The Vancouver Canucks are in a tight playoff race, and veteran Antoine Roussel will play a crucial role in it down the stretch.
As the playoffs draw closer, the Vancouver Canucks are at a point of the season where every single game matters more than ever.
The Pacific Division standings seem like they are getting tighter and tighter by the day, and the Canucks need their bottom-nine forwards to produce during this pivotal stretch.
Antoine Roussel has been limited to 29 games this season due to a knee injury, but since returning to the lineup, his presence has been felt both on and off the ice. Roussel has been a key part of Vancouver’s bottom-nine, and they’ll need him to continue that success as the regular season progresses.
Let’s take a look at Roussel’s role, and why head coach Travis Green will lean aplenty on him down the stretch.
According to Hockey Reference, the save percentage when he is on the ice at even strength is at a stable 90 percent. Using charts from Micah Blake McCurdy of HockeyViz.com, we can see how the Vancouver penalty kill looks when Roussel isn’t on the ice for a PK shift.
A lot of opposing shots are generated near the slot and faceoff zones: +1.0 excess of shots per hour near those areas is not what the penalty kill should aim for. His 15 goals against while on the ice only makes up only 0.08% to the team’s total goals against. Simply put, Canucks can rely heavily on Roussel when he gets on the ice for penalty kills.
When Roussel is on the ice in even-strength situations, it seems like the offensive generation around his teammates is a lot more productive. Playing on a line with Adam Gaudette, who is having a career year, as well as Brandon Sutter, it’s no wonder that players around him generate more scoring chances.
Roussel is always in the slot looking for tip-ins and rebound chances. This leads to the generation of better puck cycling situations and team pressure. Likewise, as the graph below shows, the Canucks’ 5-on-5 offence generates more shots from the blue line as well. This can lead to smoother rush entries. Despite having 10 points in 29 games played this season, his teammates can always expect a positive impact from him while he is on ice.
His leadership and veteran role is going to be key if the Canucks want to keep hunting for a playoff spot. The 30-year-old winger has the offensive and defensive assets that make him an underrated part of this team.
Roussel’s playoff experience with the Dallas Stars will surely be welcomed by the Canucks as the end of the season draws closer.