Dec 292010
 

Fans and media are calling last night’s 6-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers a statement win. The Canucks themselves are calling it just another win.

Let’s call it both.

The Canucks now have 49 points (22-8-5) in 35 games – that’s an incredible 0.700 points percentage through almost half a season. To put this into perspective, the Canucks are on pace to reach 115 points. Not only is this President’s Trophy territory, but it’s a level only four teams have achieved since the lockout (Capitals, Bruins, Sharks and Red Wings, twice).

With one game left against the Dallas Stars on Friday, the Canucks won’t soon forget the month of December. In 13 games, they have a 10-1-2 record. They’ve outscored the opposition by a combined score of 52-31 – a 4.00 G/game average vs. a 2.38 GA/game average. They’re 14-for-62 on the powerplay (22.6%) and have killed 37 of 45 penalties (82.2%). 

Not surprisingly, their statistics in various categories for the season are now among the league’s best.

  • Goals per game: 3.43, 1st in NHL
  • Goals against per game: 2.51, 7th in NHL
  • Powerplay: 24.1% (34-for-141), 2nd in NHL
  • Penalty-kill: 85.3% (110-for-129), 5th in NHL
  • Faceoff percentage: 57.3%, 1st in NHL

The Canucks are also tied for 5th in even-strength goals (81) and tied for 4th in powerplay goals (34).

And the kicker?

They’re the only team in the NHL in the top-10 in all of these categories.

No, the Canucks haven’t won anything yet, and as Jason Botchford said in this morning’s Vancouver Province, fans will enjoy this regular season roll more than the team.

“We haven’t won anything yet,” Daniel Sedin said. “We haven’t been anywhere. Most of us have been here for a long time and we know we can’t get big because we are winning in the regular season. That’s the bottom line.

“The win was good and shows we are up there and that’s good. But Philadelphia has been to the dance before and we haven’t. It’s the regular season and we have to prove this all year — that in the spring we belong amongst the best teams.

“People will talk about this being a measuring stick, but it’s Game 35. Now we have to go to Dallas. We haven’t done a thing, really.”

Nevertheless, the ride’s been fun. If this is a teaser to how the team can play in the postseason, then those high expectations at the beginning of the season may have just got higher.

Nov 082010
 

Some interesting numbers in the Canucks’ current 6-game win streak.

Goals For: 25
Goals For/Game: 4.17

Goals Against: 12
Goals Against/Game: 2.00

Powerplay: 8/24 (or 33.3% PP efficiency)
Penalty Kill: 1/17 (or 94.1% PK rate)

Goals Scored by the Canucks’ Top-Six Forwards: 12
Goals Scored by the Canucks’ Bottom-Six Forwards: 12

Assists Recorded by the Canucks’ Top-Six Forwards: 16
Assists Recorded by the Canucks’ Defense and Goaltenders: 16

Canucks’ Save Percentage: 0.934 (169 saves/181 shots)
Luongo’s Save Percentage: 0.919 (113 saves/123 shots)
Schneider’s Save Percentage: 0.966 (56 saves/58 shots)

1st Period Goals For: 8
1st Period Goals Against: 1

2nd Period Goals For: 6
2nd Period Goals Against: 5

3rd Period Goals For: 10
3rd Period Goals Against: 6

No. of goals against during which the Malhotra-Torres-Hansen line was on the ice: 2

No. of goals against during which Christian Ehrhoff was on the ice: 5
No. of goals against during which Alex Edler was on the ice: 5
No. of goals against during which Kevin Bieksa was on the ice: 4
No. of goals against during which Andrew Alberts was on the ice: 2

No. of goals for during which Christian Ehrhoff was on the ice: 13
No. of goals for during which Alex Edler was on the ice: 11
No. of goals for during which Kevin Bieksa was on the ice: 11

Apr 292009
 

There are plenty of reasons the Canucks are favored going into their second round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Richard has outlined a few here, but allow me to add my 2 cents as well.

One key that I want to point out is that the Canucks have home ice advantage. How important is it?

Well, it means more to the Canucks than the Blackhawks. While the Blackhawks’ stats are relatively-similar at home and on the road, the Canucks, since February 1st, have shown that they are a much, much better team at GM Place.

STATS FROM FEBRUARY 1ST TO FIRST ROUND OF PLAYOFFS

[TABLE=28]

After the Canucks pounded the Blackhawks 4-0 in their last regular season meeting, a large portion of Canuckville wanted Vancouver to meet Chicago in the first round, Northwest Division title and home ice advantage be damned; I remember TEAM 1040 even ran a poll on the topic. I’m glad the Canucks ignored the masses and won the division anyway because, as it turned out, they now meet the Blackhawks in the second round and hold home ice over them – funny how the hockey gods work sometimes, eh?

Apr 012009
 

Whether or not they hang on to home ice advantage in the playoffs or win the Northwest Division championship, the Canucks can no longer be considered underdogs. What they’ve accomplished – turning around a record losing streak into a 20-5-1 record in the last 2 months and passing the Calgary Flames in the standings is nothing short of incredible.

It’s really quite impressive how they’ve accomplished this. Last night, they played patient hockey and beat the trapping Minnesota Wild in overtime. In the last week, they played smart and tough hockey against the frustrated Chicago Blackhawks and slumping Dallas Stars. They’ve come from behind and preserved leads. They’ve won playing aggressive, in-your-face hockey and they’ve won playing defensive hockey. They’re healthy and using a balanced attack, and they’re winning games regardless of how opposing teams play them.

Simply, the Canucks have been one of the best teams in the NHL since February 1st.

[Table=26]

Read that again – 4th in the NHL in goals per game, 1st in goals against per game, 8th in powerplay efficiency and 8th in penalty-kill. They’re the only team in the top-10 in the league in each of those categories.

No wonder other teams are fearing a first round match-up with them or conceding the division championship to them.

The Canucks have officially turned from being the hunter to being the hunted.

The new challenge for them is to keep this momentum going into the postseason. No doubt it was tough to get to the top, but it’s even tougher to stay there. I get goosebumps just thinking of what can happen if they do this.

Mar 252009
 

Believe it or not, I hate doing the magic number post. That said, I do it every year because I’m a numbers guy and I like seeing the magic numbers with each team shrink with each Canucks win or with the other teams’ losses.

After last night’s win against the Dallas Stars, the Canucks’ magic number is down to 10. That means any combination of 10 points gained by the Canucks or not gained by Anaheim and Nashville clinches them a playoff spot. The magic number is 9 against St. Louis, 8 against Minnesota and 6 against Dallas.

Something else that might help Canucks fans breathe easier is that, with 10 games remaining, the Canucks enjoy a 9-point lead on the 9th place Predators. At this time last year, they were only 2 points up on 9th place, and well… we know how that story ended. It sure looks like it’s going to be a happier ending this time around. *knocks on wood*

More on this from ‘Nucks Misconduct, who breaks down the remaining games for each Western Conference team.

Mar 182009
 

Something happened to the Canucks after that January 31st home loss to Minnesota. That home loss was their 9th straight at home, a franchise low; since then, they’ve gained 31 of a possible 38 points (15-3-1) and won 10 straight games at home, a new franchise high.

It was then that Alain Vigneault decided to split up Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, and while they’ve easily been the team’s best players since that move, the rest of the team have also played much, much better.

The results are certainly quite impressive. Just look at this before and after picture of the Canucks’ play at GM Place:

[Table=25]

Everyone’s contributing and playing their roles and they’re as balanced a team as any other in the NHL right now. When the Sedins aren’t scoring, the RPM line picks it up. When the RPM line isn’t scoring, the Sedins light up the lamp. The PK is better. They’re getting goals from the 3rd and 4th lines and they’re getting offense from their defense. Luongo, for all the criticism with regards to his puck-handling skills, is making key saves at key times. They’re playing a simple and effective game, attacking with speed when they can and making the safe play when they can’t. In other words, they’re playing as a *gasp* team.

Amazing, huh?

*****

In case you missed it, here is the video of Bernier’s oh-so-pretty tally last night (credit to Nucks Misconduct for finding it):

Mar 112009
 

Before the Canucks/Kings game on Monday, I went on Jacked In With Jessica (Kelowna AM 1150) and noted the Kings’ very good powerplay and the Canucks’ very lousy penalty-kill. That night, of course, the Canucks allowed 2 powerplay goals against en route to a 3-2 loss. The loss itself didn’t bother me; after all, they had to lose at some point. Their special teams play, however, may be cause for concern.

Lately, the Canucks have had a bad habit of letting in a PPGA or two or three. Since January 1st, they’ve allowed a PPGA in 20 of their 26 games and their PK rate is a woeful 72.9% (29 PPGA/107 TS). If they’re serious about making a lengthy postseason run, it’s certainly an area in which they need to improve.

*****

If the Canucks were scoreboard watching last night, they would have been pleased with the results. The Flames and the Stars lost in regulation; the Wild, Oilers and Predators lost in OT; only the Jackets and Blues posted wins.

They’re still 6 points up on 9th place Minnesota, but perhaps more significantly, they’ve crept to within 5 points of 4th place Chicago (Chicago has a game-in-hand) and 8 points of Northwest Division-leading Calgary (Calgary has played 2 more games).

*****

Was I the only one annoyed at all the talk yesterday that the Canucks – after one loss to the Kings – play down to the level of their opponent and can’t beat teams worse than they are in the standings?

The Canucks suffered only their 3rd loss in 15 games. When they lost, only the Kings had a worse record than they did. Meanwhile, their 12 wins include wins against illustrious teams such as the Blues, Coyotes, Senators, Leafs, Lightning and Wild.

It’s one loss, people. Let’s talk again if they blow the next 3 against the Ducks, Kings and Avalanche.

Mar 062009
 

The common theme today is how important tomorrow night’s game against the San Jose Sharks. It’s a big game and a benchmark game. It’s a chance to show they can hold their own against the Western Conference elite.

The truth is, the Canucks haven’t had a lot of success against the West’s top four teams. They had a couple of nice wins against Detroit and Calgary early in the season and a come-from-behind shootout win against Calgary and blowout win against Chicago in the last month. Overall, however, they are an unimpressive 6-8-1 against the Sharks, Red Wings, Flames and Blackhawks (0.433 percentage of points gained).

[Table=22]

Compare this to their 27-14-7 record against the rest of the league (0.635 percentage of points gained).

[Table=23]

It’s easy to see where the Canucks are having a tough time. Defensively, they’re allowing 0.73 more goals per game, including 0.25 more powerplay goals per game, against the top-four in the West than they are against the rest of the league; offensively, they’re scoring 0.34 less powerplay goals per game.

Make no mistake. I think it’s great that the Canucks are able to play well against teams lower than them in the standings. Saturday night is one step in proving they can beat the ones above them.

Feb 252009
 

I suppose the Canucks had to lose at some point. They can’t win every game, and while they tried hard and played a good road game last night, they just couldn’t solve Jaroslav Halak.

C’est la vie.

Still, the Canucks hit the 3/4 point of the season with 68 points in 60 games, good for 5th in the Western Conference. Their percentage of points gained for the season has gone up 8% since their January swoon and they can now look forward to spending most of the next 3 weeks at home. 7 of their next 9 games are at the Garage. I hope this upcoming homestand goes better than their last one.

A month ago I looked at the degree of difficulty of the Canucks’ remaining schedule. I looked at each Western Conference team’s remaining games against each other and calculated a sort of degree of difficulty for each of their schedules. Here is an update.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY OF REMAINING SCHEDULE

[Table=18]

The Canucks have quite a favorable schedule. They play 12 of their remaining 22 games at home, and they play 6 of their remaining 10 road games in 10 days at the end of March. They only have 3 games left against the top-4 teams in the Western Conference. They play San Jose, Calgary and Chicago once each; they don’t have any games left against Detroit. Plus, almost a third of their remaining games are against teams currently in the Western Conference basement. They play Phoenix once, St. Louis twice and Colorado four times. Compare that to Nashville, who will play opponents who have a 0.598 average, or Minnesota and Los Angeles, who play 16 of their remaining 23 games on the road.

*****

On CDC this morning, Jeff Patterson noted:

For the second straight year, the Vancouver Canucks reached the 60-game mark of their regular season with a record of 30-22-8.

(skip)

Twelve months later, the Canucks stand in the same spot with the same record and with the stretch drive upon them and the trade deadline less than a week away.

The biggest differences from one year ago are the fact that there is a new man calling the shots and that the hockey team he has put together is in considerably better health than the one that limped its way toward the finish line last season.

We can’t underestimate the value of a healthy defense. In the last month, they’ve basically acted as a third scoring line.

BREAKDOWN OF OFFENSE (Feb. 1st to 24th)

[Table=19]

Yes, the defense has produced nearly as much offense as the 1st and 2nd lines.

Heading into the home stretch, things sure seem to be lining up the Canucks’ way, eh? Now here’s hoping this season ends better than the previous one.

Feb 232009
 

In the most hyped game of the season, Mats Sundin had a triumphant return to the Air Canada Centre and scored the shootout winner and the Vancouver Canucks simply did again what they’ve been doing for the last 3 weeks. It was the Canucks’ 8th win in 9 games; in 5 of those 8 wins, they either scored the game-winning goal in the 3rd period or tied the game in the 3rd period before winning it in the shootout.

Funny what difference a month makes. The team that found all sorts of ways to lose in January now can’t lose in February. And it seems that, lately, the Canucks have been saving their best for last, playing their best hockey in the 3rd periods and extra time.

3RD PERIOD STATS (Febr. 1st to 21st, 2009):

[Table=16]

But not only have they outscored their opponents 13 (plus 2 shootout winners) to 8, they’ve also done so at critical times.

BREAKDOWN OF 3RD PERIOD GOALS SCORED (Feb. 1st to 21st, 2009):

[Table=17]

62% of the Canucks’ 3rd period goals either tied the game or gave them the lead. On the other hand, 43% of the goals they allowed in the 3rd period came when they already had at least a 3-goal lead. And one other noticeable thing – even when they’ve allowed the go-ahead goal in the 3rd period, they never allowed a goal that put them 2 goals down.

I must admit it’s been a treat to watch this team recently. Even last night when they were down 2-1 late in the game, I didn’t get the feeling that it was over. Usually Canucks fans are conditioned to expect the bad, but lately, it’s been hard to expect anything but the good.

Clutch Canucks. It has a nice ring to it.

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