The Canucks are shuffling their lines quite a bit recently, and with good reason. Bo Horvat has once again played alongside a revolving door or wingers over the past few games and we are beginning to see many of the same problems that plagued the young centre last year begin to creep in again. Horvat has been going through a bit of a tough stretch over the past four games with only one point through those four games. This is coming off of Captain Bo having 13 points in the previous 12 games.
If the Canucks want to be considered a real playoff contender, Bo Horvat will obviously have to be one of the driving forces. He hasn’t been being as aggressive when driving to the net over the past few games partly because he needs a playmaker that can help steer the play and help get the puck to him in the dirty areas of the ice.
The latest trio coming out of Canucks practice is the combination of Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat and JT Miller.
Lines for the #Canucks at practice:
Jay Beagle is not on the ice.
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) November 11, 2019
I thought it should include this tweet as well. Don’t @ Batch…
I tweet the lines in the order that they skate. Put them in whatever order you want. Don’t @ me
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) February 14, 2019
Sven Baertschi and JT Miller are likely the optimal duo of wingers to play with Bo Horvat. Miller has been an analytics darling this season, with his ability to retrieve the puck and quickly transition to the offensive zone on odd man rushes bearing out both in the eye test and the underlying numbers. Miller showed immediate success with Horvat early on this team season and he will hope to continue the success with Sven Baertschi contributing offensively on the other wing.
Though they didn’t get a lot of time together, they came out way ahead in the Corsi battle, as they were able to control two thirds of the shots fired at a goaltender in their 45 minutes of ice time together at five on five.
Those shot numbers will regress, but when looking at the expected goals for per 60 minutes (xGF/60) you can see that they were actually getting a bit of bad puck luck in their time together, with an on-ice shooting percentage of just 3.23%. When JT Miller is away from Horvat his team’s on ice shooting percentage is almost 13%.
Sven Baertschi also brings the best out of Horvat as we have seen over the past three seasons since the two have had consistent time played together.
Line Tool for 2016-2019 provided by NaturalStatTrick
During those three seasons the Canucks were one of the worst teams in the NHL and their team GF% was 45.26%. Bo Horvat played significant time with Sven Baertschi over that time and was one of the only lines that proved to be able to score more goals than their opponents over those dark times.
Horvat has clearly needed a shake-up and though it comes at the expense of the Lotto Line, it does bring answer one of the burning questions from this offseason: Who will play wing with Bo Horvat?
What’s your take? Does the chemistry of Bo and Sven combined with JT Miller intrigue you or do Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser need JT Miller to continue scoring at a top line rate?