Vancouver Canucks in Perfect Position to Beat Sabres, Go 4-0

Dec 7, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Prust (not pictured) scores against Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Prust (not pictured) scores against Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Vancouver Canucks are 3-0 to start the season and will face the Buffalo Sabres tonight. A perfect chance to extend the streak.

Like the Vancouver Canucks tonight, any team on a streak is in the perfect position to win, right? No, it’s not that easy. The St. Louis Blues, for example, were 3-0 when they faced off against the Canucks, and we know how that ended.

Three games into the season, the Canucks sit at a 54.32 Corsi-for per 60 minutes, ranking 15th in the league. That’s a major improvement over last season, but still not what you would expect from a team that goes 3-0.

If you haven’t erased the 2015-16 season from your mind yet (although you probably should), you might remember that Vancouver also suffered from a terrible defensive game last season. So far, they’ve looked like a totally different team. With a Corsi-against per 60 of 39.28, they clearly lead the league — the Washington Capitals rank second at 39.28.

The beauty of early advanced stats: most things that happen are unsustainable. Great teams will get worse, terrible teams will get better. A Corsi-against per 60 of 39.28 is the definition of unsustainable.

Still, despite never leading in any of their three wins, the Canucks actually earned each one with solid play. More importantly, they know it.

“To come from behind twice like that in our own rink is big, something that we didn’t do very well last year,” said Brandon Sutter after the 4-3 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes. “It seemed like those close games at the start of the year last year, we ended up losing in overtime and shootouts.”

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There is no doubt that earning surprise wins like that, including one against a divisional rival and one against an NHL top team, gives the team a huge confidence boost. The Canucks are the team that broke the Blues’ three-game winning streak, and there aren’t many teams in the league that are tougher to beat. St. Louis is a consistent Stanley Cup contender, and the Canucks managed to come from behind and beat them.

Tonight, they will face a Sabres squad that has gone 1-1-1 to start the season and has looked shaky along the way. A 4-1 loss against the Montreal Canadiens and most recently a 4-3 overtime loss against the Calgary Flames were disappointing games for the Sabres that want to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010-11. A 6-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in between helped, but it isn’t what Sabres fans should expect against Vancouver.

Through three games, the Sabres are the league’s second-worst possession team, with a Corsi-for percentage of 42.34 percent. Even worse, they rank last in the league with a Corsi-for per 60 of 41.26. There is no doubt that they should improve as the season goes on, but they are really off to a bad start.

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For the Canucks, that means the Sabres are the perfect opponent to extend their winning streak to four games. It is the best defensive team — I’m enjoying the short while that allows me to label the Canucks that — against the worst offensive team. It is likely the team with the highest confidence level in the NHL against a team that had a mediocre start.

The puck will drop at 7 PM at Rogers Arena. Go get the win, Canucks!