In a vacuum, getting a point on the second half of a road back-to-back is a good outcome.
Unfortunately, that point came against the Columbus Blue Jackets, another winless team. The Jackets have been playing uninspired hockey to begin the season, and already lost their team’s highest paid winger in Patrik Laine. Also, the Canucks blew another multi-goal lead, something you may have seen once or twice somewhere.
Granted, scoring is way up around the NHL, so more comebacks ought to be expected. Five other teams came back from multi-goal deficits last night (four of those wound up winning), so any individual blown lead shouldn’t be a cause for concern. The fact the Canucks have done it four times in a row probably has a lot to do with variance. Part of the reason they’ve set a record for this is that not a lot of teams are even able to take a multi-goal lead in a game in four consecutive games.
So, the Canucks still chase their first W of the season. This one was already a little tougher. Bruce Boudreau made the decision to scratch Conor Garland for this one, an odd choice as they’ve struggled to play cohesively and link plays together, and Garland has been one of their better players in transition. Also, the Canucks got Tucker Poolman and Tyler Myers back from injury, which sent Kyle Burroughs, arguably the team’s second-best defenceman to start the season, to the pressbox.
Another new numbers format here with some additional columns. Here they are:
5v5 team stats
Shots and scoring chances
The play here was quite even. Columbus held a slim lead throughout the night in territorial play (shots) and in scoring chances. One thing they were able to do a lot better than Vancouver was turn their scoring chances into shots on goal and make Spencer Martin work. The Canucks blocked one Columbus scoring chance and they missed the net on just three more, meaning Martin to make the save on the remaining ones.
The Canucks D were slightly better offensively than they were in Washington. On Monday, the group combined for 23 attempts and turned just 1 of those into a scoring chance directed at the net. Here, they turned 18 attempts into 4..
Let’s see how that broke down individually:
- Not surprisingly, Hughes was the Canucks scoring chance leader among D. Surprisingly, he was the scoring chance leader on the whole team, taking 3. Also, all three of those chances were in the first period, and just one hit the net (two were blocked). The D, mostly, just hung around at the point and failed to activate even for passes.
- Just one shot assist for the entire defensive group in this one. It’s understandable why you might not want your players to pinch during cycles (especially since they gave up the early breakaway in this one thanks to an offensive zone breakdown), but the reality is that this group is just too slow to keep up with the rush, and turn 3-on-3 situations into 4-on-3 situations.
- The forwards created a little less of what they did in Washington, though they did move the puck better. The team had just 3 shot assists total on scoring chances Monday night, and here they improved that total to 8, as many as CBJ had.
- The best all-around Canuck in the OZ looks to be Boeser, who created 2 chances and took 2 himself, in addition to having a 4 shot attempts and 3 shot assists, both tied for team-highs.
- Werenski was a force in this one, with 9 shots and 4 qualifying as scoring chances, including his goal. Now, I don’t expect any Canuck be Zach Werenski (maybe Hughes), but you could see the benefit on many sequences of Werenski dipping down to create space, opening up passing and shooting lanes for the puck carriers. Werenski had, on the whole, a pretty average game (we’ll look at his DZ work in a bit), but his offensive prowess certainly helped his team.
- The Jackets first line moved the puck very well, with every member of the line setting up at least one scoring chance. Jenner set the table for the first equalizing goal with his goal-mouth pass to Werenski, and Gaudreau scored the second with a fantastic individual play on a wrap-around.
I’ve turned this table into two tables, and added an extra column for scoring chances, just so we can see how much each team generated off their controlled entries and their dump-ins. For example, the Canucks D had just 2 controlled entries, but created 3 chances off those, which was identical to Columbus’ 3 chances off 8 entries.
As for the game itself, as we saw with the shot attempts above, Columbus held a slight territorial edge in this one. I was asked after the game if the Canucks got worse as the game went on, and I’m not sure they did, as CBJ’s advantage in this regard was present for most of the game. The Jackets aren’t a very good team, but at least they’re rested, and they were able to grind the Canucks a little more every shift and eventually build up a decent advantage in entry differential by the end.
However, the Canucks were a lot more efficient at actually turning their entries into scoring chances. I think that “creating entries” is the more sustainable recipe for success.
- Kuzmenko, the strongest Canuck in the NZ here, had 4 controlled entries on 6 attempts (with 3 chances as a result of his controlled entries).
- The top six, in addition to Podkolzin, had very strong games. Everybody but Miller had multiple controlled entries, so the Canucks attack was varied. However, they also entered the OZ with control just 26% of the time, down from 39% in Washington. With how poorly CBJ seemed to be defending them in-zone, the Canucks really failed to capitalize by drawing up some set plays on breakouts to try to create more space.
- Just look at the numbers from the D there: just nothing. Poolman’s lone controlled entry wound up creating two scoring chances (Pettersson’s goal came at the end of the sequence) but the actual shots were taken a considerable amount of time from the actual entry. This has been a very concerning thing recurring all year: the Canucks have gotten just about nothing from their D other than Hughes.
- Kent Johnson’s first touch this game was a chip pass to himself around Kuzmenko who was defending the blueline, and easily beating Schenn to the resulting loose puck. I enjoyed his game tonight, even his failed entries, as he was clearly trying a lot of stuff and it (almost) worked. He didn’t get any points but he’s going to be a pretty good player. Always easy to root for BC boys.
- I saw way too much of Sean Kuraly and Eric Robinson, who were on the ice for a lot of defensive zone draws and spent the majority of their ice-time playing whack puck. Columbus used a consistent 4th line last season (a rarity in the modern NHL) with these two and Alexandre Texier, who is out this season in the NHLPA player assistance program.
- They’ve replaced Texier with a Mathieu Olivier, who is much closer to being an “enforcer” than being a “checker”. Anyway, per NST, the CBJ fourth line was 48% in corsi when with Texier dating back to last season, and just 47% without. Probably more importantly, the line’s GF/60 is 2.9 when with Texier, and 1.7 when it isn’t. We saw why in this game. Yuck.
- Outside of Werenski, the Jackets have a few D that can move the puck decently. A staple under John Tortorella was how much the D pushed the pace and used entry passes in the middle of the ice to continue offensive sequences and never allow their opponents respite. Werenski is the only remaining holdover from that era, but they seemed pretty aggressive in this game, especially Blankenburg who was very involved.
- Poolman allowed 6 controlled entries against on 11 attempts, but those turned into just 2 chances, a pretty good rate. We’ll see whether that rate is sustainable over the long-term. Either way, CBJ didn’t really take advantage of the space Poolman gave them. Poolman also forced 3 failed entries, so a pretty good defensive game from him, all-in-all.
- Schenn was likely the worst Canuck D, with 6 controlled entries against on 7 attempts, resulting in 3 chances for the Jackets. Schenn had 33% corsi (per NST) the worst among D, despite mainly matchup up against Kuraly (though he was forced to handle some Jenner minutes as well, he was 2-8 against Kuraly).
- Like Hughes, Werenski was playing alongside a player more classically thought of as a defensive defenceman. Both gave up a scoring chance every time they allowed a controlled entry, and both players had a better controlled entry against percentage than those partners did. Again, I’m not sure which attribute is more sustainable.
- Gudbranson, however, did not have the same kind of success. The Canucks entered the DZ against him and he failed to contain the Canucks within the zone. Gudbranson didn’t have a bad night (in fact, he had 60% corsi, his first positive game on the season) but it doesn’t look like he was very successful at the thing he’s supposed to be good at.
Exits and DZ touches
The Canucks D had a relatively good game exiting with control here, although the forwards had a rough night. The game was also a little more turnover-heavy than we’ve seen as both sides were able to establish their forechecks.
To the individual numbers:
- As skeptical as I was about the Canucks replacing Burroughs with Poolman, he actually had a very good game, with 5 DZ exits on 6 attempts, in addition to his solid defensive work (and don’t forget his one controlled zone entry).
- Hughes also had a big volume night, similar to Washington, and turned the puck over a lot as well. That’s 9 turnovers on 51 touches over the last two games. I don’t think he lacks for ability, but he’s just looking exhausted. A little easier to knock off the puck, a little less power on passes, and would-be good plays can turn into turnovers very quickly.
- The Canucks forwards probably felt the impact of a pinching CBJ D and got the puck away quickly a lot. Every Canuck forward dumped the puck out at least once. Interestingly, look at how much this impact the centres: just 5 controlled exits on 17 attempts.
- I mentioned that we’d get to the bad Werenski stuff later. I don’t often track more than 5 turnovers for a player in any given night, but this was a very special night from Werenski, who struggled against a strong VAN forecheck, committing 8 turnovers.
- While Kuraly was taking a lot of DZ draws, I felt that this mainly resulted in Peeke or Gudbranson just flipping the puck out, either resulting in another icing (gotta pad that DZ Start%) or a turnover in the NZ that just allowed the Canucks to shoot it right back in.
- Excellent night from both Kent Johnson and Boone Jenner on exits. It felt like CBJ were more often the quicker team, and having space to bring the puck out with control often leads to looking quicker.
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