I'm trying something drastically different in place of my regular weekly recap. This past week was likely the most unique we'll see from the Canucks in this shortened season for a few reasons: they played a ridiculous 5 games in 7 nights against some stiff competition (2 at home, 3 on the road), had a severely depleted lineup due to injury and suspension, and despite all that they collected 8 of a possible 10 points. It was an impressive performance given a less than ideal set of circumstances.
In situations like this the media will default to words like "grit" and "heart" to summarize. I want to dig a little deeper for context, so I assembled the individual Corsi +/- for each player during this five game stretch.
I know not everybody who frequents this site is on-board with underlying statistics, but the fact remains that if you're not at least considering what they have to tell you, you're not getting the full story.
A quick introduction: Corsi is a puck possession metric that measures all shot attempts for and against (including blocked shots) while a player is on the ice. As a team, the Canucks have been top five in the league in this category for most of the season, and it's a proven indicator of a team's future success.
Let's see how it breaks down individually over the past week:
All data pulled from timeonice.com
The context of these numbers is key. The two ugliest games came against the Blues and Kings, two very good possession teams in their own right (the Kings are the best in the league by a wide margin). The Canucks also led in every game, and spent a lot of time in a defensive shell as a result. The Kings game in particular, the Canucks were keeping it very simple: winning puck battles, chipping it deep, and changing. You could look at a -21 Corsi rating and say the Kings controlled the game, but I think the Canucks played exactly how they wanted to, and it worked.
Against the teams they knew they could be more aggressive against, they were, winning the possession battles against the Wild and Avalanche with ease. To me this shows the handle that Alain Vigneault has on his players: he's able to easily manipulate his method of attack depending on the opponent, and the players respond and execute more often than not.
Holy hell are the Sedins ever good possession players. They had massive outings against the Wild and Blues. Their numbers are higher partly due to their high offensive zone start %, but they're utilized in that way because they're so good at keeping the puck.
Holy hell are Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins ever getting man-handled. For Lapierre it's because he starts nearly every shift in his own end, and for Higgins it's because he's been matched against the opponent's top lines. He got eaten alive by the Blues and Kings. Vigneault realized this wasn't working and put him up with the twins against the Avs, which is the best remedy there is for poor possession numbers. The Canucks don't have an ace defensive forward who can contain the other team's top players at the moment, and that's a concern.
Jordan Schroeder has been very, very good since his call-up. His numbers here are quite solid, and he's on a four game point streak. His line with Raymond and Hansen was a saviour this week.
On the backend, the usually ace Hamhuis-Garrison pairing had a nightmarish outing against the Coyotes and the Doan line. On the flipside, Bieksa and Alberts had a gem against the Avs, putting up +10 and +9 ratings respectively against the Landeskog - O'Reilly - Wilson line. That is a bruising pairing, and I like what I've seen from it.
Finally, the Canucks posted a +2 rating overall for the week, but in the four games they won with Schneider in net they were -22. Again, this is partly due to their lineup and the style they chose to play. Earlier in the year the team was losing games in which they controlled possession due to average goaltending, so I'll take this.
To conclude, this was a fascinating week for the team, both in terms of the results, the stats, and the character they displayed through a tough slog. A key player was suspended, half the bottom six was hurt, and a defenceman was playing forward. For the first time all year I feel like we got a sense of what this team might be able to accomplish this season. The numbers were far from sparkling, but they're representative of a change in style due to the circumstances, and the good teams are the ones that can adapt and pull themselves out of tough situations.