Lightning vs Canucks coverage
Sometimes things just don't go your way.
Everybody loses, eventually. But Vancouver played mostly fine, and probably didn't deserve to lose this one, but for a few glaring gaffes. It started early:
That guy doesn't miss from there.
A Rough Start
The Triplets, and in particular Henrik Sedin, were mistake prone. They carried a -2 to show for it. That play by Henrik Sedin was not a good one, but neither was the fact that two defensemen got caught out of position and sleeping, leaving him stranded in a congested area. And the failure to tie up Stamkos in front on the second goal was glaring. And Stamkos doing crazy stuff for the pass on Ryan Callahan's game-winner....yea.
So, basically, the Tampa Bay Stamkos' were opportunistic on a few big mistakes (namely the first two goals) and our heroes simply did not finish when they had to. And Vancouver didn't help themselves any with untimely penalties. But they did mostly control the even strength game and, while the PP didn't look particularly threatening for some stretches, they did pot one goal on it. Alas, Tampa clamped down in the third and played smart hockey, led by what could arguably be the top D pairing in the game in Swedish God of Corsi Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman.
These things happen; these types of losses where you do most things right but fail to score a timely one. And the competition took advantage of mistakes.
Canucks Come Around, Control Tempo, But Play From Behind as a Result of Early Mistakes
First, take a look again (above) at the overall shot attempt battle. The Canucks controlled the tempo for most of the game, mostly because of the PP advantage. They just didn't finish chances.
Looking at the even strength gameflow, things were about break even aside from the score effect tail at the end of the game:
And the even strength Corsi numbers, in order of first to worst:
Hamhuis and Bieksa Struggle Mightily
The pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa was flat terrible even strength. At any strength. All game. Hamhuis in particular was a -40% Corsi Rel. That's inexcusably worse than the rest of his team. 40% worse than his teammates performed without him. Those two got run over in the shot suppression department. I guess Hamhuis' windshield was foggy, or something.
(No, I'm not making light of his injury. I've had that happen to me before. Let's just say that it "stings a bit." I wouldn't be on the ice the next game. That I know.)
To put things in perspective though, there have been 38 shot attempts against in the first 3 games combined while Hamhuis has been on the ice. Tonight? 20 against. Maybe he would've been better served to take one off.
What gives me pause, despite his injury, is that Hamhuis received tougher zone starts tonight than he had in the first 3 games. And he really struggled, which could be just as correlative to his performance as his banged up schnoz:
It's a small sample size, so it would be an immense confirmation bias to make a strict logical leap. But Hamhuis' OZS% Rel % was -15%, meaning he started in the defensive zone 15% more often than his teammates did without him on the ice. This is in contrast to the first three games of the season, where he received rather cushy zone starts in comparison with his teammates. It's worth at least looking at:
Now, keep in mind that a small sample size skews everything. Let's not put too much stock in one game, or four games. But what you see above is that Hamhuis had received more offensive zone starts than his defensive counterparts through the first three games, against inferior teams (Edmonton and Calgary). Despite this, his Corsi relative to his teammates shows that he, and more starkly his battery mate Bieksa, were already slightly underwater in terms of suppression and possession driving.
It isn't an issue of quality of competition, as Tanev, Luca Sbisa, and Alexander Edler have all faced comparable or tougher competition in their previous games, and again tonight. This is a worrisome trend. Hamhuis and Bieksa faced a tougher team in the Tampa Bay Lightning, and were given more defensive zone responsibility. They struggled mightily. That can't continue.
And it wasn't the Stamkos effect either really. Bieksa, Tanev and Edler all shared the Stamkos line duty about evenly. Hamhuis had 4:34 even strength TOI against Stamkos. The other three ran a tick under 4 minutes (so a difference of one shift or so). Sbisa and Weber barely saw him at all.
Edler, Tanev and Bieksa actually faired better in Corsi +/- against Stamkos when he was on the ice than they did against the rest of Tampa when he wasn't on the ice. Hamhuis, however did slightly worse in Corsi% with Stamkos on ice (28.7%). But we are splitting hairs, as Hamhuis ran 33% when he wasn't on the ice. So bad and more bad, basically. Here's a look at his complete EV WOWYs vs Opponents:
The Depth Isn't Exactly Setting Things Ablaze
The third and fourth line were also particularly inept at even strength tonight. But this has been an increasingly noticeable trend for all of the games thus far. The third line in particular has struggled to drive possession in relatively substantial even strength TOI. This is despite the relative inferior quality of competition they have faced (see chart above). Today, they were asked to carry their weight with about an even run of D Zone and O Zone starts. They didn't fair well, as you can see from their Corsi chart, posted again below:
Bonino Line Dominance
Meanwhile, the second line once again drove the hell out of the possession bus. And once again took on the toughest zone starts. As you saw from the chart above, they have been doing that through all four games this season, and very very successfully I might add. Their zone starts against Tampa were 35% more in the defensive zone than their teammates. Despite that, they ran above 55% Corsi% once again, for the 4th consecutive game. Nick Bonino ran at 64% and TB only managed 4 shot attempts even strength while he was on the ice. That's shot attempts. Hell, he had the most PK time of any forward and despite this, if we account for special teams his Corsi goes up to 68%. That line looks really, really good. And responsible defensively. And the finishing is bound to come if they continue their elite possession play.
Oh and this was pretty nifty too:
If they can start producing at a high rate on a regular basis, losses like this one aren't going to happen as often. But this team is going to need more than two lines.
The Bonino and Sedin line split even strength time about evenly against the Stamkos line, getting the majority of it between them. Richardson/Vey/Kass line got no time at all against the Stamkos line, largely sheltered from the top 2 lines actually. Matthias line got about a minute and 30 seconds vs them.
Can Anyone Handle the Stamkos Line?
Well, on this night at least, the Bonino's line got the MUCH tougher zone deployment vs. that Stamkos line, taking a majority of the defensive zone starts against them. And they did great. They limited Stamkos and company to 3 total shot attempts against, while producing 7 shot attempts. (70% Corsi%). They basically snuffed them out completely at evens, while taking on the tougher task with the zone starts. The chart below shows how Bonino (and his line, basically) did against each individual on Tampa. As you can see, they took on the defensive zone assignments vs that line nearly 70% of the time that they were on the ice against them. And they locked them down hard.
The Sedin line obviously had the two big mistakes early vs the Stamkos line, and were reduced against them accordingly. While they did get about 4 minutes of even strength time against that line, it was 100% in the offensive zone. That means that the only time they ever faced up against the Stamkos line at evens, they were starting 200 feet from their own goal.
This is all actually a good thing. Despite things not working out in this particular game, because of the Bonino line's success at handling tougher defensive zone deployment against what is clearly upper echelon NHL talent in Tampa's first line, it freed up the Sedin's to get much more favorable offensive zone starts. If this trend continues as it has for the first four games, it will be a stark departure to the deployment the Sedin's experienced under John Tortorella last year. It will free them up to do much more Sedin/Vrbata type stuff while the second line plays a stopper against tougher top lines, when needed.
Like I said, it didn't work out this game because of two bad gaffes that Stamkos gobbled up early. But it's something to watch out for and something that ultimately will benefit that line's offensive output (and the team's overall shot suppression against tough opponents) in the long run.
Christopher Tanev is going to be a shot suppression God this season. Mark my words. Forget his whopping 83% Corsi% even strength in this game for a second. Or the fact that he and Edler had the most PK time of any Canuck at 5 minutes each. He only allowed 2 even strength shot attempts all game. 2. In all situations, he only allowed 5 shot attempts all game. In 19 minutes of TOI. It's only one game, of course. But that's some good stuff.
More to come in my roundup of Games 1 through 4: goal charts and analysis, loose-puck retrieval stats, passing, goaltending, and zone entry/exit tracking data. Stay tuned.
And as always, comment with questions. Anything of interest will be added to the article or posted in my next one. Cheers!
Want more information on a particular topic of interest? See something you still don't understand? Need another stat defined which doesn't appear here? Contact Nick Mercadante at @nmercad on twitter or by email at nick.mercadante [at] gmail [dot] com.
Stats and charts for this article were compiled from the following sources: