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Canucks By The Numbers Deep Thoughts: Things (Probably) Aren't as Bad as They Seem

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Sure, the Canucks just got shellacked 6-3 in Big D. Lots of hand-wringing. Lots of nervous looks. But fear not. They are winning the puck possession battle in the early early going. And that's as good a thing as any to be winning if you aren't getting 2 points, I guess.

Chin up fella.
Chin up fella.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, the Canucks just got shellacked 6-3 in Big D. Lots of hand-wringing. Lots of nervous looks. But fear not. They are winning the puck possession battle in the early early going. And that's as good a thing as any to be winning if you aren't getting 2 points, I guess.

Here's what is happening, in very non-statty and simplistic terms:

1. The Canucks are controlling possession while using most of their four lines in relatively decently spread even strength time on ice.

2. The Canucks aren't scoring enough yet.

3. Their opposition is scoring at higher rates.

4. The Canucks have given up a lot of what I refer to as "Big Mistakes."

Like this:

Tanev takes out Miller

(courtesy of: Fox Sports)

Up until the drop of the puck in Dallas, and even including the loss to the Tampa Stamkos, a lot was going decidedly right. While the goals weren't flying in from the depth, the peripherals of the shot attempt battle were positive and the second line was handling tough zone starts and tough competition like men amongst boys.

Of course, myself and others spent the last two days talking about how great the second line, goaltending and Tanev have been. So what happens? Burrows turnovers. Tanev trying to sexually assault Miller in his crease. Miller inexplicably sliding all over his crease and creating goals like the one off his blocker and stick; stuff borne out of his own inability to track and position himself.

The Stars' NHL 94 style stacked first line got the better of the Canucks early and often. But the Canucks pumped in 46 shots and ran away with the shot attempt battle. Where the Bonino line struggled mightily, the Triplets ran at nearly 100% EV Corsi. No joke. Take a look.

Game #5 Corsi Sedins

(courtesy of: hockeystats.ca)

What do they get for 16-17 shot attempts for and zero against? 1 goal. Hockey. Some games aren't worth over-analyzing. This might be one of them.

A commenter recently argued that the team isn't really excelling at anything, so they have to do a little of everything to scrape by. While I don't disagree that the team needs to do better in certain areas of their game, and that doing so may lead to more goals, less against, and wins, they do excel at one thing. Getting more shot attempts than their opponent.

Excelling at puck possession is a good thing. Because it is closely correlated to winning.


So far the Canucks are excelling in puck possession. That’s a very good thing because it has been shown to be correlative to winning. Right now, the Canucks are 5th in the league with a 55.49% 5v5 Fenwick Close. The teams ahead of them are the Blackhawks, Wild, Penguins, Blues, and those lovable Bruins. Not exactly pushovers. The Ducks, Lightning and Islanders trail just behind the Canucks. Again, early season go-getters for the most part, and teams expected to be in the playoff picture.

5v5 Fenwick (defined as shots on net + shots missed, excludes shots blocked), and more specifically 5v5 Fenwick Close (defined as when the game is within a goal in the first 2 periods and tied in the third) has been shown to have the closest correlation with winning. Now, it’s still really early so that is small sample size city. But even if we use just a simple 5v5 Corsi, which is more events because it adds in blocked shots and all even strength 5v5 time, they are 6th in the league at 54.81%.

Also noteworthy, their offensive zone starts are #1 in the league at 62.2%. This indicates they are keeping teams 200 feet from their own net and playing more in the opposition's zone than their own.

Despite all this, their 5v5 PDO (sh%+sv%) is just 95.32%, 5th worst in the league. St. Louis is experiencing the same thing and experiencing similar middling results early on. But do not fret. As all teams generally will regress to around the average of 100% over time (the sh% and sv% average when added), and it's still very very early:

courtesy of nhlnumbers.com

Especially given the Canucks favorable team zone starts percentage and favorable shot attempt numbers (Corsi, Fenwick), and the fact that the Sedins, Vrbata, Burrows and Bonino are more accustomed to shooting above league average sh%, there is reason to believe that continued play-driving, along with normal regressions, will lead to improved results.

I'll leave you with a few visuals to ponder over and a few links to check out: Projecting 2014-15 NHL Standings Using Fenwick & Corsi Possession Statistics - Bob Sullivan


(courtesy of Sportingcharts.com - Bob Sullivan)


Projected point totals based on Fenwick


(courtesy of Sportingcharts.com - Bob Sullivan)

Habseyeontheprize.com did an interesting study on the correlation between possession and winning using Fenwick. Check out how many teams with solid Fenwicks make the playoffs, and ultimately increase their odds of winning the Cup. The visualizations are great:

"You can see the magic number of success [below] is +.500. If you manage to crack this number you have a greater than 75% chance to qualify for the playoffs. If you break the +.550 mark you have a 25% probability of winning the Cup."



(courtesy of: habseyeontheprize.com)