If there is a positive to take away from this game, it’s that the odds of getting Connor Bedard are only getting higher for the Vancouver Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks were once again on the losing end of a high-scoring affair, dropping this game 5-4 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though most might look at this result and suppose that the team played well for a period and a bit, it’s become rapidly clear that as soon as the Canucks face any sort of gear shift, they aren’t able to match it. Last night was just another example of a team constructed to be a bubble playoff team getting their hopes and dreams burst.
Here’s the loss by the numbers.
Again, through the first period and most of the second, the Canucks were playing decent hockey. They managed to score the first goal, and they also tied it up on the power play when they went down 2-1 early. Vancouver held a narrow 54.35 CF% share after the first, keeping pace with 14-14 scoring chances on both sides. Considering how the previous games went, this was not a bad outcome. At least, until the other shoe dropped.
As soon as Tampa Bay decided to switch on, there was nothing the Canucks could do. That near vertical rise on the xG line shows just how quickly the game was flipped on its head. By the end of the second period, the Lightning had a stranglehold on the momentum of the game, grabbing a 72.73 HDCF% share and a 1.8-0.47 xGF lead. They would use this to build a lead that the Canucks could only get within one goal of, and never looked close to overcoming.
Here’s where Vancouver’s penchant for giving up chances in the slot really cost them. Four out of the five goals that the Lightning scored were from exactly where their hotspot was, right down broadway. In previous games, the Canucks weren’t necessarily made to pay for the dense concentration of chances that they usually give up, but against a team like Tampa Bay it was never going to last. Even at 5v5, the Lightning’s hot patch is still present, showing that this Canucks team was still unable to adjust to a point of weakness.
Meanwhile, nearly all of Vancouver’s high-danger chances came on the power play. While looking pretty promising just from first glance, their dense blue hot spot in tight literally vanishes as soon as the 5v5 filter is applied. Again, not news for this team, which has been consistently poor at generating offence and chances at even strength. Goal scoring isn’t the problem with this team – they’ve scored 12 goals in the past three games. But, sustainable offence continues to elude this team, and sooner rather than later, the power play tallies aren’t going to come.
Individual Advanced Stats
Corsi Champ: Brock Boeser has been reeling this category in lately. Last night against the Lightning, he led the way with a 72.92 CF%, standing at a 37.39 CF% rel to the team average. Boeser was held off the scoresheet, but contributed to three goals for and one goal against when he was on ice. His 35 CF comes in third behind Quinn Hughes’ 38 and Elias Pettersson’s 37, but Boeser also limited the Lightning to 13 CA, putting him in a tie for third on the team. What should also be pointed out is the Boeser was slotted in beside Andrei Kuzmenko and Pettersson last night, and the combination seems to have worked well. In a game where both teams finished dead even in puck possession, Boeser’s impact should not be underestimated.
Corsi Chump: As a casualty of new lines, Ilya Mikheyev was shunted down to the fourth line and proceeded to put up the worst Corsi numbers last night. His 25.00 CF% was the only rating below 30%, giving him a -31.00 CF% rel to the team average. The fourth line wasn’t able to do much at all against the Lightning and it showed in Mikheyev’s numbers. His 0.06 xGF is paltry, one that definitely doesn’t outweigh the 1.46 xGA that he gave up. Mikheyev faced 13 scoring chances against, with 6 being high danger, while only generating 3 non-high danger scoring chances himself. He definitely wasn’t put into a spot to succeed against Tampa Bay.
xGF: Boeser grabs this game’s xGF award as well, coming in with a 78.96 xGF% to lead his team. The winger posted the best xGA amongst all Canucks (0.41) which contributed to the excellent rate last night. Boeser funnelled 19 scoring chances against the Lightning, good enough for third amongst his teammates. However, something does have to be said about the efficiency, as out of those 19 chances merely 5 were considered high-danger. Meanwhile, though Boeser was only on ice for 5 chances against, 4 of them were high-danger.
GSAx: Colin Delia wasn’t the issue this game, but again finds his numbers skewing into the negatives. Tampa Bay put up 4.05 xGF when he was between the pipes, meaning that Delia’s GSAx on the night finished as a -0.95. It’s close to a full goal against given up above expected, which could be attributed to the one middle-danger goal that he gave up. It’s also worth pointing out that the Lightning didn’t generate much xGF in the first period, which could also have impacted the totals. Regardless, it was about par for the course when it came to Delia’s play, and the goalie even chipped in with an assist.
Quinn Hughes’ double-edged sword game: It’s not often that your best player offensively also happens to be your worst defensively (by that I mean absolute worst). Quinn Hughes’ game was exactly that last night, where not only was he generating plenty of offence but gave up just as much. Hughes led Vancouver in xGF (2.27), SCF (25), CF (38), SF (27) and GF (4), which is all fine and great. However, it’s also balanced out by being not the best defensively, giving up a team-worst xGA (2.32), SCA (20), CA (32), SA (16) and HDCA (10). For Quinn Hughes, it’s definitely something to improve on the back end — but at the same time, you really like to see the offence that he generated. Some of these metrics might also be aided if the forwards consistently tracked back, which hasn’t always been the case this season.
Elias Pettersson, Chemistry major: It seems that whichever line has Pettersson nowadays is the best line the Canucks can ice. Last night, he drew pivot duties between two wingers that he’s clicked with, Kuzmenko and Boeser. It happened to be the one forward unit which consistently held the flow of the game. Together, they led all Canucks line in CF% (62.50) while leading the team in scoring chances (9). Kuzmenko-Pettersson-Boeser drew a matchup against Tampa’s second line of Hagel-Cirelli-Killorn, one in which they thrived. They averaged over 60 CF% against all three forwards, controlling most of the play when they were on ice. Again, no disrespect to Kuzmenko or Boeser, but it’s a common trend that Pettersson has driven his lines – to excellent results.
How to mismatch your lines: Another forward combination that put up some interesting metrics is the Miller-Horvat-Garland line. They actually led all units with a 1.03 xGF, to the tune of 7 scoring chances and 5 high-danger opportunities. Getting those probabilities are great, but the quality of competition wasn’t necessarily the best. Miller-Horvat-Garland spent their time against Tampa’s third line of Colton-Paul-Maroon, which also left the bottom six to take care of the Lightning’s big guns. This strategy didn’t work out, evidenced by the poor metrics put up by the Canucks’ third and fourth lines.
As a team
CF% – 50.00% HDCF% – 47.89% xGF% – 42.46%
The Vancouver Canucks continue to lack another gear, to find a step up in their play that can deliver them the quality they need to win hockey games. It’s been agonizing to watch the Canucks refuse to adjust, though with OEL sitting this one out as a healthy scratch, perhaps the tides are changing. Regardless, a 5-4 loss doesn’t look bad on paper especially to Tampa Bay, but it’s yet another loss in which the Canucks show the same flaws they refuse to address.
Vancouver’s road trip of nightmares continues tomorrow, where they take on the Florida Panthers.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com