The Canucks held on for the second half of a back-to-back, and did the job they had to against a Penguins team that didn’t put in a full effort.
First, I have to apologize for not having this post out Saturday morning. While it was my intention to have recaps for each game available the morning after a game, that is a bit more difficult in practice. With both the Canucks and Leafs having late starts this past week, I had difficulty getting enough sleep, and wound up not being able to complete this game Friday night as intended. As the season goes along it may take an extra day or so to publish games, especially around weekends and holidays. We’ll find a schedule that works. Especially since some of you will be paying me for these.
It didn’t help that I did not have access to the Pittsburgh Penguins video feed. While I really enjoy the personalities on the Sportsnet broadcast (John Shorthouse is a top two play-by-play man in the league for me, and John Garrett makes me smile at least once every period with his charm) it can be difficult since Sportsnet often has a buggy scoreboard in the corner of the screen. Since I timestamp everything I track, a malfunctioning scoreboard can add hours to the process, and this game required me to wait on the Penguins video feed to be up in the place I access games (nothing illegal), which wasn’t until Saturday.
Anyway, I need to give full credit to the Canucks for a 60-minute effort against the Penguins. Now, Thomas Drance has had a thing of saying (particularly after the Carolina game) that, while the Canucks play their opponents close through the first two periods of games, that’s usually the time when the opposing team takes charge, pats them on the head, and dominates the run of play and pulls out the win. Watching this game, it looked like the Penguins were content to play by that book. They looked awful and uninterested in the first 40 minutes. By the time they eventually showed up to play, down 2-1 entering the third period, the Canucks line finally held. Spencer Martin had a great game and the Canucks got two third period goals off deflections.
Sometimes it’s tough to analyze games when a team doesn’t really give maximum effort, but the Canucks can’t control what the Penguins do or don’t do.
5v5 shots and scoring chances
A note about the difference between “attempted” and “taken”. In addition to my tags for shot attempts (“g”, “s”, “m”, and “b” standing for goal, shot, miss, and block respectively) I use an “r” tag (standing for “disruption”. ‘Why not use “d”, Cam?’ Because “d” is already used for “dump-out”.) for situations where a player is in a clear shooting position, but has the puck knocked away, loses it, fans on it, or has a pass to him blocked.
So, the Penguins had more scoring chance “attempts” in this game, but the Canucks were able to get the shot away more often. I have Tyler Myers knocking away 3 potential scoring chances from good shooters right around the net. I may get to this a little bit later on, but I’ve liked Myers this season, particularly in his own end. I feel like he uses his length to great effect, and even though it results in a lot of penalties, he has impressed me with his ability to disrupt shots and force shooters to make quicker decisions. Maybe this isn’t the section where I’m best to make that assessment, but I think it’s worth communicating my observations about these players somewhere.
Finally, one thing I noticed when I used to track scoring chances in the early days of the Smylosphere was that scoring chances were what I’d describe as “score-effect neutral” in that a trailing team didn’t necessarily get a lot more scoring chances. Teams that are leading take fewer risks and defend the front of the net a little bit more tightly, and trailing teams try to break through with more outside efforts. I had the Penguins leading in shot attempts 26-11 in the third period, but chances were just 7-6 for Pittsburgh. Prior to the third period, the play was pretty even.
Here’s how it broke down situationally:
You can see that the Penguins likely built up that 3rd period shot attempt lead off the cycle and forechecking. Rush and transition chances were even throughout the night.
- This wasn’t the Canucks best night offensively, but they were able to move the puck a bit more effectively and had more scoring chances set up by passing than in previous games. Miller set up two scoring chances, more than any other player in this game.
- Also, the Canucks won another game thanks to a Luke Schenn offensive play, though his shot resulting in Kuzmenko’s goal didn’t go down as a chance (the shot was taken from the point, after all).
- My favourite Canuck chance set up by a defender though was on the powerplay in the first period: Rathbone, at the point, sent the puck to Dries who was in the bumper spot, and Dries took a good shot from there but missed the net. You don’t often see vertical passing on the powerplay through the middle of the ice like that.
- I also thought early on I saw the Canucks D move around a bit more in the OZ. It was a few minutes into the game when we saw Brisebois break off the left point and get his lone chance of the night in tight. Unfortunately, that proved to be a bit of a one-off. I don’t even remember the play that resulted in Schenn’s chance.
- First thing I noticed: the Canucks and Penguins were actually tied in scoring chance contributions here. The Penguins didn’t really use their mobility to great effect, particularly Letang and Petry, two players I quite like.
- Rickard Rakell was the Pens most dangerous player, but despite the Pens generating a fair bit more off forecheck and cycle situations, he wasn’t able to get Sidney Crosby to set up any scoring chances for him. In fact, Crosby was nearly completely shut out at 5v5 in this game.
5v5 zone entries
The Penguins dominated the entry attempts (of course they would have 87 attempts) and the teams were fairly equal in terms of efficiency, at 34% to 32%. The entry attempts were even through the first two periods, but PIT pulled away 38-17 in the third as the Canucks were happy to hang on and not press the issue.
Here, we see a big advantage for Vancouver in terms of recovering shoot-ins. The Canucks put up a good number on defence, holding PIT to a 49% recover%, which is pretty good to have when defending a lead. To be honest, a lot of this can be credited to Spencer Martin, who had an excellent night handling the puck (I have him as completing 11 passes under pressure, with just 1 turnover and 1 throw to an open corner).
While I posted a video on Twitter of OEL being beaten to a puck by Kasperi Kapanen, one of the fastest players in the league, despite having a 25-foot headstart, that was the only retrieval race OEL lost on the night, a departure from previous games when he’d lose 3 or 4.
- The Horvat line had a dominant game in away we haven’t really seen the Canucks really have one this season. They had 11 controlled entries on 20 attempts and 3 failed entries, leading to 7 chances (by contrast, the Pens top line were 10-of-24 with 3 failed entries and 4 chances). It’s easy to say that this was JT Miller’s best game of the season, and it helps by being the only game of the season that I noticed more positive touches than negative touches.
- Another thing I track is turnovers forced, and Nils Hoglander had another big game and is probably the top Canuck in this regard (I’ll keep mentioning it until the trade rumours stop). Hoglander forced a team-high 3 turnovers. I haven’t tallied it up for the team yet, but I’d expect he’s in the lead on turnovers forced per minute by a pretty high margin.
- Other than Crosby, there wasn’t much going on for the Penguins.
- Credit to Josh Archibald for cracking 10 entry attempts. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player go 1-for-10 before though. Those 10 attempts resulted in just 4 OZ possessions for the Penguins and 0 scoring chances.
- Despite not being active in the OZ, the Penguins D were pretty active moving the puck through the NZ, with every D other than Rutta generating at least one controlled entry. I was impressed by PO Joseph, the prospect the Penguins got in the Phil Kessel deal. I was never big on Joseph coming up through junior (his offensive stats in junior weren’t great in the QMJHL) but he made some plays tonight that makes me think he’ll stick in an NHL top-4 some day.
- OEL and Myers again took the tough matchups, again gave up the line pretty often, but this time, really held the fort and prevented opponents from really generating a lot of chances.
- The Canucks targeted Dumoulin a lot and got several scoring chances attacking his side. They didn’t really succeed against anybody else.
5v5 exits and DZ touches
The Canucks were forced to exit the zone a lot more than Pittsburgh, and generally did so without control. The Canucks exited with control 50% of the time in P1, 64% in P2, but just 30% in P3, which was also the period they had their highest turnover percentage.
- Something the Canucks coaches and management are probably arguing about is who comes out of the lineup for Ethan Bear. Bear is certainly among the best six defencemen the Canucks have available, but the three D I think that have been the least concerning this season are all on the right side in Myers, Schenn, and Burroughs. Burroughs, of course, plays on Schenn’s left side often, so that pair can stay together, along with OEL-Myers, which means that the third pair is made up of Rathbone-Bear or Brisebois-Bear. Perhaps Bear plays with Hughes (if Hughes is able to come back Monday) but either way, you’re sacrificing quite a bit of defence on one of these pairings.
- Like I said, Miller had a great game, and his first game where I noticed him positively more than twice a period. He, Garland, and Kuzmenko did a good job breaking the puck out with speed. Miller also made some pretty deft touches in the defensive zone. He had 1 turnover on just 15 DZ touches.
- All six turnovers by the top pair came in P3. I’ll break this down on Twitter sometime next week, but I think that a lot of Ekman-Larsson’s puckhandling issues have come later in games. I forgave Hughes for his play because it looked like he was exhausted or playing hurt, and that may be the same for OEL.
- The Canucks forecheck did an excellent job against the top pairing of Dumoulin-Letang, and not as much of an effect against the rest of the Penguins D.
Thank you for reading. I hope you found something informative in here. I’m not a huge fan of website comments, so if you have suggestions, notes on what you liked or didn’t like, kindly get at me on Twitter @camcharronyvr, or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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