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Live Mailbag post-game one comeback victory against Nashville edition

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David Quadrelli
1 month ago
Good morning, Canucks fans, to a truly beautiful Monday morning.
The Leafs Leaf’d it up in Boston, Hellebuyck Hellebuyck’d the Jets to a 7-6 victory against the Avs, and your Vancouver Canucks overcame some serious penalty trouble to score two goals in 12 seconds and defeat the Nashville Predators in their glorious return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What a wonderful way to start the week!
Given the off-the-charts-good vibes, we figured we’d start the week with a hybrid pre-recorded and live mailbag for the Army readers.
First, I (Cody) wanted to answer a couple of questions from CA commenter Defenceman Factory that came in before the regular season concluded.
Then, our glorious leader, David Quadrelli, will take over to answer your questions LIVE, starting at 10 AM!
Let’s get it started.
The Defenceman Factory intricate research corner: PP/PK ratios aka how many times did the Canucks win/lose the special teams battle?
Again, big kudos to Defenceman Factory’s mailbag questions, which gave me another excuse to hammer away for hours on Google Sheets and Hockey-Reference.com!
I created a simple +/- scoring structure for this one to evaluate the club’s power play and penalty kill.
Power play scoring
Plus-1 points for having a better conversion rate than the opposing team
Zero points for trading even with the opposing team
Minus-1 point for having a worse conversion rate on the power play than the opposing team
Penalty kill scoring
Plus-1 points for having a better kill than the opposing team
Zero points for trading even with the opposing team
Minus-1 point for having a worse penalty kill than the opposing team
Nullifiers
Zero power play opportunities for either team would void a grade for the special teams battle, as you can’t fairly say a team lost the power play battle if the other didn’t have one. Nor could you say one team won the penalty kill battle if the other team didn’t have one.
Plus-1 points for scoring any amount of shorthanded goals
Minus-1 points for conceding any amount of shorthanded goals
Examples:
In game 1 of the season, the Canucks scored three power play goals on six opportunities while conceding a power play goal on four penalty kills for a PP% of 50% and a PK% of 75%. Since Vancouver won both special teams percentages, they scored two points, securing the special teams victory.
In game 7 of the season, the Canucks went zero for four on the power play and two for two on the PK, giving them zero points in the special teams percentages battle. However, because Vancouver scored a shorthanded goal against the Blues, they earned a single point to help secure the special teams victory.
Results:
For the 2023-24 season, based on the above grading, the Canucks had a special teams record of 32-26- 24.
Here’s how that record played out in actual results:
This chart might elicit a “Gee, you think?” reaction, but I put a lot of effort into this research, so give me a break!
When the Canucks won the special teams battle, they won by a wide margin. When they traded even, they won games by almost a two-to-one margin. When they lost the special teams battle, they lost games by nearly a two-to-one margin. It’s still good, though!
For the folks that are big on how teams perform after the All Star Break, here’s some information that will help, or not help, your optimism for the team!
Despite the Canuck’s power play woes, they’ve barely won the special teams battle with a record of 12-11-10. When they’ve won the special teams battle, they’ve won their games 9 out of 12 times. When they lose the special teams battle? They’ve lost nine of ten. When special teams are neutralized, the club has won games by a two-to-one margin.
When it comes to Western Conference playoff teams, the Canucks have a special teams record of 10-8-8. Vancouver’s best performances on special teams came against the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.
For game one of the playoffs, the Canucks lost the special teams battle to the Predators but still managed to win the game. Improving their win/loss record to 10-17 when losing the special teams battle in 2023-24.
WRT Free Agents, who have been some of the better signings around the league? Are the Canucks still working as hard on this as they did the last couple of years?
I think we haven’t heard much about college/European/CHL free agents because this time of year features teams signing their draft picks out of the NCAA, or to amateur tryout contracts to play in the AHL, or are ultimately “could be a guy” lotto ticket types. Now isn’t really the time when teams try to nab the next Andrey Kumzenko type.
Additionally, the SHL, KHL, and LIIGA finals are still ongoing, so some of the better free-agent candidates are still focused on their team’s playoff pushes—less so on contract negotiations for a move to the NHL. Perhaps that’s why you haven’t heard much on the free agent front.
As for the Canucks, I arbitrarily picked a starting point of September 2023 (when NHL training camps start) to see how the Canucks have done in signing players to ELCs.
They’re in the top half of the bracket, with NHL ELCs signed to Sawyer Mynio, Ty Young, Christian Felton, and Ty Mueller.
Additionally, the AHL side of the organization added CHL free agent Joe Arntsen, a hulking 6’3″ 212-pound left-shot defenceman out of the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ organization.
Of the free agents signed by NHL teams, a few stand out, even if all are, for the most part, lottery tickets for their respective clubs at this point in their development path.
The Washington Capitals added 20-year-old left-shot defenceman Hudson Thornton to their AHL affiliate after wrapping up his WHL career with an 18-goal, 74-point season with the Prince George Cougars. Thornton ranked 101st on EliteProspects’ 2023 draft guide, ranking highly by Mitchell Brown’s 5v5 data tracking metrics regarding transitional play and zone entry defence.
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed 26-year-old 6’6″, 223-pound right-shot defenceman Nicolas Mattinen to an NHL ELC for next season after posting a 16-goal, 46-point season with the German DEL’s Straubing Tigers. Mattinen was a 2016 6th-round draft pick who went from the OHL to three years in the Canadian University Hockey system (USports). Mattinen returned to Europe for two seasons, where he was second or led in defenceman scoring. It’s more likely than anything that Mattinen peaks as an ECHL defenceman, but that’s the beauty of undrafted free agents: they’re cheap and could be anything if everything breaks right!
Because the Florida Panthers found a credible third-pairing defenceman in Uvis Balinskis just last summer, I’m going to assume that both Mikluas Hovorka and Oliver Okuliar will follow suit and be AHL/NHL tweeners next season. Hovorka’s scoring profile in his last year with Motor České Budějovice does not leap off the page, but given his age (22) and 6’6″, 229-pound frame as a right-shot defenceman, I’m going to assume the Panthers see a ton of potential for more when he makes it stateside. Okuliar was second in U24 scoring, with 24 goals and 21 assists with Mountfield HK. Only 22-year-old Jakub Rychlovsky scored more than Okuliar among U24s, scoring 26 goals and 20 assists with Bili Tygri Liberec.
The Panthers also upgraded Wilmer Skoog—one of the all-time great hockey names—to an NHL ELC after the 24-year-old went from scoring two goals and six assists across 20 ECHL games to posting a 21-goal season across 47 games with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Again, I wouldn’t pay much attention to this if it wasn’t Florida, who’ve made a habit of finding diamonds in the rough by the handful.
As for the Canucks, beyond their ELC and AHL work, I asked someone in the know, specifically, “Is the team still working as hard they did in previous years with regard to undrafted free agency?”
They replied emphatically, “Working hard.”
After apologizing for the silly question, they replied a second time, “Hard.”
If ever there was a time for eyeball emojis in a mailbag, now would be the time.

Quads’ LIVE mailbag

Juuse Saros or: How the Canucks can beat the Predators by going blocker side?
This is a great question to start off with.
During his post game interview last night, Canucks captain Quinn Hughes emphasized the importance of getting traffic in front of Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros when talking about his goal that sparked the Canucks’ exhilerating third period comeback.
“Millsy’s not going to get credit, but that was a great screen, nice pass by Brock. Yeah, just trying to get pucks on net, we know Saros is a great goalie, and we’re just going to have to take his eyes away.”
Undersized goaltenders are naturally going to struggle with finding the puck through traffic, but that appears to be the way to beat Saros, who has picked up Vezina Trophy votes for the past three seasons.
According to NHL Network’s Mike Kelly, Saros had an .863 save percentage on screened shots this season — 49th out of 54 qualified goalies.
It’s cliche to say a goalie can’t what he can’t see, but for Saros, that’s undeniably true.
Blocker side, glove side, it doesn’t really matter — what’s going to matter for the Canucks is getting bodies in front of the Nashville goaltender and getting shots through traffic.
How far do you think the team can make it given how they played in game one?
Well, it’s hard to see the Canucks’ Stanley Cup cutout that they intend to fill with game pucks after each of their wins and not at least believe they can make a run.
I said it before the series and game one affirmed it — the Canucks should be able to beat the Predators in round one. Can they make it to the Cup final? Sure, anyone can! What are the realistic expectations for the Pacific Division winners is another question though. Making it out of the first round is probably a low bar, but that’s where things stand right now.
One series at a time. One game at a time.
Great question.
Rick Tocchet out on a coaching clinic in game one, matching the Lindholm line against Nashville’s top line of O’Reilly, Forsberg, and Nyquist. Not only did the Canucks’ “third line” effectively neutralize the Predators’ top guns, they also got in on the scoring! It was a great night for the trio.
It was a less great night for Elias Pettersson, who was fairly quiet all throughout this one. The Canucks did go to The Lotto Line when they were looking for offence, but that’s not the best way to utilize Pettersson with the purpose of beating the Nashville Predators.
We saw the Canucks’ recipe for success last night, and that’s overwhelming Nashville with three lines that can score at any given moment.
Last night, it was the Joshua-Lindholm-Garland trio’s big night, but who’s to say that it won’t be Pettersson’s night in game two when he should face lower-end competition while the Miller and Lindholm lines take the more difficult matchups?
The temptation to put Pettersson on the wing should be reserved for when Tocchet wants to go to the Lotto Line for a shift or two — not for when Tocchet submits his starting lineup at puck drop.
If anything, you want to give both Pettersson and Nils Höglander to make an impact on this series. They were good together at times down the stretch, and Nashville simply doesn’t have the forward depth to force the Canucks to make a switch after one quiet night for EP40 and his linemates.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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