Everyone believes, until everyone doesn’t… then they come back around.

    Canucks are what they are a transitioning team with 3 underrated stars in Bo/Brock and EP. This team will make waves when Q and Thatcher hit their stride. Sad to see Olli is out, but he will come back. The future is around the corner, but you can see the light.

    • canuckfan

      So when they lose is it because they were crappy and when they win it was because they were lucky? It’s sports you either win or lose luck can play a part either way. The team is going in the right direction and the future looks bright… with a little luck we are able to draft the big talented left winger who will help stock the top two lines.