What’s the Deal with Chris Higgins?
The good news last Friday was that the Canucks beat the Hurricanes 3-0, taking both ends of their road back-to-back. The bad news is that Chris Higgins’ goal drought was extended to 1,502 games. Ok, it’s only been 18 games since he last scored on November 28th, but it definitely feels as if it’s been longer.
Times have been tough for the second line as both Nick Bonino and Higgins have had problems putting the puck in the net. Fans desperately wanted the two apart while the coaches left them attached at the hip as if they were a couple of red-headed Swedish brothers. Bonino seems to have turned the corner a little bit, at least for now, and we’re hoping that Higgins will be next.
Taking a look at Higgins stats for the whole season shows that his possession numbers are almost identical to what we have come to expect from him since arriving in Vancouver. In fact, he actually has a higher Corsi For % so far this season then in 2012-13 and 13-14. Given that, we know that even without scoring a goal he’s been a valuable and contributing player. I’m going to have to assume that Willie Desjardins has noticed as much as Higgins hasn’t been make a healthy scratch at any time this season, whereas guys like Zack Kassian and Linden Vey have been told to take a night off. That being said, I admit, Higgins has looked invisible on some nights overall, but some of his issues can probably be chalked up to bad luck
|5-on-5||2010-11 to 2013-14||2014-15|
|Corsi For %||52.3||52.6|
|Corsi For % Rel||1.0||5.0|
|Goals For %||51.1||57.1|
*stats taken from stats.hockeyanalysis.com and puckanalysis.com
For example, when taking a look at his last 20 games, we can see that with Higgins on the ice, the Canucks attempted more shots than their opponents 12 times. Additionally, Higgins has had a positive Corsi Rel% in 14 out of the last 20 games. Generally speaking, that says he’s outperformed his own teammates in 70% of those games.
Even if Higgins isn’t putting the puck in the net himself, he’s at least doing his part to keep it out of the Canucks net. So far, when playing at 5-on-5, Higgins has only been on the ice for 18 goals against. That’s just one more than first line fixtures Daniel Sedin and Radim Vrbata and two more than Henrik Sedin. With the 24 goals for that the Canucks have scored with Higgins on the ice at 5-on-5, he’s second on the entire team with an on-ice goals for percentage of 57.1%. Keep in mind that he’s had that success while starting more often in the defensive zones than every other Canucks’ forward except Bonino and playing against some of the other team’s best players on most nights.
So, what does this all mean? There is reason to be hopeful that the goals will start coming again in the second half of the season while still controlling the majority of possession. Realistically the Canucks need the second line to be a significant contributor on the scoreboard, even with the four like approach that Desjardins has taken this season.