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The Statsies: Wait, are the 2023-24 Vancouver Canucks actually good?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
6 months ago
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The Canucks should kick off the season at home more often if this is what we’re being treated to.
In their season opener, the Vancouver Canucks thrashed the Edmonton Oilers 8-1 in a game where they looked more hungry and passionate than an alleged Stanley Cup contender. There was plenty to like about the performance, from the goals to the systems and how this team shut down two of the best hockey players in the world. A frustrated McDavid and Draisaitl did not look very convincing against the Canucks at all last night. Funnily enough though, the stats make this game look a lot closer than the score suggests, but that might just be a good thing for Vancouver.
Here’s the win, by the numbers.
As always, you can find our glossary guide of advanced stats here.

Game Flow

What makes this game flow map interesting is that the trendlines aren’t far and away in Vancouver’s favour. Sure, the Canucks were the better team this game and it showed in the end result, but it wasn’t as if the Oilers ever went away. They had moments last night where the game flow was in their favour — but what’s impressive is that Vancouver never let that amount to anything. They did a good job halting whatever pressure Edmonton was able to generate and turned it around to score their own goals — which is something that other teams did plenty to the Canucks last season. Take the second period, for instance, where Vancouver recorded only 35.00 CF% with an xGF% of 42.34. The score was 3-1 in their favour, largely thanks to them limiting the Oilers to just four high-danger chances despite the expected goals and Corsi advantage for the visitors. This is something that’ll be interesting to keep an eye on as the season progresses, to see the defensive systems that this team will execute.

Heat Map

The heat map backs up the defensive identity that this Canucks team wants to play and they came up big in front of Demko. Edmonton was only outshot 32-27, but their shots were generally of lower quality and not coming from right in the middle of the slot. They had a little bit of sustained opportunities from in tight — but nothing significant, unlike years prior. Even that goal from the right faceoff circle by Draisaitl is one that sort of just happens — that’s where his power play office is and there’s not really much a team can do about it.
On the flip side, the Canucks were able to just pound pucks in front of the net to create their own hot spot. A concern with Tocchet teams in the past was where the offence would come from. That was not the issue at all last night as Vancouver created a lot of chances from high-danger areas right in Campbell/Skinner’s crease. Those are the opportunities you want to have for sustainable offensive production.

Individual Advanced Stats

Corsi Champ: I mean, he’s just picking up where he left off last year. Andrei Kuzmenko is the regular season’s first Corsi Champ with a staggering 88.00 CF% to lead the Canucks last night. During his 16:22 TOI, Kuzmenko had 22 CF and just 3 CA, with a 15-2 shot differential. The Russian winger didn’t manage to pot a goal last night, recording only one assist, but maybe he was sharing his goal-scoring prowess and lending that finishing power to another winger in the Canucks’ lineup.
Corsi Chump: There always has to be one, and in this case, Noah Juulsen was the Corsi chump of last night. His tally of 25.00 CF% brought up the rear in the Corsi department for the Canucks, playing alongside Akito Hirose on the third pair. It wasn’t the best of games for the physical defender, giving up nine scoring chances against and three high-danger chances against. There wasn’t much going the other way either, with Juulsen’s 0.12 xGF the worst in the lineup as well. However – none of that cost the Canucks, and this pairing saw around 15 minutes on ice last night as well. Obviously, they’ll need to be better, but it’s encouraging to see that the defence by committee is holding up one game into the season.

THE STATSIES PRESENTED BY BETWAY

xGF: Andrei Kuzmenko finds himself as the xGF% leader on the team last night with a 91.78. The A+ expected goals percentage is a direct result of his team-best 0.14 xGA, though an 88.89% offensive zone shift start percentage and 85.71% offensive zone faceoff start would do that to anyone. He didn’t make the most of his deployment points-wise but definitely did his part in helping the Canucks generate offence last night. Kuzmenko was on ice for 12 scoring chances for and just 1 against, with 4 of the 12 scoring chances being recorded as high danger. In terms of raw xGF, it was JT Miller who led the way with a 2.58.
GSAx: Since two goalies played, we gotta do two GSAx. Starting with the man who threw up in his own mask, Thatcher Demko staved off any flu-like symptoms with a fine game by any standard. The Oilers racked up 2.56 xGF when he was on ice, meaning that the one low-danger chance he gave up as the goal only put Demko at a 1.56 GSAx. Again, nothing to complain about when he’s making saves, even more so when he’s fighting off the flu. As for Casey DeSmith, the Canucks backup was solid in his 11-minute cameo, registering a 0.51 GSAx during that time. Not a bad outing at all, where nearly every aspect of this team looked solid.

Statistical Musings

The numbers behind Boeser’s night: Even though Save-on’s score and win isn’t a thing on national TV, Brock Boeser came so close to hitting that elusive 5-goal mark. The American winger looked like he had his confidence back in his shot, and was just ripping pucks whenever he had the chance. What else stood out was just how Boeser seemed to have that other gear to him again, being quicker to pucks, quicker to his spots, and quicker to shoot. It’s that extra pace that was missing for the last couple of seasons and was encouraging to see these results after a change in offseason preparations.
Boeser might not have won any of the previous advanced stat categories, but he was definitely up there. He led the Canucks in CF (30), was 5th in CF% (61.22), 2nd in xGF (2.47), and 3rd in xGF% (77.96). Vancouver outshot Edmonton 22-7 when he was on the ice and out-chanced them 17-9. Pretty much all you could ask for in nearly every area of the game.
Hughes-Hronek are so good: The newest captain of the Vancouver Canucks said that Hronek is probably the best defenceman that he’s ever played alongside. That statement was demonstrated last night as the Hughes-Hronek pair looked great. Hronek tallied 2 assists while Hughes recorded 3 helpers, but it wasn’t the offensive production that defined them. It was the fact that, playing primarily against McDavid’s line, they held the best player in the world to just 50.00 CF%, 67.91 xGF%, and 6 scoring chances in total at 5v5. Draisaitl was kept to 42.86 CF% and 47.13 xGF% in that span as well. Obviously it’s a small sample size, but that’s still great numbers no matter how you cut it.
Speaking of matching up…: What a job by the Phil Di Giuseppe – JT Miller – Brock Boeser line in also shutting down McDrai. The two players that make up the Oilers’ team got absolutely dumpstered against this unit at 5v5 play. Draisaitl was completely thrown off by the Canucks’ efforts against him, registering a measly 25.00 CF% and 22.80 xGF% when playing against PDG, with similar stats against the rest of the line as well. McDavid’s xGF% hovered around 80% when against this line (which is expected, given how dangerous he can be), but was only limited to 5 shots and 7 scoring chances against this line. His CF% also sat below 50%, which is unreal given the puck possession that he usually records. It was definitely a collective effort, but this line that played the most against McDrai definitely got in their heads.

As a team

CF% – 49.54% HDCF% – 54.55% xGF% – 56.27%
While the stats only show a slight edge for the Vancouver Canucks, they showed on ice the brand of hockey that they wanted to play. The team looked good, they looked fast, they looked like they wanted the win much more than the Oilers – and that definitely shook Edmonton. That stat edge was expanded on thanks to that desire to win and they deservedly pumped the Oilers full of rubber last night. It wasn’t just the goals too, with the team defence looking like they were going to snuff out anything that came their way. It’s certainly quite the change from years past, and there’s plenty to like about the first outing of the season.
The Canucks will now head to Rogers Place on Saturday as the Oilers will look for revenge on their home turf.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com

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