The Statsies: Breaking down the best loss that the Vancouver Canucks have had all year
Photo credit:© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
By Michael Liu9 months ago
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Quite the opening for the first game in the post-Bo era.
The Vancouver Canucks dropped a wild and exciting game in overtime, losing 5-4 against the New Jersey Devils. Result aside, this was a good hockey game. It featured a Vancouver team that looked structured in their own zone, losing their focus for a moment but finding their feet to come back from a deficit. The signs of Tocchet’s influence are starting to seep in – perhaps a step in the right direction.
Here’s the loss, by the numbers.
As always, you can find our glossary guide of advanced stats here.
Everything played out as expected in the game flow charts. Vancouver started quick, getting on the board early thanks to a Kuzmenko beauty. After that though, New Jersey responded with a flurry of their own chances. It speaks well to the Canucks effort defensively to bend but not yield too much by the end of the first period. The Devils out-chanced them 11-6, but only held a slim 5-4 lead in high-danger chances.
Of course, the defence wasn’t without its warts, especially in that second period. A loss of focus nearly doomed the Canucks with three unanswered goals given up in literally under a minute. That massive spike probably should’ve doomed them, but credit to Vancouver for battling back. Even with a 5-on-3 penalty kill in the third period, the visitors finished regulation in the positives in xGF% and CF% share, a nice ending in a game that could’ve gotten out of hand. What stood out the most was that in the third, the Canucks out-chanced the Devils 11-7, as well as pinning them down to only 1 HDCA.
This is a very solid heat map at both ends. Normally, Vancouver fans would be expecting a sea of chances in front of their own net, and instead, it’s a contained area of dense opportunities. It really isn’t bad, especially relative to other performances in other games this season. Outside of a bad stretch in the second period, the Canucks kept it close in the chances department. New Jersey had a 29-22 edge overall in scoring chances, but it was an even 12-12 battle in high-danger chances.
The biggest takeaway from the Canucks’ hotspot wasn’t that it was ever so slightly bigger than the Devils, but more so that the majority of their attempts came at 5v5 play. The repeatability of their chances has always been a sticking point, so the fact that they’re able to generate a consistent amount of opportunities from even-strength play should come as a sign of improvement.
Individual Advanced Stats
Corsi Champ: Who else but Andrei Kuzmenko himself? The winger paced the Canucks against the Devils with a 65.79 CF%, holding steady at a 22.93 CF% rel to team average. Beside his absolutely filthy goal, Kuzmenko led all Canuck forwards in raw xGF (1.38) along with 13 SCF, merely giving up 3 SCA. A large part of his success this season has come with his efficiency when on ice. Kuzmenko not only retains the puck well, but also makes sure that he’s creating high-danger events when he’s on ice. It’s something that other wingers don’t do nearly as well on this team, and Vancouver is all the better when the Kuzmenk-show is rolling.
Corsi Chump: For a game where the teams nearly split the CF% share, you’re going to have someone who was dragging their feet a bit. In this one, JT Miller finishes as the worst Corsi man on the Canucks, coming in at a 40.54 CF% at a -14.59 CF% rel. He was the only Canuck to have a negative CF% rel in the double digits, with the next worst being Phil Di Giuseppe’s -9.27. Miller also gave up the highest xGA by a forward (1.08), the most SCA (11), and a 37.50 HDCF%. Not a great look, but contextually, it’s explainable. Miller mostly matched up against the Devils’ first line of Palat-Hischier-Bratt, which doesn’t sound too fearsome until you look at what they’ve been doing. Hischier and Bratt have been holding a 72.92 CF% clip in 341 minutes together, raking 39 goals while only conceding 9. Their xGF% on the season sits at an absurd 76.89.
xGF: Hats off to Curtis Lazar, who finished as the best Canuck in xGF% (79.30). Besides tallying the goal to cut the Devils’ lead to one, Lazar played some excellent defensive hockey to boost his xGF% rate. His 0.06 xGA was the lowest on the entire Vancouver roster, helping make his 0.36 xGF look that much better. What was the most interesting in this game though, was that Riley Stillman of all players led the Canucks in raw xGF (1.51).
GSAx: All things considered, Collin Delia wasn’t a liability, but nor did he really do all that much to help the Canucks win this game. The Devils posted a 2.70 xGF in this matchup, resulting in Delia recording a -2.30 GSAx. A dearth in high-danger saves probably was responsible for the low numbers this time, New Jersey only putting 10 against and converting on 3. Meanwhile, Delia also gave up 2 low-danger goals, which also sent his GSAx down the drain. Again, it wasn’t the best game, but Delia also definitely wasn’t a sieve.
Go off, Riley Stillman: Let’s talk about the whipping boy who decided to become a golden boy. Riley Stillman just had the best game he’s had with the Canucks, and possibly in his NHL career. His stats jump off the page. Stillman had the third-highest CF% amongst defenceman (51.28) in 17:49 TOI, mostly against New Jersey’s top 6. To go with his team-leading xGF, Stillman was the third-best Canuck defenceman in xGA (0.87), generating 12 SCF and 8 HDCF to pair with 6 SCA and 3 HDCA. Perhaps playing in a more structured defensive system allows Stillman’s deficiencies to be masked just that extra bit, which gives the Canucks just that extra bit of pace from the back end.
Pettersson and Kuzmenko with a new partner in crime: Anthony Beauvillier’s arrival in Vancouver saw him debut alongside Pettersson and Kuzmenko. It worked decently well, being one of the better lines the Canucks had to offer analytically. The trio finished as the three highest Canucks in CF%, the line posting a 60.71 CF% together to lead all forward units. Though they were on the ice for three goals against, this unit was also responsible for the most HDCF of any combination (9). Obviously, seeing three goals given up isn’t a promising sign, but considering that they were able to click offensively, the kinks surely can be worked out on the back end. What’s interesting is that the three of them also didn’t post the worst xGA. Kuzmenko and Pettersson finished with a 0.54 xGA, tied for fourth best, while Beauvillier wasn’t too far behind in 5th (0.60).
As a team
CF% – 50.43% HDCF% – 50.00% xGF% – 49.81%
It was a dead-even battle that the Canucks just happened to lose. The stats show exactly what was expected, though there were a couple of surprises from individual players. Again, this is probably the best Vancouver has ever played in a loss thus far this season, and probably had moments where they could’ve snuck out with a win. Good 5v5 play and signs of a defensive structure should be the biggest positives to take away from this result, along with further progression to a lottery pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Next up, the Canucks roll into Madison Square Garden for a Wednesday night showdown against the New York Rangers.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com
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