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A deep dive on Canucks’ Elias Pettersson since the NHL All Star Break

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
1 month ago
Okay, so Elias Pettersson hasn’t been… himself.
Yeah.
The Swedish star centre inked his eight-year, $92.8 million contract extension on March 3, 2024, in the midst of his third consecutive 30-goal season, following up the 102-point campaign last year with an 89-point performance this time around. For all intents and purposes, Pettersson is a core member of the Canucks forward group and has the talent and ability to back that up.
It’s why his struggles this postseason have been so pronounced. Pettersson hasn’t exactly looked quite like the elite centerman that he is ever since the All-Star break, and against Nashville in round one, he’s been floundering. Consistently the worst Canuck through the first two games by the stats, Pettersson’s misses have become more common than his hits. It’s a glaring hole on a team that could definitely use his offensive contributions, especially as they look to reclaim home-ice advantage.
So what’s happened since the All-Star Break? For one, Pettersson’s shooting percentage has bottomed out. Prior to February 3rd, Pettersson was shooting at a 15.07% clip at 5v5 play which was around 5% more than the league average. Since the All-Star break, that shooting percentage dropped to 7.32, fluctuating to a good couple of percentage points below average. This could definitely be attributed to a slump, but Pettersson also started shooting less post-February 3rd. He went from averaging 1.49 shots per game to 1.24 – the selectiveness should’ve helped his shooting percentage but clearly didn’t.
As a result, Pettersson also struggled to score with the same effectiveness at 5v5. He went from potting 11 even-strength tallies in the first 49 games of the season to just 3 goals in the final 33 appearances for the rest of the year. A lack of shooting probably doesn’t help with this but with the drop in both shot attempts and shooting percentage, it suggests that Pettersson has been getting a bit unlucky to go along with a possible loss of confidence. The drop from 1.051 PDO to 1.008 PDO has never seemed so big.
Here’s the thing – despite not shooting as much as he did prior to the All-Star break, Pettersson was actually on ice for more high-danger chances per game. Not only did his CF% share rise, but his xGF% share jumped from 49.53 before Feb 3rd to 56.79 xGF% after – and a big part is Petey’s playmaking game. He’s always been a smart player and with his vision, he’s looking to set up things for his linemates. It’s almost like he won a passing competition or something…
Playmaking Petey is great. Actually, he was one of the Canucks’ best 5v5 playmakers throughout the year, with the large majority of his assists being primary. Even with his goal totals dropping, the 13 assists that he racked up still made Pettersson the third-best Canuck in total points after the All-Star break. He’s clearly capable of making things happen for his teammates – so where has it gone in the playoffs? It’s a small sample size to be looking at, but Pettersson’s linemates haven’t done him many favours so far. Nils Höglander and Ilya Mikheyev look a little antsy on ice with him, not really bringing much of anything to the table even when the puck winds up on their sticks. Pettersson should be expected to drive that line, which he has done in the past, but with him struggling through a slump, his wingers unfortunately aren’t ones that can help jump-start the engine.
So with Pettersson’s playmaking abilities unable to make things happen at 5v5, and with his confidence in his shot, well, shot – it collapses the gravity that he would usually command. Because the Swede isn’t shooting as much, the defence doesn’t need to respect that as much, allowing them to skew off of him and cover his teammates instead of committing to the shot. And when Pettersson does shoot, it’s been a slower release, with multiple instances of him double-clutching and firing it into the shinpads of his opponents.
It might be interesting to note that since the All-Star break, Pettersson’s faceoff percentage increased from 48.55% to 53.08%. Faceoffs tend to involve the wrist during the draws, and Pettersson’s percentage to see an increase might suggest that he’s probably physically okay. It’s not a significant increase and it could also be accounted for by luck. But, it’s encouraging to see that his faceoff percentage hasn’t dropped, which might have indicated a wrist ailment.
Pettersson has earned himself the benefit of the doubt over the years. He’s had stretches like these in the past, and he’s been able to tweak things and figure it out. It’s the first true playoff experience that Pettersson has had, and a stretch of subpar games by his standard leading into the postseason has snowballed into these last two games. There’s been a marked change in his approach to shooting, but other than that, Pettersson is still the talented young center that the Canucks inked to a massive deal in March. It’s clear that he’s seen a slump in his shooting metrics, but other than that, he’s still been effective in other areas of his game prior to the playoffs. He’s far too good not to figure out his confidence and shot.
The hope is that he and the Canucks don’t run out of time before that happens.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com
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