Canucks: Analyzing their 5-on-5 play so far this season

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The Vancouver Canucks are leading the Pacific Division at the All-Star Break. But just how good are they? Let’s take a deep dive .

The Vancouver Canucks lead the Pacific Division heading into the All Star break, and it feels like it’s been forever since that last happened.

This team has had its ups and downs throughout the yea, but they’ve been competitive in every single game. Last year, they were just 25th in goals for and 20th in goals against.

Vancouver has scored 43 power play goals this year, second most in the NHL. But more importantly, have they improved at 5-on-5? And is the penalty kill more effective this year?

I will try to answer these questions in my next three articles. One about the power play, one about the penalty kill and this one on how they look at even strength.

With just over half the season played Vancouver has scored 111 even strength goals which surprisingly in only good for 20th in the league. I broke those 111 goals down into the months the Canucks have played this year, and found there was only one month (November) where they were were outscored 5-on-5.

Breaking it into months did not satisfy my craving of how well the team is doing, so I went through all the line combinations that the team has thrown out so far this year.

I laid out how effective each line and defensive pairing has been. This is what I found.

Shotgunning the Lotto Line

J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser has been one of the most effective lines for head coach Travis Green. They control the play for 58.81 percent of the shots when they are on the ice together, per Natural Stat Trick, and they’ve outscored their opponents 26 to 13 so far this season. The addition of Miller has been the x-factor our top line was missing.

Not only does he have the grit and forecheck this line needed, but his ability to start and finish plays have been amazing to watch. Miller is on track for career-highs in goals and assists. He also has been an absolute beast in the faceoff circle winning, winning 59.3 percent of them.

Recently, we have seen Jake Virtanen take over Boeser spot on the top line, and so far, so good. The small sample size we have of them playing together (62 minutes), and they’ve posted a remarkable 65.44 Corsi For percentage while outscoring teams 2-1. It is a lower scoring rate then with Boeser, but it should eventually balance out.

What makes Virtanen work so well with this line? The first thing that comes to mind is his speed. Virtanen forces the defence to back up when he enters the offensive zone, giving Pettersson more space to set up. He also uses it  to be the first one in on the forecheck.

Virtanen’s hockey sense is another reason why he fits in. His ability to read the plays and intercept pucks has been a real joy to watch, and Virtanen is starting to look like the power forward we were hoping for when he was drafted.