Game 22, Vancouver Canucks vs. New Jersey Devils
Game Time: 7:00pm PST
Where To Watch: Sportsnet Pacific
Canucks Record: 14-6-1 (2nd Pacific) - Points Per Game: 1.38 (3rd West)
Devils Record: 9-9-3 (5th Metro) - Points Per Game: 1.00 (12th East)
Tonight's game features two teams headed in decidedly different directions. The Canucks are coming off of a resounding thrashing of the Chicago Blackhawks. Beaker went berserk, but the spread of contributions up and down the lineup is nothing new for this team this season. It has been, if anything, a pleasant surprise to many. Yet still, this team goes where the Sedins go, and their return to dominance in all facets of their game is pacing the Canucks' early success.
On the other side of things, the Devils have just 3 wins in their past 10 games. Their leading scorer has just 13 points and is 42 years old. Nevermind the fact that I am an unabashed lover of all things Jaromir Jagr, the Devils aren't exactly boasting a dearth of top-end scoring talent when Jags is your top scorer.
Despite that, they play a low event brand of hockey that seeks to minimize the number of shot attempts. They boast the second lowest Corsi Against per 60 minutes at 47 total shot attempts. By comparison the Canucks give up 53 per game. The Devils only produce 48.1 CF/60 (shot attempts for).
So really, it is all about speeding up the game to frustrate their transition clogging systems and opening things up a bit. Force the offense on them and keep them in their zone. Otherwise we are looking at a lot of dump and chase boredom. Think traditional Predators or Coyotes hockey.
The low event style can be boring, but it also can be effective. If you give a team like that a lead, they can clam up and wait it out.
Luckily for the Canucks, the Devils have not been particularly successful at holding leads, only winning 50% of games where they score first (26th) and 71% (24th) where they are leading after 2 periods. At least thus far, whether by way of bad luck or otherwise, they have been susceptible to giving up the slim leads they ever do hold.
What to Watch: Goaltending
At least some of the blame from New Jersey media has fallen on goaltending, and I don't really know why. Former Canuck Cory Schneider has been beyond fine. His statistics show that. Meanwhile, Ryan Miller has gotten a bit of a pass because he is winning games. Really, he has just been afforded better run support in front of him. I don't think Miller has been a problem. But for $6M, he can be better, and can play at his averages. Some of it is a few bad blowup games earlier this season skewing things. He hasn't been terrible by any means on an average day. But clearly, he is between stuff with goaltending coach Rollie Melanson. You can see it in how he goes on and off between aggressively challenging and getting caught off his angle deep in his net. He appears somewhat tentative, and maybe at the quarter mark it is time to revert to his preferred style a bit more. Or simply turn a corner and get settled in. I don't know.
Take a look at the goalies unadjusted and adjusted save percentage. Adjusted Sv% balances for high medium and low shot probability location. It is explained in detail here.
Now, I'm just a humble backup to Missy, tonight. But the Canucks have risen to the occasion against most of the tougher opponents and been a bit flat in traditional "trap" games following the high of a big win. How about take two and keep on truckin'?
Enjoy the game everyone. Happy American Thanksgiving. And in the words of Missy, Coconuts Go!