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Numbers Game - Round 1, Games 3 & 4

by Thomas Drance / Vancouver Canucks
.324 – Let’s start with some good news.

In the history of NHL preliminary round playoff competition, when a team that started the series on the road takes a 3-1 series lead after Game 4, that team has generally fared poorly in Game 5.

Teams up 3-1 and heading into a road game in the preliminary round have a 12-25 record in Game 5, good for a .324 winning percentage, according to whowins.com. So history would at least favour the Vanouver Canucks extending the series in Game 5.

.757 – Now for the bad news.

Teams with a lead as commanding as what the Calgary Flames have built up in this series have ultimately advanced to the next round 75.7 percent of the time.

The Canucks will have to buck that trend if they hope to comeback against their Pacific Division rival.

.944 – Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller has been nigh unbeatable in this series. His .944 even-strength save percentage is second to only Carey Price among NHL goaltenders who have started all of their team’s Stanley Cup playoff games so far.

If you want to know why the Canucks have been pushed to the brink, start with Hiller.

37.3% Through four games of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs the Canucks are having serious issues getting the puck by Flames defenders.

The Flames spend a tonne of time in their own end of the rink, which the numbers suggest is an unsustainable way to win games. Credit the Flames, they survive in part by being extremely disciplined about blocking shots and setting up shop in shooting lanes.

In this series the Flames have blocked 37.3% of all Vancouver shot attempts, an outrageously high number.

With so many pucks hitting one of several layers of Flames defenders, the Canucks haven’t been able to produce any fortunate bounces or goals from the point.

7/11 An elite penalty killing team all season, the Canucks have successfully killed off only seven of the 11 power-play opportunities they’ve surrendered in this series. That’s a kill rate of 63.6 percent, which obviously isn’t going to get the job done.

24 – With Henrik and Daniel Sedin on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks have outshot the Flames by 24. There are no other players in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a shot differential as large.

The twins haven’t generated points in this series, but they’ve been controlling play whenever they’re on the ice. The Flames boasted following Tuesday night’s Game 4 that they’ve been successful at keeping the Sedins to the “outside”, but if the twins continue to outshoot the Flames to this extent they’ll breakthrough eventually.

The issue though is that they’re running out of time.

17 – The NHL’s hits stats are notoriously unreliable. They’re the most subjective numbers in the game, and are prone to extreme exaggeration as a result of arena bias.

So keep that in mind and take this with a grain of salt, but in the first four games of this series the Canucks have managed to hit Calgary’s three most frequently used defensemen – Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, and T.J. Brodie – 17 times combined.

Those three blue liners are logging huge minutes for the Flames, but the Canucks aren’t making life hard enough on them.

Meanwhile every Canucks defenseman has been hit at least 10 times, except Yannick Weber who has taken eight total hits. Simply put: the Flames’ physical forecheck has been a major factor in this series.

55.1% - The Flames’ forecheck has bogged down the Canucks’ breakout, Jonas Hiller has won the goaltending duel, the Canucks penalty kill is struggling enormously and Vancouver is on the brink of elimination. It’s a grim scene.

If there’s reason for hope in this series it’s that the Canucks have controlled play decisively at 5-on-5. The club has earned a 55.1 percent share of even-strength shot attempts against Calgary, a 51.7 percent share of unblocked shot attempts and 52.3 percent of all shots on goal at 5-on-5 have been directed at the Flames net in this series.

If Vancouver can continue to control the run of play, if the bounces even out and if the Canucks can stay out of the penalty box, they should have a shot at clawing back into this series. It’ll be an uphill battle and at this point the odds are against them, but it’s the playoffs and anything can happen.

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