Jan 092014
 

Vancouver Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings

With the Canucks just past the halfway point of the season it seems as good a time as any to try and predict where the team may finish at the end of the season in April. Despite a number of gut-wrenching losses in the last few weeks you should still feel pretty good about the Canucks chances to make the playoffs and I’ll breakdown where I think the team will realistically finish in the standings and whether they have much of a chance to pass teams in their division.

Introduction

The chart below shows team’s Fenwick percentages for all 5-on-5 situations as well as in close score situations which is used to help account for score effects. For the uninitiated, Fenwick is a tally of all shot attempts a team takes at 5-on-5 except for those that are blocked. Stated another way, it is shots that are either on-net or missed. Close score situations are games that are tied at any time or within a goal in the first and second period.

So, why should you care about Fenwick? It has been proven that there is a direct correlation between Fenwick and puck possession. It has also been shown that teams that possess the puck the most will win more often. The biggest thing to take away from this is that teams with the best Fenwick percentage over the entire season will finish near the top of the standings over 82 games.

Finally, I’ve also listed PDO. PDO is a measure of how lucky a team is and is simply a team’s shooting percentage plus save percentage at 5-on-5. For example, the Canucks are shooting at 7.5% and stopping 92.8% of their opponent’s shots for a PDO of 100.3. All you really need to know is that teams that are above 100 are considered to be lucky, either shooting or stopping pucks, at a rate that is probably unstainable. Teams that are under 100 are considered unlucky.

The Stats

*All stats taken from extraskater.com

Fenwick For % All 5v5 Fenwick Close PDO
Canucks 50.9 (13th) 52.4 (9) 100.7 (10)
Ducks 51.3 (10) 51.2 (13) 102.3 (2)
Sharks 53.8 (4) 54.1 (3) 99.7 (19)
Kings 55.7 (1) 56.9 (1) 100.9 (9)
Coyotes 50.1 (17) 49.5 (18) 101.2 (7)
Wild 49.8 (18) 49.6 (16) 99.8 (17)
Stars 51.1 (12) 52.5 (8) 100.4 (12)

 

Analysis

At first glance you’ll probably notice that the Pacific is good. Really good. Despite recently losing 5 games in a row, the Kings are legitimately the best team in the division and probably the best team in the conference even though the standings don’t show it. The Canucks are only two points behind them but you can probably go ahead and forget about passing them.

The Sharks are not far behind the Kings and with a five point lead on Vancouver and a game in hand its hard to see the Canucks reigning in the Sharks too especially with the season series between the two teams already completed.

That brings us to Anaheim who are the best team in the NHL points wise. If you are not sold on the Ducks being the best team in the division then you’re not alone. The Ducks are not among the elite in the NHL in puck possession and barely attempt more shots than their opponents. You’ll notice that their PDO is 102.3 which, as I mentioned before, implies that they’ve been extremely lucky. In score close situations, the Ducks are shooting at a ridiculous 10.8% clip. In case you’re wondering, Perry and Getzlaf are not the guys driving up shooting percentage. In the score close situations with Kyle Palmieri, Dustin Penner, and Nick Bonino on the ice, the Ducks are shooting at 15.5%, 13.2% and 12.4% respectively.

The Canucks are 14 points behind the league leaders so there probably isn’t much hope that the Canucks can pass them, but the good news is, the Ducks are looking like a very possible matchup in the playoffs and once the slate is wiped clean I would feel pretty good about Vancouver’s chances in a seven game series. Much better than I would feel then against Los Angeles or San Jose.

As for the Canucks themselves, there was a time when they were not too far off the Kings and Sharks in terms of possession stats but they have slid down into the middle of the pack over the last month or so. You can probably chalk some of that up to injures to guys like Alex Burrows and Alex Edler but every team has issues so I’m not sure if that is much of an excuse. Even during their win steak, the Canucks were being carried due to their goaltending more than their strong play as a team. I’d argue that the team actually played better during their November losing streak then their December winning streak.

As for the rest of the West, I find it hard to see a scenario where two of Phoenix, Minnesota, and Dallas finish ahead of Vancouver for the two Wild Card spots. Of the three teams below the Canucks, Dallas is the most underachieving team mostly due to their goalies being well below average

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the Canucks appear to be a team in a solid playoff position but its hard to see them earning anything more than a Wild Card spot. Even with 37 games to go I think the Canucks are exactly where they’ll end up at the end of the season. The good news is there is plenty of time for Vancouver to get some of their best players back and find a way to hold on to two goal leads with 1:11 left in the game. Plus, they’re lined up to play either the Ducks, a team I think they can beat, or the Chicago Blackhawks, which is always fun.

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