The Canucks are now 1-1-1 and the new season has officially been underway for one week, which still leaves 25 weeks of the regular season left to play.
As any Canadian hockey fan knows though, it is never too early to speculate and pick apart patterns, after all, yesterday the team was in a position to finish the season with a franchise record 123 points if the team continued to average three points every two games, but after last night’s game that average would drop to a mere 82 points by April. By using that logic Toronto is on it’s way to a perfect season - and that’s why making such early predictions isn’t very accurate.
Going even further, if the team continues it’s one line show, with the Sedins picking up a point on 5 of the teams six goals, Henrik could be on pace for a 109 goal season, only to be beat by Daniel’s 136 points, of course both would be overshadowed by the whopping 143 points Alex Ovechkin would be on track to record. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Clearly it is still too early to make any real predictions about the end of the season, but if changes need to be made, it is better that they be addressed sooner rather than later. And some possible strengths and weaknesses have already appeared. So before the team takes on Los Angeles and everyone’s outlook changes yet again, have a look at where the Canucks compare to the rest of the league.
Hard Hits:Vancouver is currently fourth place among teams having played three games for hits. This is good news for a team that was often criticized last season for not having enough grit. Having top goal scorers means nothing if the team gets thrown around like a rag doll on the ice.
Summer acquisitions Raffi Torres and Keith Ballard account for 15 hits, while Jannik Hansen leads the team with 11 hits. Torres also scored his first point last night, and got Vancouver’s first fighting major against Sheldon Brookbank.
Face-Off Circle: Right now the team has a 55.5% FO%, the second highest in the league. It gets even better, the top three line centres all have FO%’s over 50%. Ryan Kelser leads the way with 57.4%, Manny Malhotra comes in at 54.9% and Henrik Sedin rounds it off with 53.3%.
The Power Play: The Canucks currently lead the league in PP% converting at 37.5%, scoring goals during three of a possible eight power plays. Last season the team’s finished at 20.9% good for sixth in the league. Florida, Ottawa, and Montreal have yet to score a powerplay goal this season.
The Penalty Kill: The team allowed three goals on 14 opposing powerplay chances. At home, they are near flawless, killing off eight-of-nine penalties but in their only road game, they gave up two powerplay goals to the Ducks on five chances.
What Needs Work
Goals: They key to winning essentially breaks down to one factor: goals. No team is going to win if they don’t score goals. The Canucks led the West in scoring last season, and entered the season with the expectation they could pull off a similar feat this season, but so far the team has only averaged two goals per game, ranking them 23rd in the league.
This might not be a problem, it is early after all, but it could turn into one, especially when all but one of the goals have involved someone with a Sedin on their jersey. It’s been said many times before, but the Canucks will need to find some secondary scoring to find success.
Raffi Torres is the only other Canuck forward to score so far. Daniel Sedin has three goals and Christian Ehrhoff is the other goal scorer with two - both of which were assisted by at least one Twin on the powerplay.
Ryan Kesler had the team’s third highest point total last season with 75 (25-50-75) and his most productive NHL season so far. He’s hoping to best that this year despite the slow start through three games.
Mason Raymond, now in his fifth NHL season, continues to improve every year and hope the pattern stays the same this year.
But at just three games in, who’s to say what any of this really means. It’s just numbers. Then again, 1-1-1 is still a whole lot better than last seasons 0-3 - that’s a number the team can live with... for now.