Finally, for the first time in what seems like a month, the Vancouver Canucks played back-to-back strong games, with an impressive score-tied performance against Nashville backed up by a clear victory against Minnesota.
I think that the team's worries with possession are well-documented. Anybody can look at the Canucks' 8-2-3 record in 2012 coming into this week and, even without paying close attention to the stats, thought "no, that does not add up. The team has been terrible, and have been bailed out by their goaltending."
Of course, now the record has jumped up to 10-2-3 in 2012 after this week, with no tough breaks on the schedule until a back-to-back in Detroit and Newark. Check out the schedule for the remainder of the year: that's the only stretch of tough games I see, with that road trip re-routing the team through the American Southwest, but to take on Dallas and Phoenix, teams that the Canucks have had a lot of success against lately.
Getting back on track when it comes to shot and scoring chance differential is crucial, even if it results in a few losses, I'd rather Vigneault work something different (I couldn't tell you what, I'm not an NHL coach) in an attempt to find the Canucks' game again.
While the Canucks' looked better, and we can all agree on that, the statistics don't quite back it up: the team was 48% score-tied Corsi (2 goals, 21 shots, 10 misses, 12 blocks to 1 goal, 26 shots, 11 misses and 11 blocks) over the recent two-game span. Nashville and Minnesota are two of the worst teams in the league at controlling the puck, so it's upsetting to see the team still hovering below 50%, although they were able to win a game despite being out-goaltended, and they were able to win a game by more than a goal, so, baby steps.
Oh, yeah, at least they aren't Minnesota.
In case you missed it, the Minnesota Wild, predicted to slump since about mid-November by pretty much anybody with a reasonable grasp of hockey numbers or for any non-homer fan who was watching the Wild play (I've yet to find anybody who isn't a Wild fan willingly watch Minnesota every game). The team's record flattered them, 20-7-3 over their first 30 games, the top spot in the entire NHL, has now crashed back to earth:
|Win Percentage||Corsi Tied||Shot Rate||Goal Rate|
(Data collected via Vic Ferrari's wonderful scripts)
Critics of advanced stats will point to Minnesota's improving shot rate, but the score-tied number is still very, very low compared to other teams in the mix. Anything under 47% should be extremely worrying, as teams below that number seldom make the playoffs. The differences in winning percentage and goal rate are extreme. What could have possibly happened in the first 30 games differently than the last 24?
Again, nobody would be talking about this if they were a team like, say, Dallas, who didn't side half of their mediocre record to one end of the schedule for once in their lives, they've just been ploughing along without anything interesting to talk about. Minnesota's PDO dropped from 102.1 over the first 30 to 98.3 over the last 24. Percentages are a fickle bitch, and they caught the Wild cheating on their record one day. Now, Minnesota have to wake up outside of the playoff picture.
That's a bit of foreshadowing. The Canucks haven't quite been a .411 team since the new year (merely a .453 team) and are really working the percentages to stay alive. Luckily, Vancouver have enough points banked that they'd need a real crisis (something like winning only 5 of 24 games) to knock them out of contention, and they at least have a strong possession record in the last few years to fall back on, unlike Minnesota, so you know they have the ability to bounce back.
But, c'mon, guys, the schedule is, like, wicked easy.