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8 stats to ponder after 8 Canucks games

We look at some highs and lows with this Canucks team early in the season.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at St. Louis Blues
Oct 17, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) and St. Louis Blues center Robby Fabbri (15) battle for the puck during the first period at Enterprise Center. 
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t the first time the Canucks have gotten off to a strong start, but something feels a bit different this year.

There certainly aren’t many parallel’s to that 2016-17 Canucks team that started off the season winning four in a row while barely having a lead. This year’s incarnation of the team has better star power and a great goaltending tandem.

Still, they haven’t been perfect, and that’s reflected in these eight numbers below. Here are eight stats after eight Canucks games.

51.2% Corsi For

I’m going to start if off with the most “generic” advanced stat. The reason I bring this up is that the Canucks haven’t finished the season with a positive even-strength Corsi since the John Tortorella-led Canucks clicked at 51.3% in the 2013-14 season.

Of course, a positive Corsi isn’t everything, which Tortorella would likely have told you following that season.

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks
The last time the Canucks were a positive Corsi team, this guy was behind the bench.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Even during the Canucks last playoff run in 2014-15, they were just below the 50% threshold. They still have flaws at even-strength, but it’s a far cry from the basement-dwelling team that’s been shelled at even-strength for the past four seasons.

28.7 Scoring Chances Against per 60

While a positive Corsi is good, giving up some of the most scoring chances in the league is, well, not good.

The Canucks gave up the most scoring chances at even strength last season, and it hasn’t been much better in the early going of the season. That 28.7 mark is 6th worst in the league, and it shows that the team is still relying heavily on their goaltenders. It’s worked out so far, but the dam might burst if the Canucks don’t shore things up defensively.

86.7%, Average penalty kill of Pacific Division teams

The Canucks have the third best penalty kill in the league at 92.6%. That’s great, but take a look and who else cracks the top five.

1. Vegas Golden Knights: 94.3%
2. San Jose Sharks: 92.8%
3. Vancouver Canucks: 92.6%
4. Edmonton Oilers: 90.3%
5. Calgary Flames: 87.5%

The Anaheim Ducks (82.8%) and Arizona Coyotes (81.8%) rank 12th and 13th in the league respectively, with only the Los Angeles Kings (71.4%, 26th) under-performing on the penalty kill thus far.

Nothing to over-analyze here, but it amplifies the importance of staying strong on the kill with their rivals doing the same. They also need to improve the power play, but more on that in a minute.

.956: the Canucks short-handed save percentage

This is indicative of a strong early season performance from the Canucks netminders while shorthanded. It’s also a sign that perhaps the goaltenders deserve more credit for a strong kill than the personnel on the ice.

Just like their scoring chances against at evens, the Canucks have given up the 6th most chances while shorthanded. That needs to improve if they want to maintain one of the league’s best penalty kills.

For the record, the highest shorthanded save percentage last year belonged to Tampa Bay, who had a .901. The Canucks were 19th with an .855.

.875: Quality start percentage of Canucks goaltenders

Generally, it’s considered good if a goalie has an average start percentage above 53%. The sample size is small, but the Canucks netminders provided quality goaltending in seven of eight games so far this season.

An 87.5% quality start percentage is unsustainable, but is 67% out of the question? The Dallas Stars tandem of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin clicked at 66% last year.

For those that aren’t familiar with quality start percentage, it’s determined by a goaltender’s save percentage on a certain night in relation to the league average save percentage.

25:03: Alex Edler ice-time

He might be a graybeard, but Travis Green continues to use Alex Edler like he’s the second incarnation of Nick Lidstrom.

Edler’s has surpassed the 25-minute threshold in six of eight games so far this season, with his season low 23:46 coming yesterday against the Rangers. His high usage hasn’t cost the Canucks so far, but you have to wonder how the oft-injured Edler will hold up if he continues playing this much.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see his ice time drop as Green gets more comfortable with Quinn Hughes, especially on the power play. Speaking of which...

3:09: Quinn Hughes’s average ice time on the power play

This mark firmly ranks sixth on the team, as Travis Green toggles Hughes between the first and second power play units. He’s yet to use Hughes solely on unit number one, as Edler still holds down that role.

Still, we saw Hughes get some PP1 time as the Canucks trailed the Devils on Saturday. You have to wonder how long Green will be patient with this, since the team’s power play currently ranks 24th in the league. Take away that three for five outburst against the Wings, and the Canucks are two for 29 (6.9%) with the man advantage this season. That would have them ahead of only Ottawa and Anaheim.

Vancouver Canucks v New York Rangers
How much longer before Hughes claims his throne on the first power play unit?
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

71.3: Hughes’ scoring chances per 60 with the man advantage

Here’s the best argument for Hughes to get more time with the first power play unit. So far this season, the Canucks create the most power play chances with Hughes on the ice, as he ranks first on the team in this area.

At times, the first power play unit with Edler has looked too stagnant. Although they were able to bury some chances against the Wings, the top unit has looked plodding and predictable for the most part.

They simply move the puck better with Hughes running the first unit. I’m personally okay with balancing the two units if both are clicking, but right now, no one is getting anything done.

If the power play continues to falter, Green won’t be able to keep Hughes off of the first unit.