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Charts & Graphs - Feb. 6, 2014

Thursday, 06.02.2014 / 7:10 PM / Features
By Cam Charron
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Charts & Graphs - Feb. 6, 2014
If there\'s one rule one must follow in sports, make it this: \"you\'re never as good as you look when you win, and never as bad as you look when you lose.\"
If there's one rule one must follow in sports, make it this: "you're never as good as you look when you win, and never as bad as you look when you lose."

That may help explain how the Canucks seemingly turned on a dime when the ball dropped and the clock hit 2014. Vancouver went 10-1-2 in December and so far just 4-11-2 since January 1. Just to get the obvious out of the way, the Canucks probably aren't a team that's going to win a quarter of their games from now until the end of the season.

No, the Canucks have scored on just 6.9% of their shots so far in 2014. There's some evidence that this slump is fuelled partially by bad luck. After all, the Canucks scored on just 6.9% of their shots in the month of November (the NHL average is generally around 8.0%) and increased that to 8.6% in December. You can never really predict which way the puck bounces, all a team can hope to do is increase the number of opportunities they take.

So the concerning thing then, is that the Canucks are taking fewer shots than they were in October at 5-on-5, and also conceding more:

 

GP

Shots For

Shots Against

Shots For/GP

Shots Against/GP

Sh%

Sv%

October

15

346

312

23.1

20.8

8.7%

0.917

November

13

346

280

26.6

21.5

6.9%

0.914

December

13

303

315

23.3

24.2

8.6%

0.946

January

17

349

433

20.5

25.5

6.9%

0.926

Understandably, this isn't exactly re-assuring, but the Canucks high shooting (and especially save) percentages in December probably rendered us a little too confident in the team's abilities. While individual players and goaltenders can affect to some degree their percentages, there's a lot of noise, especially in a small sample. In December, the Canucks looked positively invincible, winning a lot of close games. But, judging by the shots for and against, the luck was probably due to change—winning thanks to high percentages isn't exactly sustainable since you're finding yourself counting on getting more good bounces than the other guys on any given night.

This next chart shows the Canucks shot attempts for and against per 60 minutes of play. We know that shot attempts are good measure of which team has the puck in any given night. The idea is that the more shot attempts a team directs at net, the better the chance they had the puck the most, and the better chance that they'll be able to benefit from the 50-50 bounces over the course of the game, as well as take heat off their goaltender.

What's the pattern here?

As you can see, it was about Game 36 where the Canucks' luck started to turn. Unsurprisingly, that was the first game the Canucks played after a perfect five-game home stand in December. As games on the road piled up, so did injuries, and so did attempts against.

The good news is that for the first bit of the season, the Canucks were very good at controlling the play at 5-on-5. The bad news is that it's been a little more sporadic since then, and I'm a little stumped as to which direction those blue and red lines will move next.

(Info via ExtraSkater.com's game logs)

Some notes:

• The Canucks had their opportunities against Boston on Tuesday night. You may recall a game back in December, when the Canucks beat the Bruins 6-2 thanks to John Tortorella being able to manipulate the last change and give the Sedin twins some shifts on the ice without Zdeno Chara stopping them. It was broken down very neatly by Harrison Mooney at Pass It To Bulis. Well, Bruins coach Claude Julien had last change on Tuesday and was able to get his Slovakian behemoth out against the twins.

Here's the thing, though… while Zdeno Chara has the highest Corsi (shot attempt) rate among regular NHL defencemen since 2009, he was thoroughly crushed by the Sedins in possession. With Henrik on the ice, the Canucks took 19 shot attempts and conceded 11. He played nearly 13 minutes against Chara, whose Bruins took 14 shot attempts when he was on the ice to 22 against. It's not tough to tell in which zone the puck was when the twins were on the ice. (Info via Extra Skater's wonderful advanced box scores)

It was a much better game than against Detroit for Vancouver. You can at least make the point that the team controlled the flow of the game much better. There's still some time left for these percentages to turn around.

• Raphael Diaz scored on his third shot as a Canuck and 44th on the season. Something to note about Diaz is that while he has just five career goals, he shoots a tonne. He led the Canucks in shot attempts in his first game with the team, playing over 25 minutes of ice-time and directing 13 pucks towards the net. Four were on net, four more missed, and five were blocked.

Diaz is an interesting character and there was a large community of Montreal fans who thought he deserved a fairer shot. Diaz took just six penalties in 46 games in Montreal, and had just 22 hits. You may think "not physical", but another conclusion would be that Diaz is a defenceman whose primary focus is holding on to the puck and moving it, rather than letting the game come to him. His shot differential numbers were always solid with the Canadiens, tending to out-shoot more with him on the ice as opposed to off.