A Step in the Right Direction
Apparently two days rest and a trip East was just what the doctor ordered for the Vancouver Canucks. Coming off what was probably the worst home-stand in recent Canucks history, Vancouver silenced their critics for at least one night as they toyed with the Ottawa Senators en route to a 5-2 victory.
It was the first time since last Friday that they eclipsed the two-goal mark and by no coincidence it was also their first win since then.
Having become all too used to a Canucks team that dominates play, but has a difficult time scoring and even more difficulty winning, Thursday night’s victory over the Senators was a welcomed change of pace. As welcome and necessary as this win may have been, it certainly wasn’t unexpected – or better yet, it was incredibly overdue.
For nearly as long as Vancouver was struggling to score or close out games during their inglorious home-stand, they were the better team. I would even go so far as to say that they have been faced with absurdly bad luck for the majority of the season, but it makes the Canucks seem like victims.
Not very empowering, am I right?
There’s Good News
It would be no surprise to you, the reader, if I told you that by my naked eye I was watching the Canucks dominate possession in nearly all of their losses of late. Which is perfectly fine and dandy, save for the fact that moral victories don’t get points – not yet, anyways.
While puck control and moral victories are meaningless in the standings for now, the predictive ability of the metrics used to gauge possession make the future look very good for the Canucks.
As it currently stands, the Canucks are the seventh best possession team at evens, with a 52% Corsi (a stat metric that uses the shots, shot attempts, goals and blocked shots differential as a proxy for possession).
But that takes into account the entire season, which of course is encouraging, but it doesn’t speak to the horrendous luck I’m trying to describe that has hung over this team like a dark cloud of late – last night aside.
Looking exclusively at the eight games before Thursday’s romping of the Senators, the Canucks were doing everything right but scoring.
As is made perfectly clear by this chart, while the Canucks were losing games in the worst possible fashion with the utmost regularity, the argument could be made that they were outplaying their opponents. Save for the opening game on the chart and their tilt with the Florida Panthers, the possession battle was clearly in Vancouver’s favor and it wasn’t even close.
And for their troubles, they spotted a -8 goal differential over that stretch while scoring on only 4.7% of their shots.
If you’re not terribly knowledgeable of the mean shooting percentage of teams, it’s generally between 10-15% ish. Or so I’ve been told. At any rate, the Canucks getting the puck into the net that often, with that many shots and such good possession just isn’t sustainable.
Now, what wasn’t peculiar throughout that stretch was the play of one, Roberto Luongo. I’m not going to sit here and try to blame him for ANY of the losses during that stretch, because, in short: that’s dumb. But by that same token, he shares nearly as much of the burden of the Canucks losing streak, during that stretch, as the offense does.
Throughout that stretch Lu, by my math, had a save percentage of just above 0.917. That is by no means terrible, but not necessarily jaw dropping good either.
I’m not dumb enough to blame Lu for any of the losses, but just marginally better than average goaltending over that stretch might have secured a low-scoring victory for the Canucks.
Where Do They Go from Here?
The sky is the limit. OK, not really, but the sky isn’t falling either. Vancouver is a considerably better hockey team than their record would indicate, and there is absolutely no reason this club can’t turn it around.
They have the puck way more often than their opponents, and in general the goaltending has been good enough to win with.
More than anything this team needs a little, and by that I mean an overdue lot, of puck luck.
And by god, surely it’s coming. Sit back and enjoy the ride.