The Statsies: The numbers behind Sam Lafferty’s cameo on Elias Pettersson’s wing

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
6 months ago
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It wasn’t easy, but these are the hockey games that are entertaining to watch.
The Vancouver Canucks managed to hang onto a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames in more nerve-racking fashion than most fans probably wanted. The third period saw Vancouver fall victim to score effects and give up a lot of chances, which nearly came back to haunt them in the end. But, for this team to come up with an effort to get back into the win column, especially against a surging Flames group, definitely isn’t a bad result 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 entire game was a bit of a stalemate. Neither the Flames nor the Canucks truly seized control of the game, each team going through spells of pressure at 5v5 along with their power plays spurring spikes in CF% and xGF%. The first saw Vancouver and Calgary sitting at a 7-6 scoring chance difference with an even 4-4 split, while the CF% just barely favoured the Flames at 51.61 CF%. Vancouver did out-chance Calgary by a 14-8 margin in the middle frame, but that only yielded a 5-4 HDCF advantage. The third saw the Flames return the favour with a 13-7 SCF difference as they pushed for the tie, but the Canucks just managed to hang on for the final horn.

Heat Map

With a total of 15-12 HDCF in favour of the Flames, it does make sense that the heat map would look like this tonight. The Flames seemed to have a larger spread in area with their chances, but they weren’t as dense as the hot patch the Canucks generated right in the low slot area. The total scoring chances stood at 28-27 for Vancouver as well, showing that this game was relatively efficient for them when it came to generating quality chances in the moments that they got them. While it’s not the finest effort defensively, it’s also not bad, and Vancouver balanced it out by getting good opportunities of their own.

Individual Advanced Stats

Corsi Champ: Leading the way in the Corsi department was Ilya Mikheyev, racking up 70.83 CF% on the night against the Flames. The winger translated that puck possession into some tangible offence as well, a goal and an assist as a result of a 72.69 xGF% share last night. Mikheyev has looked pretty darn solid since he returned from injury, and with Elias Pettersson managing to get some traction again, the Russian is finding a fit in the top 6 once more.
Corsi Chump: This one makes sense with the context and it’s not a bad thing at all. Nils Åman got pummeled in CF%, his 12.50 CF% a full -38.06 CF% rel from the team’s average. The lack of puck possession translated to the xGF% share, where Åman only managed a 3.51 on the night (yes, that’s 3 percent). The Swede also faced 9 scoring chances against, 4 of them registering as high-danger, while generating zero scoring chances for. This all doesn’t sound too great, until you consider that Åman was tasked with playing nearly all his minutes against the Flames’ top 6. And for a bottom-6er to hold them to zero goals for during his TOI, that isn’t bad for a night’s work by Åman.


xGF: This one is… wait, Noah Juulsen? Aside from a really bad play that gave up a goal, Juulsen actually didn’t play that awful against the Flames last night. His 79.35 xGF% led all Canucks in that category, with his xGA of 0.19 putting him in second. The thing is that Noah Juulsen isn’t a bad option as a 6th/7th defenceman, the problem is that the Canucks are currently riding him in the top 4 at times, and that’s why he’s been overexposed at moments in situations where he’s clearly overmatched. In this one, balancing the eye test with the stats becomes key, because looking a just one will influence the perception of Juulsen’s game one way or another. The truth is probably in between the “greatest defender of the night” and “the worst player in the NHL.” It was Pettersson that led Vancouver in raw xGF, tallying a 2.66 to pace the way for the Canucks.
GSAx: Thatcher Demko did just enough to stay in the positives tonight. The Calgary Flames racked up 3,30 xGF in this one, meaning that Demko finished with a 0.30 GSAx, meaning that he pretty much did his job and nothing more. That’s more than fine, as he gave the Canucks what they needed in order to win the game, and didn’t exactly steal the result for the team. Two of the three goals came from high-danger areas, while one was at middle danger. There could possibly be signs of concern though, as Demko looked pretty beat up in this one and slow to get up at times. Hopefully, he’ll be able to see some rest soon.

Statistical Musings

Laffing to the bank: Okay, maybe he’s not a permanent solution, but it was very interesting to see Sam Lafferty replacing Andrei Kuzmenko alongside Pettersson and Mikheyev. Not only that, he turned in a very solid performance, with the line leading the Canucks forward units in CF%, xGF%, SCF%, and HDCF%. Lafferty recorded the 4th best CF% (61.90) and 7th best xGF% (64.67) at 5v5 on the roster. This is a guy that was cast off by the Leafs because he couldn’t crack their bottom 6 consistently, and now look at him featuring for the top line in Vancouver and performing well to boot. It remains to be seen if this is something that will be sustainable, but hey, may as well try it when you can.
How did Zadorov do?: Aside from the assist on the game-winning goal, the newest Canuck featured in a relatively reduced role in the lineup to start off. Nikita Zadorov was the 5th defenceman by ice time, finishing with the 4th-best CF% and 5th-best xGF% in the defence corps. Paired up with Tyler Myers in a duo that promised chaos, the pair actually did really well in the Corsi front, recording 61.11 CF% together. Their xGF% during their time together also sat at an impressive 78.80, which really isn’t bad considering everything. Zadorov also got put into tough situations, starting only 25% of his shifts in the offensive zone, while 30.77% of his faceoff starts were in the o-zone as well. He was leaned on and stepped up, so there are promising signs of where he’s going to be once he settles in more with the Canucks.

As a team

CF% – 44.76% HDCF% – 44.44% xGF% – 52.40%
It wasn’t a game where either Calgary or Vancouver took the reins. Both teams traded blows, feeling each other out, riding momentum swings to try and get the game going in their favour. That’s not a bad thing, and for a Canucks team who had been dealing with issues starting on time and consistent effort levels, it was a good test to see if they could pull out a result after everything they’ve gone through. There’s still things that need to be addressed, but statistically, the win was a pretty solid demonstration of good structured hockey.
Vancouver returns home with a bit more time to rest, before the New Jersey Devils rock up into town on December 5th.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com

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