The Tape: A shift by shift analysis of Arshdeep Bains’ NHL debut

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
5 months ago
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Last night, we saw AHL standout Arshdeep Bains make his NHL debut against the Colorado Avalanche. 
The Surrey native earned a call-up to the big leagues after posting nine goals and 39 points in just 42 games to start his second year with the Abbotsford Canucks. After this impressive performance, the undrafted talent was honoured as the Canucks’ AHL All-Star weekend representative, where he walked away from the tournament with MVP honours after finishing with two goals and five points. 
While the Canucks ended up dropping this game against the Avalanche 3-1, it was an eye-catching debut for Bains. He was very noticeable when he was on the ice, using his body and playmaking ability to make it clear why he has 30 assists in the AHL this season.
In his debut, Bains played 20 shifts and finished with 13:21 minutes ice time. Let’s analyze the tape. 

First Period

There were big shoes to fill tonight for Bains, as he slotted on the left side of Teddy Blueger and Conor Garland’s line, the line that head coach Rick Tocchet has relied on so heavily this season. But the rookie’s presence didn’t scare Tocchet off of starting the game with this line last night.
Bains held his own against the Avalanche’s big three of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, forcing constant pressure and proper defensive positioning to block passing lanes, leading to minimal pressure from Colorado in the offensive zone. 
Again, Bains shows off his defensive awareness by covering a forechecking Blueger. Throughout the shift, Bains continues to play the defensive centre role, realizing he needs to pick up the open man in front of the net and stick to him like glue. 
Just a quick clip here to emphasize Bains’ impressive skating as he wheels back, constantly watching his opposition, making sure he has a step on him at all times. 
Later on in this shift is where Canucks fans saw Bains get his first shot on goal. After getting a piece of the clearing attempt from Alexander Georgiev, Bains uses his body in a board battle. He is then rewarded with an open lane when he quickly shifts from backhand to forehand and gets a shot off on the far side.
After a turnover by Garland, Bains is quickly back on the forecheck and pokes the puck off Ryan Johansen’s stick with one hand. Bains continues to pursue the puck and lands a clean hit on Joel Kiviranta, impeding his entrance into the zone. 
In an effort to insert some physicality, Bains receives the first penalty of his career when he sticks his leg out and trips Johansen. 
Coming right off the bench, Bains goes right to the front of the net and arrives there just in time to stick-check a streaking Arturri Lehkonen right in front of the net, breaking up a high-danger scoring chance — speaking of high-danger scoring chances…
Later on the same shift, Bains again uses his stick to deflect a Ross Colton shot attempt. Blueger then springs Bains on a two-on-one with Brock Boeser. The pass attempt over to Boeser gets blocked but flies up in the air. Bains then shows off his hand-eye coordination, batting the puck towards the net for a high-danger scoring chance of his own. 
This marked the final shift of the first period for Bains. Here are Bains’ stats and analytics for the opening 20 minutes of play.
The first period was Bains’ best, registering his highest individual expected goals for and having both the shots for that he was on the ice for this period. This shows that, when he was on the ice this period, Bains was the only one on his team to register a shot on goal — the true indicator that he was the driver of offence for his line in this period.

Second Period

There was not much to show of Bains’ first shift of the second period, as it lasted just 10 seconds.
It’s not until his second shift of the second period that we see Bains have a minor slip-up. 
After allowing a Cale Makar pass through to the front of the net, he gets caught puck-watching and allows Makar to sneak passed him, and if not for the puck landing on Makar’s offhand, could have led to a wide-open chance for one of the league’s most dangerous defencemen. 
Bains then receives a short pass from Blueger to clear the zone. However, with the long change, he wasn’t able to get off the ice. 
Still on the same shift, in what was the Canucks’ only prime opportunity to clear the zone, Bains anticipates Quinn Hughes will be able to receive the breakout pass and turns up ice. Later realizing that the puck is loose, Bains turns to re-enter the play, trips, and slides out of the zone, allowing for an easy transition for the Avalanche to regain possession. 
The Avalanche ended up finding the back of the net on what was Bains’ longest shift of the game (1:25). It’s hard to blame him for this goal, but a minus nonetheless. 
In the offensive zone now, Bains comes to help his centreman in a board battle and collects the loose puck in the corner. He looks like a regular NHL player as he plays the cycle game with Blueger. Bains then shows off his playmaking ability by spinning around the defender and finds Blueger with a Grade-A scoring chance at the side of the net. 
The final shift of the second period was uneventful for Bains. Here are Bains’ stats and analytics from the second period. 
This would go on to be the worst of Bains’ three periods, finishing with his highest expected goals against (xGA) and failing to produce any shots on goal. The long shift leading to the goal against hurts these stats. 
While Bains did have that beautiful feed to Blueger at the side of the net, he was on the ice for more high-danger chances against (HDCA) than for. To be credited for a high-danger chance (HDCF), the shot on goal must be directly in front of the net or the slot area.

Third Period

In the first 13 seconds of Bains’ first shift of the third period, the Avalanche take the lead on a wrist shot from the point. While the play was never around Bains, there was not much to show — but again, another minus. 
After a wrestling match in the faceoff dot, Garland passes the puck behind the net for Bains to retrieve. With the defender taking the far end away, Bains stops on a dime and, again, finds Blueger from behind the net for another prime scoring chance. 
Yes, with this shot on goal being in the slot, this counts as a high-danger scoring chance. 
The clip here highlights Bains’ speed and willingness to never give up on a play. Gaining speed in the offensive zone, Bains catches up to the puck carrier and puts pressure on Rantanen, who has to make a weak pass. He then continues to battle for the puck by smacking it off MacKinnon’s stick and into the corner. 
Here’s a funny clip from later on in his shift, where Bains puts his body on the line and takes a beating from Makar in an effort to protect the puck — which was never actually tangled up underneath him. 
Bains would see the final shift of his debut game, but the Avalanche retained possession of the puck and iced the game. Here are Bains’ third period stats and analytics. 
The third period was the most well-rounded for Bains as he finished with exactly the same amount of shots for (SF) and scoring chances for (SCF) as he did shots against (SA) and scoring chances against (SCA).
All in all, Canucks fans should be impressed with the play of Arshdeep Bains in his NHL debut. An interesting thing to see is who he played the most of his 5-on-5 ice time against.
It seems that the Avalanche had a plan to try and take advantage of the rookie’s debut, as they line-matched their top forward and defence line against Bains as much as they could. However, they were unsuccessful, as only Devon Toews had a plus rating while on the ice with Bains. 
It won’t be an easy decision next game for coach Tocchet, as while he had a -2 rating, he showed throughout the whole game that the playmaking ability Canucks fans saw down in Abbotsford has translated to the NHL level. 
Here are the final stats from Bains’ NHL debut. 
For an NHL debut, this was a big role to be thrown into on the third line that Tocchet has relied on heavily this season — but Bains did not look out of place. He used his speed and 6’0, 184-pound frame to play well defensively and hold one of the NHL’s points leaders off the score sheet.
Now, while the play of Baines was impressive, once Dakota Joshua is available, he will presume his role on that line. But did Bains do enough to become a mainstay on a playoff-bound team?
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