Vancouver Canucks Offensive GVT: 18.6
Vancouver Canucks Defensive GVT: 0.2
Vancouver Canucks Goalie GVT: 2
Vancouver Canucks Total GVT: 25
Calgary Flames Offensive GVT: 18.6
Calgary Flames Defensive GVT: 9.1
Calgary Flames Goalie GVT: -2.6
Calgary Flames Total GVT: 25
It may seem counterintuitive to label goaltending a strength of a club that finished seventh last in Even-Strength Save Percentage, but digging a bit deeper into the Canucks’ goalie stats shows that they’re icing one of the better netminding tandems in the playoffs. While Willie Desjardins has yet to reveal who his game one starter will be, both Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack have each put up impressive seasons in their own ways. Although Miller’s even strength save percentage dropped to the lowest level of his career this season, his high danger save percentage actually rose to its highest point since 2009-2010. In fact, most of Miller’s (and by extension, the Canucks’) save percentage struggles can be attributed to a bout of bad luck on medium danger shots, where Miller stopped only 88.5% of the shots he faced from that zone. Beyond Miller, Eddie Lack put up another respectable season off the bench, and enters the playoffs ranked seventh in Adjusted Save Percentage amongst potential starters.
The Canucks’ penalty kill has also been an asset over the course of the season, with their 85.7% kill rate ranking second in the league, trailing only Minnesota. Furthermore, their success playing down a man is grounded in solid underlying numbers as well, as Vancouver ranked near the top of the NHL in shot prevention while shorthanded this year.
While Vancouver has been a consistently strong possession team in recent seasons, 2014-2015 was a tough campaign for the Canucks, as they posted their first sub-50% year since 2008-09. Recently, however, the Canucks have struggles have intensified, with the team sitting 20th in Score Adjusted Corsi Percentage since January 1st, and limping into the playoffs with only a 47.5% Score Adjusted mark over their last 25 games.
Jim Benning’s squad has also struggled to stay out of the penalty box this year, landing in the bottom five in the league in both penalties taken and penalty differential. While their aforementioned strong penalty kill and the fourth best powerplay percentage of any playoff-bound team have kept them above water on special teams so far, their statistics while up a man are cause for concern. The Canucks currently sit in the bottom 10 in the league in powerplay shot generation, suggesting that some of their success on the man advantage may be driven by luck rather than underlying ability. And although Vancouver may be capable of outperforming its shot generation stats due to a combination of shooting ability and weird twin telepathic powers, there is still a chance that they’ll regress and become vulnerable on special teams in the playoffs.
Self-control is the name of the game in the Stampede City – Calgary led all teams with only 176 penalties taken, the lowest total of any team this year, and 2nd lowest full-season tally since 2007. This discipline paid major dividends for Bob Hartley and company, as the Flames allowed the fourth least powerplay goals this year, despite icing a penalty kill unit ranked in the bottom third of the league.
Beyond their ability to stay out of the sin bin, the Flames forwards have shot out the lights this year, with nine of the Flames regulars posting an even strength shooting percentage above 10%. With veterans Jiri Hudler and Matt Stajan playing alongside emerging superstars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, the Flames may boast enough firepower to overcome their relative deficiencies in generating shots. Throw in the recently called-up Sam Bennett and you could see the kids from Cowtown capitalizing at just the right moments to get them through round one.
Put simply, the Flames are not a good puck possession team. Of all clubs qualifying for the playoffs, Calgary ranked last with a Score Adjusted Corsi Percentage of 44.3, driven primarily by a defence that simply could not prevent pucks from heading towards their own net. At 61.7 Shot Attempts Against per 60 minutes, the Flames were worse defensively than all clubs except for Buffalo, a team that was actively trying not to win.
Perhaps more concerning though is that the Flames enter the playoffs without one-time Norris shoe-in Mark Giordano. Deryk Engelland, Giordano’s replacement alongside T.J. Brodie, has performed horrifically in place of the Toronto-born pointman, with the newly formed pairing managing only 36% of the shot attempts while playing together. Although the team has managed to get through the last two months of the season without their captain, one has to wonder whether his loss will present an opportunity for Vancouver to exploit a weakened Flames backend.
These two squads are much more similar than many realize, with very little differentiating the teams outside of the Flames drastic advantage in penalty differential. While a lot has been made of Calgary’s inability to play a strong puck possession game, the truth is that the Canucks are not likely to dominate them in this regard, making strong goaltending and special teams play critical for each team if they hope to advance.
In the end, it’s likely to be one of many close series in Round 1, although it won’t necessarily be the best hockey played over the next two weeks as these two teams look like they may be the weakest contenders in this year’s playoffs. While a hot goaltending tandem for the Canucks could tilt the balance of power to Vancouver’s side, look for the Flames’ ability to stay out of the box to be the difference here with Calgary taking the series in six games.