Well, we definitely didn’t see that coming.
After going down 4-0 in the first period, the Vancouver Canucks managed to storm back, blow another lead, and yet somehow still pulled out a 7-6 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens. This team continues to be an inconsistent mess, and this game seemed to be the perfect representation of all their best and worst traits at once.
Here’s how this wild and wacky game played out by the numbers.
I’ll be entirely honest, this is probably one of the messiest game flows I’ve ever seen. Both teams were varying degrees of bad throughout last night and neither team truly managed to sustain much momentum. Interestingly, the Canucks had their only period of control in puck possession and xG share during the first period, where they gave up those four goals that got Spencer Martin yanked.
The third period was also a rollercoaster ride to look at. Four goals aside, the home team finally managed a positive CF% share (58.62), but at the same time, conceded the xGF% share to the Habs (60.53%). The Canadiens racked up an xGF of 1.29 with that advantage, in comparison to the Canucks’ 0.84. They also got more high-danger chances than Vancouver (5-2), which makes most of these goals that the Canucks scored classify as relatively lucky goals.
This heat map is also not a work of art. Vancouver gave up a plethora of chances to the (rebuilding) Canadiens, who had their way in the slot area. There is a slight reduction of that blue area when the map is toggled for 5v5 chances, but defensively it still doesn’t bode well for a group that’s struggling to match up against the bottom-feeders of the league. Montreal would just edge out the Canucks in SCF (34-33), which is something to consider as this team is staring down at a key junction in the road for the future.
Offensively, there are more positives to take away. Vancouver did create the same amount of chances that the Habs did in high-danger areas, showing that they are capable of generating the opportunities that they need to succeed. As well, most of these chances happened at 5v5, which is pointing to more sustainable scoring. That being said, it’s the Habs. There are much better teams than the Habs that the Canucks have to compete with, and there’s still no guarantee that they’ll be able to replicate this result against them.
Individual Advanced Stats
Corsi Champ: “Analytics Gretzky” (as he’s commonly referred as on Twitter) finally strikes for the first time this season. Conor Garland earns his first Corsi champ award by leading the Canucks with a 72.22 CF%. The winger has been in tough times this year, so it’s good to see some of his underlying numbers getting a bump is not bad at all. Spending most of his ice time against the Habs second line, Garland managed to out-chance Montreal while holding them to only 1 HDCA. It’s not bad, and hopefully he can turn this play into a trend.
Corsi Chump: Nils Åman finds himself in this category quite often. Sometimes, it’s a result of his deployment, but other times it’s earned through some rough play. Åman found himself dead last among all Canucks with a 34.48 CF%, putting him as a -21.21 to the rest of his team. Most of his shifts started on the fly against the third and fourth lines of the Canadiens, so there isn’t much in the way of defensive responsibilities that he was tasked with. Unfortunately, it just seemed like one of those games where Åman didn’t contribute much at all offensively while giving up the worst xGA amongst forwards (1.43).
xGF: Surprise, surprise. Elias Pettersson is the Canucks’ most effective forward offensively and defensively, continuing that trend against the Habs with a team-leading 64.64 xGF%. Besides his game-winner, Pettersson’s 1.51 xGF was second only to Quinn Hughes’ 1.53. What’s absurd is that out of his 12 scoring chances, 8 of them were high-danger. Pettersson has been in a groove that’s only been shaken once in a while, and Vancouver needs him to keep up his excellent play. Pettersson didn’t draw matchup duties but was deployed as a mismatch for the Habs middle 6 that he exploited to full effect.
GSAx: Oof. As a former goalie, this is one of those games that you just try and repress until the end of time. Both Spencer Martin and Colin Delia shared duties for this one, and both had some less-than-impressive statistics. Martin had his worst outing by far this season, contributing a -3.14 GSAx to the Canucks with a middle and low danger goal against in that horrific first period. Delia did manage to wrestle the win back, tallying a 0.56 GSAx to help steer the Canucks to the finish line. Not bad, all things considered since the only two goals that Delia gave up were high-danger.
A better combination: Andrei Kuzmenko was shuffled down the lineup, finding himself alongside Sheldon Dries and Conor Garland as Brock Boeser was bumped alongside Pettersson against the Habs. Funnily enough, it seems that this season’s Corsi king had a positive impact on a struggling Dries and Garland. In their 8:52 together at 5v5 play, they were the best line in CF% (70.59) and xGF% (58.38), tying for first in HDCA (1). The trio finished as the top 3 in CF% for Vancouver last night, which is definitely a pleasant surprise given the issues that had plagued the Boeser-Dries-Garland combination. Again, it’s a small sample size against a below-average team, but it’s worth seeing how Kuzmenko contributes away from Pettersson, as well as driving the value of Garland up.
Not a matchup line: Something that stood out in the stat sheet was seeing Nils Höglander near the bottom in CF% and xGF% again, which hadn’t happened since he was paired up with JT Miller and Bo Horvat. Taking a look at the ice times at 5v5, it becomes clear that this line was used to match up against Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, and Kirby Dach. They were not the greatest in this role, finishing as the worst line statistically across all the Canucks’ units (37.50 CF%, 40.77 xGF%, 43.75 SCF%). This is the first time that they’ve been used like this in a while, and they really shouldn’t be used like this again. While they didn’t give up a goal against, the numbers are not promising for better results against better teams.
Stillman… not still struggling?: Cam Charron of the Athletic had a recent tweet out about how Riley Stillman was the best puck-moving defenceman according to his tracking. It’s at odds with the eye test.. well, “at odds” is probably an understatement.
However, it’s important to give due where credit is due, and against the Habs, Stillman was pretty solid. He was the better defenceman of the Stillman-Myers pairing, helping pull Myers’ CF% up from 40.00 without to 48.00 with during their 11:58 together at 5v5 play. Stillman finished with a higher xGA than Luke Schenn and Quinn Hughes, albeit in less minutes against slightly weaker competition. But, he also found himself putting up better CF% numbers against the Canadiens’ top lines, which is an interesting contrast to how he normally plays. Still, that’s not bad from Stillman, and not bad is the best that you can hope for with him.
As a team
CF% – 50.00% HDCF% – 50.00% xGF% – 46.75%
The Canucks came out of a chaotic and messy game with two points in hand, in one where both sides of this team were shown. It’s a group that can get absolutely demolished and demoralized in their own end, but find a spark that is resilient enough to overcome a multi-goal deficit. The headcase that is the Vancouver Canucks clawed their way to a 7-6 win, and that should be respected. But the questions surrounding this group are not going away any time soon.
Vancouver will return to action tomorrow night as they face off against the San Jose Sharks at home.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com