The Vancouver Canucks will be relieved to return to Rogers Arena on Saturday when they take on the New York Rangers. This comes after dropping their last three contests against three of their Canadian counterparts.
The Canucks will be returning from a seven-game road trip where after winning three of the first four games, the team dropped the latter three to Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
The Nucks were sitting very comfortable towards the top of the Western Conference just over a week ago and since dropping their last three games now find themselves fifth in the west.
The team finished last season with the third worst record in the west, under head coach John Tortorella, but have since looked to rebound with Willie Desjardins at the helm. However, despite what has been a great bounce-back it is important to be aware of just how this team has gotten where they are.
During their impressive 18-9-2 run, half of the team’s wins have come against teams who currently sit outside of a playoff position. What is also very important to take into account is the fact that four of the team’s w’s have come at the hands of the NHL’s basement dwelling, Edmonton Oilers.
Now there is two ways to look at that, one if the Oilers really are as bad as they seem to be, then there should be no reason for them to lose to Alberta’s under-achievers. On the other hand, Vancouver has defeated the Oilers by scores of 5-4 in a shootout, 2-0, 3-2, and 5-4. That means they have only scored four more goals than the Oilers during the season series. If Edmonton were to have been able to get a couple better goaltending performances or an extra bounce to maybe split the series, the Canucks would find themselves sitting 10th in the West today.
What also seems to be a curious case with Vancouver has been the play of starting goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller took the starting position, signing with the Canucks during the off-season after Luongo was shipped out during last season’s trade deadline.
And although Miller currently has the third most wins among all goalies this season, with 16, he also has the 37th best save percentage at .905 and the 25th ranked goals against average with a sub-par 2.57.
It seems this season that the Vancouver goaltending has either flourished when the team has been playing well or has been brutal when the team has been behind the eight-ball. In the 11 loses this season, including overtime and shootout, the team’s GAA has been a dismal 4.54. Meanwhile in the 18 wins this season the team’s GAA has been great sitting at a 1.67.
Whether that means the team has played well in front of their goalies in these games, who knows, but what is certain is that when Vancouver loses they like to do it big.
Taking a look at the advanced side of things, the Canucks also have the fifth worst PDO (save percentage + shooting percentage) at 5-on-5 this season, sitting at 98.4, while also holding the 18th ranked Corsi-for percentage at 50.3%.
The Canucks ended their recent road trip with three games in four nights so it is fair to say that towards the end they may have been feeling a little fatigued. In fact both Sedins only had two assists a piece in the team’s last four games away from home.
I wrote a piece yesterday suggesting that this season the San Jose Sharks weren’t quite the team they were last year. However, when I look at Vancouver I would argue the Canucks also aren’t the same, but they are definitely trending upwards.
They had a rough go away from home, but when you consider where the team sat at the end of last season there is no question Vancouver has improved. They still sit in a playoff spot and will have had three days off when they take to the ice Saturday night. It’s just important to understand that the team who rose to the top of the Western Conference standings may have got off on the wrong floor.
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Photo courtesy of Paul Chiasson/ THE CANADIAN PRESS