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The Statsies: Joshua-Lindholm-Garland win matchup against Forsberg-O’Reilly-Nyquist to spur Game 1 victory

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
1 month ago
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9 years of pent-up energy erupting at last.
The Vancouver Canucks came back in dramatic fashion, scoring two quick goals in the third en route to a 4-2 victory in Game 1 against the Nashville Predators. It was an incredible playoff game, showing just how starved of postseason hockey that this market was. Vancouver hit everything in sight, and though they fell behind in this game twice, they never looked out of it. The Canucks were impressive at 5v5 and that helped them put together enough momentum to charge into the lead. That can’t be overstated in a game where the Predators looked poised to steal one on the road.
Here’s the win, by the numbers.
As always, you can find our glossary guide of advanced stats here.

Game Flow

The opening period featured classic back-and-forth hockey, with neither team really managing to get a foothold but displaying plenty of energy through the first 10 minutes. It was Nashville that struck first to open the scoring in the series, but Vancouver found their response early in the second. The middle frame saw the best 5v5 hockey for the Canucks, recording a 54.29 CF% to go with a 77.40 xGF%. The issue was that the Predators got a series of power plays that prevented the Canucks from building any momentum off of that, in fact leading to Nashville’s 2-1 lead heading into the third period. Vancouver pushed hard and struck twice in 12 seconds, before defending the lead with a healthy 57.69 CF% share to close out the game.

Heat Map

There weren’t a lot of scoring chances in this game, so for the Canucks to hold a heat map like this one is pretty darn good. In total, Vancouver held a narrow 25-20 scoring chance edge, with a 9-6 advantage in high-danger chances across all situations. They did create a hot spot in front of Juuse Saros, while the Preds were unable to get a similar spot in the low slot area themselves. Both teams were pretty cagey when it came to shots (21-21), so the low amount of scoring chances reflected here does line up with how the game played out. Vancouver got all of their high-danger chances at 5v5, which is a good marker of their even-strength play, but does continue to raise questions about their power play.

Individual Advanced Stats

Corsi Champ: Pius Suter found himself in a familiar combination last night, playing alongside JT Miller and Brock Boeser and producing some great stats alongside them. Suter tallied the team’s best CF% with 76.00, helping the Canucks to a 7-2 shot advantage while he was on the ice. Suter and his linemates took full advantage of playing against the Predators’ third line, dominating them for large stretches of the game and getting plenty of good opportunities while they were on the ice.
Corsi Chump: Ilya Mikheyev saw limited ice time in this one at 5v5 as Rick Tocchet continues to try and find a combination that works for him. The Russian brought up the rear in CF% with 28.57, producing a 33.11 xGF% during his ice time. Mikheyev didn’t bleed a lot of chances though, narrowly giving up a 4-5 scoring chance edge while splitting the high-danger chances 1-1. Again, he wasn’t bad, but he also wasn’t doing a lot that contributed to the Canucks win. It’s odd that he was put down on the fourth line, especially after playing some decent hockey alongside Elias Pettersson and Nils Höglander in the final month of the regular season.

THE STATSIES PRESENTED BY BETWAY

xGF: Suter finds himself leading the Canucks in this category too, racking up an impressive 92.32 xGF% share. For context, the next best Canuck was Elias Lindholm who put up a 65.63 xGF%. Suter’s team-high rate came from the third-best xGF of 1.01 and the team’s best xGA of 0.08. The Swiss posted an 8-1 scoring chance advantage with a 5-0 high-danger chance differential, doing more than his fair share on the wing with Miller and Boeser. It was Suter who ended up tipping home the tying goal on Quinn Hughes’ shot from the point. For raw xGF, it was Suter’s linemate Boeser who led the team with a 1.15 on the night.
GSAx: Thatcher Demko was dialed last night. When the Canucks needed him, he was more than up to the task to answer whatever Nashville had to throw his way. With the Predators generating a total of 2.36 xGF on the night, Demko finished with a 0.36 GSAx, which isn’t doing his performance justice. A reason for that could be that the goals came from a 1-1 split of middle and low-danger opportunities, with low-percentage goals getting converted. Demko was sparkling on the high-danger chances though, with a huge save in the first period that kept the game tied. He made the big stops when it mattered, and Vancouver had a chance to win this game because of his efforts.

Statistical Musings

The perfect matchup: If someone were to say that Dakota Joshua – Elias Lindholm – Conor Garland were to form a line for the Canucks in the playoffs and then proceed to go up against the opposition’s first line, there would understandably be raised eyebrows. But not only was that the case last night, having Joshua-Lindholm-Garland go up against Forsberg-O’Reilly-Nyquist produced some incredible results. First off was Lindholm’s goat to knot things up at 1 apiece:
And then came Joshua’s electric go-ahead goal after an outstanding Lindholm forecheck and Garland assist:
They weren’t just being opportunistic and lucky either. This line was holding its own against Nashville’s top threats, taking a 65.40 xGF% share with them and keeping their opposition to just one high-danger chance and 2 shots. Being able to nullify Forsberg-O’Reilly-Nyquist at 5v5 is one thing – but being able to score against them in big moments and tack three goals to the equation while doing the defensive work? That’s a massive contribution and one that definitely got the Canucks the victory in this one. In the final moments of the game, it was Joshua-Lindholm-Garland who were out there to shut things down, Lindholm winning some key late faceoffs against O’Reilly and Joshua potting his second into the empty net.
No way Andrei Kuzmenko would ever be trusted to be in that situation.
Defensive distribution: Another aspect that might’ve flown under the radar was how well-manged the defencemen were in this game. Only Quinn Hughes recorded over 20 minutes of ice time across all situations, with the d-corps remaining between 17-19 TOI. While none of the defencemen set fire with their CF% or xGF% shares or any other numbers, what stood out was how consistent they were across the board. Not a single defender finished the game with a negative split in high-danger chances. Only Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek faced more than one high-danger chance against. All of the back end was pretty much plug-and-play, doing admirably well in stifling any Nashville intrusion on their end in any given situation.
Got a little unlucky: From the numbers, Suter-Miller-Boeser should’ve racked up more offence. They were by far and away the Canucks’ best forward line statistically, posting a 76.00 CF%, 0.97 xGF, 0.07 xGA, 93.07 xGF%, an 8-1 SCF lead, and 5-0 HDCF advantage as well. They poured it on against their opposition, freed up thanks to Tocchet matching Joshua-Lindholm-Garland to perfection. Suter-Miller-Boeser generated plenty of offensive pressure against the Predators, which shouldn’t be understated even if they only had one goal to show for it. Those are the kinds of shifts that you can build off of, and this line provided that in spades last night.
Finding Area 51: There is one blemish on this game, and unfortunately, it comes in the form (or the lack of) of Elias Pettersson. The Swede was not at his best in this game, unable to really make a difference besides a short snippet on the Lotto Line. Pettersson finished with the 5th-worst CF% and the second-worst xGF% on the team, giving up a team-high 1.06 xGA. That comes when you’re giving up a 1-4 high-danger chance differential, being the only Canuck to have a negative HDCF ratio last night. Vancouver got the win in this one thanks to excellent work from their top unit and the nominal third line. But if they want to keep on winning in the playoffs, Pettersson needs to find that gear to his game that seems to have gone missing since the All-Star break.

As a team

CF% – 53.33% HDCF% – 60.00% xGF% – 53.35%
Buoyed by the electric home crowd, the Canucks turned up the dial and secured a big Game 1 victory. They did a great job at 5v5 throughout the course of the game, settling in after a rapid, if shotless, first couple of minutes. The team didn’t fold when they went down, continuing to put together strings of shifts, finding the momentum they needed to get themselves in front and keep them there. If there is one thing that should’ve gone better, the power play continues to be a little bit off. But, thanks to a Tocchet masterclass and putting players in positions to succeed, the Canucks didn’t need to rely on power play looks to win this one. They got big performances from key forwards, all the while managing their back end to perfection. It was a huge result, one 9 years in the making.
Vancouver hosts Game 2 next on Tuesday as they look to double their series lead.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com

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