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Cam Jam - Oct. 9, 2013

by Cam Charron / Vancouver Canucks
It's very early in the season and while we don't know how teams will perform from now until the end of the year, a few numbers can provide an early hint as to what we can expect going forward…

54.7% - The Canucks' "Corsi Close" percentage through four games, according to What is Corsi Close? It is essentially the percentage of 5-on-5 shot attempts belonging to the Vancouver Canucks in each of their contests. Corsi gets its name not because it stands for anything, but from a goaltending coach for the Buffalo Sabres, Jim Corsi, who wanted measure the workload of a goaltender over the course of a game. He did this by tracking all shots, not just the ones on net, but blocked shots and missed shots as well. This allowed him to pinpoint exactly how many times a goalie had to set and reset himself. Not surprisingly, the number was found to correlate highly with the time on ice numbers the NHL attached to its game summaries during the 2002 season, so it became used as an approximation for a team's overall puck possession. Many playoff teams have high Corsi Close numbers.

You won't find a better proxy of overall play in the early season than Corsi percentage with the score close. This is because as teams take large leads, they tend to sit back and defend as the other team presses and generates more shots. "Score close situations" only tracks even strength shots during the stages of the game where the game is tied, or if one team leads by only a goal in the first two periods. The Canucks 54.7% ranks them 9th in the league in the early going. It's close to where the team was last year, but they're much more "high-event" thus far in the new season.

In the 48-game 2013 season, the Canucks took 56.3 shot attempts per 60 minutes and conceded 50.4. In four games so far in 2013-2014, the Canucks have taken 65.6 and allowed 54.4. If it seems to you like the team is playing at a much higher tempo than last season, you're probably right, at least for the time being. We'll see if those high shot rates can sustain themselves going forward.

No. 2 - How valuable is Dan Hamhuis to the Vancouver Canucks? Unsurprisingly, the Canucks have an excellent Corsi Close when Hamhuis is on the ice. So far this season, they're taking 62.7% of all shot attempts. He leads the team in that department.

You know how people often say that a player like Hamhuis doesn't get accolades because his statistics aren't particularly good? It's hard to quantify a good defensive play, and a good defensive player like Hamhuis has problems because his best attributes aren't found on the back of hockey cards. His career-high in points is 38 and he's never scored more than seven goals in a season.

Well, since Hamhuis joined the Canucks in 2010-2011, he is third in the entire NHL among defencemen in Corsi Close %, behind just big Zdeno Chara (56.6%) and Drew Doughty (56.5%). Hamhuis sits at 56.3%. Now, it's important to qualify that it's not just one player pushing the play north, but if you have a player on your roster that every teammate is better on the ice "with" than "without", it's an indication of a pretty good hockey player.

42-31 - publishes some real cool tables after each game. If you're interested in seeing some of the numbers behind the boxscore, it's worth it to bookmark the website and check it. During Tuesday's game against the New Jersey Devils, it was apparent about after the second New Jersey goal that the Canucks were biting back and spending much more time in the Devils' zone than the Devils were spending in the Canucks', despite the scoreline.

One of the things ExtraSkater publishes is a "Fenwick chart" that records the minutes that shot attempts were taken by each team. (Fenwick is like Corsi, but it excludes blocked shots) The Canucks are the blue line and the Devils are the red line, and you can see the teams progress over time:

The Canucks had taken a small advantage early in the first, but the Devils did pull even in time to score the first goal of the game. The gap between the two clubs gets very large during the third period. The Devils, possibly on tired legs on the second half of a back-to-back playing three hours later than normal, ran out of steam. The Canucks had 24 unblocked shot attempts to 19 after the second goal. They finished at 42-31.

Fenwick is good to use in situations where blocked shots may factor in to team strategy. The Devils blocked 16 shots to the Canucks' 5 Tuesday night, which is probably indicative of which zone the puck spent most of the night.

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