Vancouver opened the scoring for the eighth straight game, but saw their winning streak halted at seven. Their run was quite an accomplishment, but in the end the Canucks aren’t even in the top ten in the NHL in scoring first/winning percentage.
The Canucks currently sit 17th overall in the NHL with a 12-3-3 record when getting the game’s first tally. That lags far behind the most successful team in the league in converting the game’s opening goal to a victory, as the Pittsburgh Penguins have scored first twenty-one times before their Wednesday game against the NY Rangers, and have won nineteen of them. The most unsuccessful team in the league in opening the scoring is also last in the standings, as the Buffalo Sabres have scored first a measly six times and haven’t gone on to win any of those games.
As far as individuals who score the game’s first goal, it’s no surprise that a player from Pittsburgh leads the league in that category, as Chris Kunitz has done that six times this season. The surprise though is that no one else on his team has more than three, and Sidney Crosby has scored the opening goal of a game just once this year. (Although Crosby did score Pittsburgh’s first goal against the Canucks on October 19th in the Consol Energy Center, who can forget Alex Edler’s game opening goal, the slapshot from center-ice!)
For the Canucks, this season has seen Daniel Sedin get the game’s first goal three times, twice on the power play and all at home,(Oct.30 vs. DET, 2-1L, Nov.2 vs TOR, 4-0W, Fri.Dec.13 vs EDM, 4-0W). Ryan Kesler has opened the scoring twice this season, with both being five-on-three power play markers against Chicago and in Carolina. Along with Kesler, his current line-mate Chris Higgins has also gotten the game’s first goal twice, in Canuck wins in Buffalo and St. Louis. Most recently though, Jannik Hansen has hit the net to open the game twice in the last two games, with a win against Boston (another slapper from center-ice) and the shot past Josh Harding in Minnesota on Tuesday.
All in all, the Canucks streak of scoring first is still intact, with eight straight and still counting. The majority of those opening goals as we’ve seen have been coming off the sticks of players who are on the top two lines.
Where the Canucks need to improve is to make that opening goal the starting point for more offence rather than allowing the opposition to gain whatever momentum is lost back again by equalizing the score soon afterwards, as was the case in Minnesota, and other games previous in the year.
Offence on top of offence is a pretty good recipe for wins, and the Canucks showed that in their recent seven game winning streak.