VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 10: Gregory Campbell #11 of the Boston Bruins and Maxim Lapierre #40 of the Vancouver Canucks warm up prior to Game Five of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Don't be alarmed, folks, but Maxim Lapierre is quick becoming a playoff hero. I am fully prepared to eat the crow I served up after calling Lapierre out "for taking undisciplined penalties and being a mouthy little bugger on the ice" in an article summing up the Canucks deadline day deals.
Typically, us boring fellows in the statistics crowd don't celebrate a player's playoff performance, but, just for kicks and giggles this fine Saturday, since Lapierre has played in a handful of games in the last two playoffs, let's dissect his underlying numbers and see just how Lapierre "elevates" his game in the second season. Maxim Lapierre has always been a serviceable depth centre who moves the puck north and is liable to give up a scoring chance against. Don't let his low Corsi numbers fool you, however, since he gets a lot of starts in the defensive side of the ice.
Under Alain Vigneault, who coached Lapierre in junior, he's seen more defensive starts, going from 52% of his shifts last playoffs to 70.4% this playoffs. While this would trigger a significant drop in Corsi, which is a plus-minus statistics that counts all shot attempts and tied to puck possession, Lapierre's number has actually climbed from minus-12.88 to minus-12.11 from last year to this year in playoffs.
If you glance through Lapierre's player page at Behind The Net, you may not find much of a change between regular season and playoffs, but either Vigneault is using him to his full potential now, or we're working with too small of a sample during the Cup Finals, because Lapierre is enjoying a per game adjusted Corsi number of 7.7 during the series, with the adjustment factoring in just how many times he starts in the defensive zone.
There are two reasons to be impressed by that number. One is that it's quite similar to the numbers that Ryan Kesler was putting up in Round Two. Second is that it's not like Lapierre is playing against the opposing fourth line all night. In Game 5, he saw 5.3 minutes against Milan Lucic (compared to Kesler's 6.1) and better competition (Ryder and Peverley as opposed to Paille and Campbell) at home than on the road, when the Canucks get to dictate the matchup. Heck, even without his goal, it's not a huge stretch to say that the Canucks' third line has been Vancouver's best line so far this series. With that goal and the winner in Game One, it isn't a stretch to say that they've been the most effective line for the Canucks this series. (Lapierre wasn't on the ice for that one, however)
While Lapierre may still be susceptible to the bad penalty, if he gets skating and concentrating on the on-ice game, he's a force to be reckoned with, not even Scott Burnside can stop him now. Of course, this does question whether the old cliché "your best players have to be your best players" has any credence, since the Canucks are up 3-2 (!) in the Stanley Cup Final (!) largely on the heels of a rejuvenated depth forward corps. Also, Roberto Luongo has been spectacular in the wins, but don't you try to ruin my narrative.
Instead, I'll defer to something a friend posted on my Facebook wall back on May 10, a day after the Canucks defeated Nashville to advance to the Western Conference Finals:"So Cam... what do you think of 'Yappy Lappy' now?" My response then was the same as it would be today: "He has been amazing."