Of course, when it comes to numbers, the ones in regard to the games played against the Avalanchers of Denver Colorado are very much like their namesake, immutable, a veritable barrage of woeful ways of stringing a few numbers together. Thats what happens when your record is 17-3-0 in the current decade against a particular team in the past 3 ( and this season ) years.
But let us not forget, in the decade before, the Canucks were only 22-36-3 against the Avs. Suffice to say, it is fun for some of us still to keep this team down. Mainly because they are young, deep, and, for my money, as much a team "on the rise" as the Oilers. These guys actually made a playoffs in recent memory.
Its a good thing to keep a team like that thinking that they "just can't beat these guys" for as long as possible, and the home game on Thursday would mean another season for the Avs where every time they think of the Canucks, they think of losing.
Might as well, right?
Let's look back at the last time the Canucks were playing at altitude, before taking a peek at the most dominant 1-0 shootout I've seen in a while, and maybe we'll throw in a little fearless prognostication at the end.
Avs - 3 / 24 / 13
How many of you were thinking this was going to be a tough one? Was there more than a couple folks rationalizing that "even if they lose this one", things will be OK? I know I was. After the Canucks played their brand of hockey and beat the Kings 1 - 0 ( a message win..."our kung fu is stronger than your kung fu. Crane Style. Do right, no defense..." ) , playing the next night was always going to be tough.
Being finely tuned professional athletes however, the Canucks played in Denver like they were having fun while playing AV's game. It was a game of a differing style than the "Low Event" nature of the previous game. The Avs are not a team that is averse to offensive hockey. I always enjoy the games against them as a result.
#4 - Keith Ballard. How about that, huh? I've always been one to look at the "AV hates Keith" narrative at arm's length. Yes, I have participated in the chicanery. It wouldn't be a hockey mad city if we didn't kibbitz about such stuff. Sure, its fun, and the hashtags are hilarious, but I had kind of made my peace with that whole situation. Honestly? I love the guy as a player, and how he handles himself in the media. I also get why he wasn't playing all the time on defense as well. But just look at this game for a contribution while playing out of position. In the 12-13 minute range that 3rd lines get, his all 5 on 5 12:48 featured a robust game that included an assist on the winning goal, which also gave him a +1. 4 shots on goal. 1 block. 3 hits and 1 takeaway. It seemed that every time he was out he was noticeable. Usually I bury the jersey number, but when you contribute like that, you deserve top billing.
1 - That is the number of goals that have truly "beaten" Cory Schneider in the last 5 games. The 2 versus St Loo were off butts and heads before falling to empty nets, or even in. The same with the one against the Desert Dogs. Parenteau's late goal on the power play was a fortunate bounce as well. Only the 2 on 1 where he had maybe a 2% chance of getting over to rob Jamie McGinn was on a shot where an opposing player actually beat the Vancouver netminder. #justsayin
9:24 - Is what you get when you add up the 4:23 of PK time Alexandre Burrows put in at elevation with the 5:01 that Dan Hamhuis led his team with. Sure, the power play has been funky, but the penalty kill has to get some love. Most of the time it is pretty solid lately. Keeping guys to the outside and chances to a minimum. That is because of the contributions of these two. They regularly lead their player group in short handed ice time ( Hammer is often the Canuck ice time leader as well, as he was against the Avs with 26:43 TOI. And all Alexandre Burrows did was score the game winning goal on a saaaa-WEET backhand cheese to the top corner short side.
33-25 - Sometimes the faceoff stats are a bit skewed. Like all stats in home rinks, they have a local bias. Sometimes its because of different interpretations, like I explained previously. Everyone jokes about the hit count in Minnesota, but sometimes its as simple as they call it as they see the rule written. Like, a giveaway will be credited ( or a takeaway ) after, say, the home team is credited with winning a faceoff. No matter. In the game in Denver, Henrik Sedin was 9 for 14 for 64.3%. He takes a lot of, but not exclusively offensive zone draws. Maxim Lapierre takes a lot of defensive zone draws these days, and was 8 for 13. He had a 61.5% success rate. Sure, the Canucks are 28th in the NHL in faceoff % as a team at 47.2%. There is no doubt that Jordan Schroeder and Andrew Ebbett are getting occasionally torched ( Schredder was 3 of 12 and Ebbett was 5 of 16. Those %'s are down in the 30's. But again, give AV some credit. Even without his secret weapon of Manny Malhotra, and of course without Ryan Kesler for now, more often than not these days, losing draws does not equal losing games.
Blue Jackets - 3 / 26 / 13
Remember those good old days when the BJ's were an easy mark? That seems to not be the case as of this season, at least the second half of it for the Columbus crew. Todd Richards has them playing disciplined game where they try to block as many shots as Sergei Bobrovsky does every night. They almost succeeded, with 27 blocks for the team and 34 for Bob The Goalie. With another 14 shot attempts going asunder for the Canucks, that's 75 shot attempts for the home team tonight, compared to 17 on Cory Schneider, another 5 going wide, and 16 blocks for the home team, for a Columbus total of 38. That is literally a two to one advantage on shots on goal and shot attempts. Honestly, it looked like a passing clinic at times. Give Bob' credit for stealing a point and lets keep this streak a going...
36 - was the total hit count for the visitors tonight. ( maybe Vancouver is one of those rinks where there is no bias, huh? lol ) The home team was credited with 14. After just finishing the PVR of this one, that actually seems about right. Like I said, this bunch is dedicated to playing a hard game. They finish every check. Some of them looked to be the kind where it was a hit, but the hittee slips it to avoid the damage ( hereafter known as "pulling a Tanev" ), but thats a tough team over there these days. Nick Foligno tied for his team lead with 6 hits with MacKenzie, tied for the blocks lead with 4 with RJ Umberger, and led his team with 5 of their 17 shots. Thats pretty impressive.
#40 - Of course, in a double shutout, you could say that giving the # sign to signify the jersey of note to the guy that scored the only goal in the shootout is a copout. It was a helluva move though, wasn't it? Like Valk pointed out afterwards, when you go in that slow, the goaltender knows you are going to deke. But he just kept piling deke on top of deke to get the goalie to bite just a little, and then that backhand was not going to be stopped. But for me, it was the fact that, on a night where the visitors were finishing every check, Mad Max had exactly half of his team total with 7 hits. Neither his big winger Sestito, nor Gordon had a one. Edler led the defense with 2 hits. his 2 shots on goal were both scoring chances, he attempted another, and had 1 takeaway as well. Thats pretty good for 16 shifts, and only 10:19 of even strength ice time as part of his 11:22 TOI. Your 4th line is supposed to change momentum. That was not needed as much, but Max sure brought it tonight.
1 - Dan Hamhuis had an OK game. OK, it was his usual, mainly solid 24:29, with a shot on net, another wide, a block, and a couple of giveaways to sort of balance it out. But the 1 is for the one save he had to make on Foligno with 1:45 remaining. Sure, it was a desperate move, but he thought of it as the only way to stop a goal that would have been pretty unlucky ( the puck was only in the zone because it went off the linesman a few seconds earlier ), and he pulled it off with the save that had John Garrett pulling out the Jacques Plante reference. Nice.
2 - The Columbus Blue Jackets had 2 shots in the first period. They missed the net 2 more times, and had 5 shots blocked in the opening stanza. Thats it. Meanwhile the Canucks had 13 shots on net, and a bunch more ( honestly. I just don't want to go through the play by play and count all the attempts in the first. You saw the first period right? It was a LOT ) shots attempted and blocked. The Canucks doubled the shot count on their visitors in the 2nd at 12 to 6, and actually were outshot in the 3rd at 7-6, before being edged in O/T 3-2. Sure, the Canucks also went 0 for 3 on the PP ( while killing the 2 penalties against )...and could have lost this game with only a little puck luck against. Sometimes when things are going well, they are going well.
Now, that is the short and quick on the past two games, and how the Canucks are getting things done. How about getting it done some more in the future? Well, there's the Av's again on Thursday, and after that a game on CBC in Edmonton ( if I may be so bold to suggest Rick Ball for that one Mother Corp? Please, no Mark Lee, if you could...? Thx ) before visiting the Sharks, Oilers again at home, Calgary and Pheonix as well...and then 5 on the road ( Flames, Avs, Preds, St Louis, and Dallas ) 3 at home ( the 3 hardest of the season, with the Wings, Hawks and Ducks all coming to The Rog' at the end of April ), before visiting the Oilers on April 27th. Here's hoping they are agonizingly close so the Canucks can crush their dreams.
Good times... but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. How about just taking a look at the next opponent?
#22 - Because we have to have something, and this is actually a little troubling, it seems everyone is talking about how Daniel Sedin has gone a little cold. His last goal was just a little over a week ago against St Louis, but because he has not been filling the net, some of our media folk are saying he has "gone cold". Do the numbers point towards his making the Avs life miserable? Well, not really. The power play that he is on the point for ( feeding Garrison for bombs and being the back door shot option that simply EVERY penalty kill makes sure to avoid by taking away Hank's passing lane from the half boards ) He is actually a career -7 against the Denver denizens in 63 career games. The 27 goals and 25 assists are enough for me. I am just going to go out on the limb and say it. Daniel Sedin gets at least a goal on Thursday.
1.35 - Is the goals against average that Cory Schneider has in 7 games in his career against the Avs. He has given up 9 goals on 213 shots, for a .958 save %. After tonight's easy night of work, does anyone doubt that he will get yet another start?
+11 - Alexander Edler is a career +11 against our Colorado guests, in 36 games. Considering he is currently stuck on -2, and while on a pace ( if this were a full season ) for 12 goals and 42 points, his pace for that would be a -5. That is a mixed blessing for all that production, but even though the numbers don't exactly scream it out, I am also calling for Edler to get at least a point.
6th - The Canucks currently sit at 42 points, with an identical record to the surprising Ottawa Senators, at 18-9-6. That's good enough to be tied at 6th overall. Like the Sens, they are doing it while being beset by the injury bug ( not to the extent of the Sens, of course! ) But check some of this. In some of our favorite Real Time stats, the Canucks are ; 20th in hits with 690. 28th in blocks with 385. 22nd in faceoff wins with 954, while being 28th in faceoff % with 47.2%. They have the 29th overall power play at 13.1%. While better recently, the penalty kill is still only 14th at 81.5%. 19th in goals for at 2.54. Their defensive backbone has moved them up the goals against table, where they are currently 7th at 2.42 GA / game. The "toughness" number is another one that I always find funny, just because it's such a narrative buster. Sure, I think its one major penalty this season that was not for a fight, but the Canucks are 3rd overall in majors taken with 24. The team plus / minus is currently 7th at +10. It should also be noted in this whole number jumble that the Canucks are 17th in goals for with 84 , ( 1 below the Flames and Bruins tied with 85 ), while being 10th overall in 5 on 5 scoring at 61 goals. So, they are still a pretty dangerous team straight up, relatively speaking. But in this disjointed season, did you ever think that you would see a team that used to be Top 10 in most all the above categories still be doing fairly well while scraping the bottom in those same stat lines? Weird season. Nice to see the toughness though, just so the knuckledraggers can actually see it there in black and white.
OK...thats enough for now. I'll put it in the appropriate place, but I am predicting yes, the Canucks will sweep the Avs this season. How about THAT for going out on a limb?