This team really can’t do things the easy way.
With another wild 6-5 overtime win in San Jose against the Sharks, the Vancouver Canucks have leveled their record to 12-12-3 on the season in dramatic fashion. They’ve continued their cardiac trends from last game against Montreal, and delivered yet another win. There’s something to be said about getting the job done, but why can’t it be easier on my heart when I watch this team?
Here’s the win, by the numbers.
Despite the win, this game flow map should come as no surprise to anyone. The Sharks grabbed hold of this game right from the outset, not yielding much in puck possession or expected goals through the entirety of the game. There were crests and troughs, but San Jose deservedly controlled the waves of momentum throughout the game. Deservedly so as well — the Canucks would spend a couple of long stretches without even recording a shot on goal.
What also stands out is that the Canucks didn’t really earn their goals, according to the xG models. The Sharks outpaced the Canucks in every single period except for the third, finishing with a 4.2-3.39 advantage to close off the game. It comes along with a 54-35 scoring chance balance and 23-14 high-danger chances in favour of the home team. Not the greatest look defensively, but this team was able to outscore their problems this time around.
This is a bit of an interesting case. Like the previous games discussed, Vancouver got a lot of chances and gave up a lot of chances as well. It’s the run-and-gun style that has favoured them through their last two matches. San Jose’s hot spot is just ever so slightly lighter than Vancouver’s, so it possibly points to less concentration than Vancouver’s but with overall more spread in the slot area.
However, when changing the filters to even-strength play, Vancouver’s hot spot nearly vanishes, while the Sharks’ stays the same. This could suggest that the Canucks weren’t able to create sustainable offence while at even strength, which has been a problem plaguing this team as of late. Similarly, their defence also gave up the hot spot during even strength.
Individual Advanced Stats
Corsi Champ: Say it with me: It’s the Kuzmenkshow. Andrei Kuzmenko returns to his throne, nabbing the crown with a 62.50 CF% to lead all Canucks. He hasn’t missed a beat even with the nominal demotion to the third line, being his usual self alongside Jack Studnicka and Conor Garland.
Kuzmenko created 15 scoring chances with the advantage in puck possession, 6 of them being high-danger. He was on ice for two goals as well, potting in a pretty little tap-in courtesy of an Elias Pettersson slap-pass. It’ll be interesting to see if Kuzmenko can keep this up, especially when he’s not playing with Pettersson, but the early returns are pretty good for the Russian.
Corsi Chump: I didn’t expect to see him earning this title, but here we are. Nils Höglander is this game’s Corsi chump with a pretty darn bad 20.83 CF%. In fact, the entire Höglander-Horvat-Miller line was pretty putrid in the CF% category, though they spent most of their time against Bonino-Couture-Barabanov. It’s tough — especially in a game where he got a goal — to be critical of Höglander’s performance. His xGA (1.14) was nearly sixteen times his xGF (0.07), suggesting a bit of the luck factor to his tally last night. Höglander also gave up 12 scoring chances against, 4 of them high-danger while only recording one non-high-danger scoring chance himself. Still, it was a darn good shot.
xGF: As expected, Curtis Lazar led all Canucks in xGF (wait, that’s not right…). His 83.85 xGF% was 16% ahead of his next-highest teammate, probably as a surprise to most. However, it’s not so much that his 4th highest xGF (1.16) was the story, but so much as the team low xGA (0.22) that should be the focus. On a night where linemate Dakota Joshua scored twice and probably should’ve had a hat trick, Lazar was making plays defensively that kept the Sharks at bay. That line along with Nils Åman throttled San Jose whenever they were on ice, playing keep away while generating good opportunities for themselves. It’s great to see, and hopefully Lazar can keep this play up.
GSAx: It was another shaky game for Spencer Martin, who gave up 5 goals on an xGA of 4.2. That yields a -0.8 GSAx, which isn’t the strong performance that he normally turns in. A big reason why his GSAx numbers don’t turn out too nice is thanks to 3 out of the 5 goals being recorded as middle danger. These are ones that Martin will probably want to have back, though the Canucks were able to get him plenty of run support for it to not matter.
And when it did matter, boy did Martin have the answer.
Individual Advanced Stats
Two standout lines: I’ve already briefly mentioned them, but there were two lines that stood out in a good way last night, The Kuzmenko-Studnicka-Garland line had some questions surrounding it, but together the trio were able to cobble together some good numbers. They played the most minutes at 5v5 out of every other unit, posting the second-best CF% and xGF% to boot while they were at it. It comes as a bit of a surprise, considering how much Garland has struggled this year, but it seems moving Kuzmenko to flank alongside him has been a boon. The exchanging Dries for Studnicka in the lineup also seems to have been smooth as butter, the line not missing a beat with their new pivot.
However, the biggest surprise would have to be the Åman-Lazar-Joshua line. They weren’t just good – they were borderline dominant against the Sharks. They led Vancouver in CF% (71.43), xGF% (86.60), xGF (0.99), SCF% (80.00), HDCF (4), and HDCF% (66.67). For all the grief that this series has given to them for previous performances, this game was an absolute masterclass by the nominal fourth line. Joshua goals aside, the way that they controlled the play offensively and defensively served as the spark that the Canucks needed to get the job done.
And one really bad line: I don’t know what’s going on, but the wheels have fallen off the Höglander-Horvat-Miller line. By all metrics, they were the worst 5v5 line the Canucks had, and by some margin. The line finished dead last in CF% (17.39), xGF% (0.76), and SCA (12). A 0.76 xGF% is absolutely minuscule, suggesting that the Canucks were absolutely getting shoved in while this line was on the ice. Now, the inference would be that this is because of matchup duties, but no, the Höglander-Horvat-Miller line was spending their time against the fossils of Bonino and Couture. It’s not great seeing them perform like this, especially when it just looked like this combo was figuring things out.
As a team
CF% – 41.48% HDCF% – 37.84% xGF% – 44.68%
By all objective measures, this is a game that the Vancouver Canucks should’ve lost. Yet, they were able to get a win, which is a mark of what every good team has to do – earn points even if you aren’t having the best of games. This team has shown that they have the potential to be electric, and the blueprint for their wins are clear: outscore any problems that they might face. It’s worked through two games, now will it keep working down the road?
Next up is a short return home to face off against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, before heading on the road again.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com