The Statsies: JT Miller duels Sidney Crosby in Canucks’ overtime loss to Penguins

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
1 month ago
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A fitting way to cap off the worst month of the 2023-24 season.
The Vancouver Canucks dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game where they blew a 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead. This team didn’t play a full 60 minutes again, their third period letting them down after being so clinical in holding leads earlier in the year. The thing is, the Pens weren’t particularly impressive either – the Canucks more or less handed them the game on a silver platter. Vancouver looked pretty solid at 5v5, but overall the team needs to pay way more attention to the details or risk more self-inflicted defeats.
Here’s the loss, by the numbers.
As always, you can find our glossary guide of advanced stats here.

Game Flow

Through the first and second periods, the Canucks were looking like they were cruising. Even after losing a two-goal lead, the CF% and xGF% shares were firmly to their advantage. Vancouver posted a 60.84 xGF% in the first and 62.01 xGF% in the second to go with a 64.29 CF% and 52.63 CF% in those frames. But while the team started off great, the third left a lot to be desired. Their CF% dropped to 46.15 while the xGF% plummeted to 37.79, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to hold a one-goal lead. Yes, score effects and being on the penalty kill did impact some of these numbers, but from the trend lines, most of these changes were occurring at 5v5, which just isn’t good enough. Overtime saw the Penguins control most of the play from beginning to end, the Canucks leaving Demko out to dry in the extra period.

Heat Map

The heat map isn’t appalling to look at as a Canucks fan. Generally speaking, they got more scoring chances from high-danger areas than the Pens, a testament to a good game at both ends. However, despite a 34-34 scoring chance tie and 15-14 high-danger chance advantage for Vancouver, it’s important to look at when these chances were occurring. The first and second saw the Canucks out-chance the Pens, but they faded in the third, allowing Pittsburgh to rack up an 8-6 lead in scoring chances, tying them 2-2 in high-danger chances. Then, in overtime, Pittsburgh held a 7-1 edge in scoring chances and 3-1 lead in high-danger chances – simply not good enough for the Canucks to pull out the victory in this one.

Individual Advanced Stats

Corsi Champ: This one is an interesting one. Sam Lafferty finds himself as the team’s best Corsi man, leading the Canucks with 90.48 CF% after some rougher games on the possession front. It comes with a new-look fourth line, with Teddy Blueger getting bumped down alongside Lafferty and Phil Di Giuseppe. The early results were decently solid numbers-wise, despite being on ice for a goal against. Lafferty spent most of the game against the bottom 6 of the Pens, generally out-matching them at every turn.
Corsi Chump: Corolla wasn’t quite reliable in this one. With Teddy Blueger away from him, Conor Garland posted the worst CF% on the team, a 17.65 CF% making him -48.14 CF% rel to team average. It’s pretty bad numbers from someone who’s been so consistently good this season, especially when it comes to Corsi. Garland was tied for the lowest xGF (0.16) and the third-highest xGA (0.65) on the team, a 1-6 scoring chance differential not doing him any favours. He just didn’t look quite right, more like the Garland that was on the trade block earlier on in the season.


xGF: Lafferty is back again, this time striking with a 78.10 xGF% in a game where his intensity at both ends of the ice was noticeable. He posted the lowest xGA on the team (0.29), while a 1.03 xGF ranked him in a tie for fourth on the roster. Lafferty was on ice for a 10-2 disparity in scoring chances, producing three high-danger chances and facing just one against. It was a good night and one where he clearly matched up well against the bottom end of Pittsburgh’s lineup, benefitting from having Blueger centring his line. Tyler Myers led the team in raw xGF, producing an impressive 1.74 xGF on the night.
GSAx: Thatcher Demko did his best. He got the Canucks started early with a huge save on Sidney Crosby and made an unreal save in overtime before the goal – but unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough. The Penguins produced 3.45 xGF on the night meaning that Demko finished with a -0.15 xGSA, but that’s pretty much down to the margins. At worst, Demko was breaking the Canucks even last night. Of the four goals against, three of them came from high-danger areas, with one goal from middle-danger. Definitely not the worst night for him, and Demko shouldn’t be the one who bears the blame for this result.

Statistical Musings

Finding a fourth that clicks: As mentioned earlier, PDG-Blueger-Lafferty found themselves paired together against the Penguins and produced some impressive numbers together as a line. Both by raw metrics and share numbers, they were the best line at 5v5 for the Canucks, generating 88.89 CF%, 0.97 xGF%, 77.14 xGF%, 80.00 SCF%, and 75.00 HDCF%, all of which were team-highs. It’s a welcome surprise for Lafferty and PDG, the pair of them having struggled through the last stretch of games. They were deployed and used effectively against Pittsburgh’s bottom 6 and could be an interesting point of observation with Dakota Joshua out for the next little while at least.
Where Lindholm isn’t quite fitting in: Elias Lindholm is a good player. That shouldn’t be something that is taken away from him – however, the Swede just can’t seem to find a good place in the lineup currently. With Arshdeep Bains and Garland flanking him, the trio posted the worst numbers of any Canuck forward line last night, coming in with a 17.65 CF%, 21.16 xGF%, 0.16 xGF, and 0.59 xGA, all the while getting out-shot 0-9 in their TOI. The thing is, they weren’t even against the true big guns for the Pens either, splitting time against Lars Eller and Gino Malkin – good players, but not the top end of their lineup. He only spent 2:51 against Sidney Crosby at 5v5.
JT Miller trying to carry the team on his back: The most consistent forward production-wise this year has been JT Miller, and the effort and energy that he brings every night has been a big driving force for this team. Against the Penguins, he was tasked with matching up against Sidney Crosby, doing an admirable job to nullify the Pittsburgh captain. While the share metrics were slightly in Crosby’s favour, Miller did a great job in keeping him off the scoresheet, while being able to put up two points playing away from number 87. It was a good night for him in what’s been a string of games where Miller has been the Canucks’ best forward.

As a team

CF% – 51.56% HDCF% – 51.72% xGF% – 52.23%
The Canucks weren’t bad in this one. They looked solid at even strength, getting themselves into winning positions, and generally doing the right things. But Vancouver stumbled when it mattered, blowing those leads that they got themselves into, hurting themselves in key moments and allowing Pittsburgh to stick around. Again, not the end of the world and they still managed to get a point. But, this result also caps off the worst month of Canucks hockey for this season, finishing with a 5-5-2 record. Not great, not terrible – but hopefully, something that this team can bounce back from.
Vancouver welcomes the Los Angeles Kings to town on Thursday.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com

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