The Canucks locked down defensively and avoided a catastrophe. They won by a goal but weren’t clinging to the lead with their fingernails.
Hockey’s a funny game. I thought this game was the Canucks single best defensive game of the season, considering the opposition. By my count, they’d allowed a lower rate in scoring chances against in the Anaheim game, but the Ducks aren’t as good of a team offensively as Buffalo can be, and this was miles ahead of where the Canucks were when they played Buffalo last, which was the game this season they’d actually allowed the most scoring chances.
Despite this, the Canucks were a bad bounce away from blowing two three-goal leads. They didn’t, of course, so I don’t want to get into “should have / could have” territory. Usually if a team takes a big lead, gives up a couple, and spends the rest of the game in their own end, there’s some element of danger. The Canucks held the Sabres to a two scoring chances in the third period at 5v5, didn’t allow much of anything in two minutes of 5v6 with the net empty. The only time they were in much danger was that mid-period powerplay (that Casey Mittelstadt scored immediately after).
The Canucks were out-possessed in the third by a significant margin. Hell, they were in the second as well, losing that period 17-7 in shot attempts and the third 19-10 in shot attempts, all at 5v5. But the scoring chance count was even, as the defence just did a good job at preventing those cross-seam passes from getting through and, despite some hairy moments in the second, stymied the Sabres’ rush game.
It’s tough to have complaints regarding this, to be honest. You’d like to see the team not spend so much time in their own end, and you’d like to maybe apply a bit of pressure in the third and force the opposition to work for those entries, but the Canucks defended those entries very well, allowing just 5 scoring chances against on 38 controlled entries by the Sabres.
They were full credit for this win, regardless of what the shot counter or expected goals said. The Sabres certainly weren’t whipping the puck around the offensive zone or getting too many extended shifts. They had their own problems to deal with that I’ll get to in the data.
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