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The Statsies: A strong game for Hughes-Hronek unable to help Canucks soar over Flyers

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
5 months ago
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It did not feel like Christmas Break ended.
The Vancouver Canucks lost 4-1 at home to the Philadelphia Flyers in an incredibly sleepy affair. It genuinely just sucked to watch as a hockey game – low event, boring, sluggish, and not very exciting. Perhaps the context of it being right after Christmas makes it understandable, but it doesn’t make it any more palatable. The Canucks had their chances to take the initiative in this game and let it slip away time and time again – and in the end, their game-breakers didn’t do anything to break the game in their favour. The result was well deserved.
Here’s the loss, by the numbers.
As always, you can find our glossary guide of advanced stats here.

Game Flow

Not much of this game flow should come as a surprise. The Canucks found themselves on the back foot early, trying to claw back momentum from the Flyers only to not make much inroads at all. With how low-event the entire game was, any slight edge would prove to be important, and it was Philadelphia that struck with three quick tallies in the second. That was really all it took to push the game out of reach for Vancouver, as after the early third period marker, the Canucks fumbled a shorthanded goal that sealed the deal.

Heat Map

There was still a decent amount of high-danger chances despite how dead the game felt energy-wise. In total, the Canucks held a slight 25-24 edge in scoring chances, but the Flyers were leading 14-12 in high-danger chances. That’s reflected in the density of the team’s respective hot spots in the slot area, where Philadelphia’s shade of blue is just ever so slightly darker than Vancouver’s. That being said, the Canucks did have a wider spread in their hot spot, suggesting that they did get some variation. But, it’s hard to win hockey games when you’re giving up a repeated high concentration of high-danger chances in your own end.

Individual Advanced Stats

Corsi Champ: Quinn Hughes was doing his best to carry the Canucks last night. The top defenceman on the roster was also the top dog in CF% against the Flyers, posting a 72.97 last night. This came with the Canucks outshooting the Flyers 15-4 every time Hughes was on the ice, generating a 73.59 xGF% which ranked him second in that category. Unfortunately, the offence wasn’t quite there for Hughes, and it was outweighed by the two goals that Philadelphia scored when he was on ice. The scoring chances stood at 10-7 in favour of Vancouver, suggesting that Hughes both generated a lot of chances and saw a lot coming the other way.
Corsi Chump: In probably his worst game in Vancouver, Nikita Zadorov demonstrated why teams should be cautious about handing him a $5 million AAV deal. The big Russian recorded a 31.43 CF% to come in dead last on the team, which also landed him with a team-worst 1.46 xGA as well. Zadorov saw a 7-13 scoring chance difference and a 5-9 HDCF deficit against the Flyers during his TOI, which was a significant 19:22. It just wasn’t a good night for him, and unfortunately that had a big impact on Vancouver’s game as well.

THE STATSIES PRESENTED BY BETWAY

xGF: Andrei Kuzmenko was his old analytical darling self, coming in with a team-high 80.91 xGF% on the night. He had the third-lowest xGA (0.42) and highest xGF (1.76), so it wasn’t as if it was entirely unfounded. Kuzmenko took full advantage of his deployment as well, starting 83.33% of his shifts in the offensive zone and 62.50% of his faceoffs in the o-zone as well. He didn’t record a point, but was put in a position to generate offensive pressure and generally did that job well. However, Kuzmenko also didn’t find the scoresheet in this one, so converting on the chances remains a big piece for him this season.
GSAx: It was looking really good for Casey DeSmith until it wasn’t. To be fair to him, he was excellent in the first period, but after that, with the team’s defence breaking down in front of him, it was only a matter of time before the Flyers found the twine. DeSmith faced only 2.55 xGF from the Flyers, pegging his GSAx at -1.45, which isn’t a pretty number to be looking at. It doesn’t help matters that only two of the goals were high-danger goals, while the other two were split between a middle-danger chance and a low-danger chance. Again, DeSmith did his best, but he isn’t someone that is going to be stealing games for the Canucks (and nor should he be expected to).

Statistical Musings

Hughes-Hronek excellent once more: It’s been a while since this pairing has popped off of the stat sheet, but against the Flyers the top pairing of the Canucks tried as hard as they could to give Vancouver a chance at taking this game. Playing against the entirety of Philly’s top 9 forwards, the pairing played excellent, tallying an 82.35 CF%, 64.14 xGF%, while having the Canucks outshoot the Flyers 8-1 during their TOI together. Again, this isn’t to say they’ve been particularly bad in previous matchups – but they were noticeably good statistically against Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it didn’t amount to anything in this one, but one would think that it’s coming with the rate metrics that they’re putting up.
Where the details were lacking: It’s interesting looking at the stat lines from the Canucks forward group, because generally speaking they were all unremarkable. Yes, Hoglander-Miller-Boeser posting a 27.69 xGF% was concerning, but the other 3 forward lines were above 50% xGF% and every forward unit was over 50% in CF%. There wasn’t anything offensively poor from the outset – in fact, they were all pretty solid numbers – which suggests that the 5-minute lapse Vancouver had in the second period really did cost them dearly. The details were lacking, caught up in a slow pace and lack of energy, and the Canucks generally got outwaited by the Flyers who capitalized on mistakes. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but for the last game of 2023, that’s not the worst thing to happen.

As a team

CF% – 53.85% HDCF% – 46.15% xGF% – 52.56%
It’s honestly refreshing to consider the Canucks a good team that had a bad game. This just didn’t have the right vibe from the opening puck drop, and the team lacked the spark and gear to get them to the result that they wanted. Philly isn’t a slouch of a team either, striking on any opportunity given to them, but it definitely played to their favour that the home team didn’t really come out with any energy. It’s not the Canucks’ best effort – but they’re probably aware of that, and from the sounds of it, the coaching staff will get them clicking back into gear after the break.
Vancouver doesn’t play again until the new year, hosting the Ottawa Senators at home next Tuesday.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com

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