Neilson Numbers - Analyzing Games One and Two

Hello from Edmonton, where the snow didn't melt until after hockey season was over. (Our season, that is. Damn snow's finally gone now.)

Your Vancouver Canucks are still going strong and appear to be two games away from taking it all. Fun times for Canucks fans, no doubt. I'm not one, but I do remember the excitement of winning that first Cup. What a rush!

In the Stanley Cup Finals, the eyes of the hockey world - lovers and haters alike - are on your team. At the Cult of Hockey, the Edmonton Journal's hockey blog, we're using a tool we've utilized throughout the season to analyze Oiler games, to break down the performance of the two finalists. This involves identifying scoring chances and assigning credit or blame as the case may be, just to those individuals directly involved in creating the chance or who were responsible for the defensive breakdown.

These Individual Scoring Chances, the pet project of our blog's founder David Staples, have recently been rechristened Neilson Numbers in honour of the Hockey Hall of Fame coach Roger Neilson. The man whose lone trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was as (interim!) coach of the Canucks back in 1982, reportedly used similar methodology for analyzing the performance of his own teams. So it seems appropriate that we use a variation of Coach Neilson's methods to critique the 2011 Canucks:

Game One

Game Two


Biggest surprises to this writer from a Vancouver perspective for the two games combined: 1) how much more of an influence Daniel Sedin has had than Henrik on scoring chances to date; 2) how well Jannik Hansen has played in the offensive zone; 3) how Aaron Rome has been exploited to this point in the series (I've seen him as being fairly solid in the past, but he's been running around and getting burned quite a bit). The biggest non-surprise, on the other hand, is how the Canucks have been getting real solid contributions from all three of their top lines.

The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, have relied heavily on their top line to create offence. The defence corps has struggled, especially the twosome of Andrew Ference and Zdeno Chara, who for some reason were paired to start overtime in Game Two. That didn't end well, although the experiment did end quickly!

Bottom line: the Canucks were deserving winners in Game One based on scoring chances, but were very fortunate to come away with the W in Game Two. Whatever, Vancouver is certainly in the driver's seat heading back to Beantown.

We'll continue to monitor the series to its conclusion.

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