Last season, the Canucks scored first in 49 of their 82 games. They had a 41-2-6 record when scoring first. When they didn’t score first, their record was 13-17-3. And you might recall that the team that scored first won every single game in the Stanley Cup Final.

This season, the Canucks have scored first in only 2 of their first 10 games. They have won both of those games. They are 2-5-1 in their other 8 games.

Scoring first is essential for a number of reasons, but it all boils down to the fact that it’s easier to play with the lead. The opposing team needs to take more chances to try to come back from a deficit, leading to more opportunities going the other way. The team with the lead can settle into their structure, confident that playing their game will produce goals. And a goalie can relax, knowing that he won’t necessarily have to pitch a shutout to pick up a win.

One of the problems I’m seeing, however, is that the Canucks sometimes seem too eager at times to score the first goal, taking unnecessary risks leading to odd-man rushes and other defensive breakdowns. At other times, the Canucks are trying to force shots through. The Canucks have had 190 shots blocked so far, an average of 19 per game. While the number of blocked shots is frequently credited to the team doing the blocking, no one team has blocked more than 150 shots.

While this sheer number of blocked shots is indicative that the Canucks have excellent possession (you must have the puck in order to have your shot blocked), it’s also indicative that the Canucks are having trouble getting their shots through traffic, which frequently happens when a team is trying to force low-percentage shots through instead of looking for better chances.

The Canucks are certainly aware of the problem. ”It feels like, right now, we are hoping to get the first goal,” said Daniel after their 3-0 loss to the Blues. “This is not a league where you can hope to get goals. You have to work extremely hard to get them.”

When you hope to get a goal, you shoot from everywhere, even if it’s not a good scoring chance and that’s not the Sedins’ game. Is it an issue of confidence? Is it a lack of trust in their goaltending that they are too eager to score first? Is it a lack of trust in their own ability to score? Is it a lack of trust in the shifting defensive pairs? It’s up to the Canucks’ leadership to sort this out.

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15 comments

  1. JDM
    October 27, 2011

    The Canucks rank 5th in the league in shots on goal for per game, so while many shots aren’t getting through, many are. That also suggests to me that they’re doing pretty well at shooting from everywhere and aren’t passing up opportunities to put the puck on goal (other than the relevant law of Sedinery coming into play and every 5 on 3 they get).

    On the whole, I think the Sedins have played well, Kesler looks better than expected coming off the rehab, our fourth line finally produces a threat a couple of times per game. While the third line hasn’t found the scoresheet often (possibly because it’s involved Malhotra juggling wingers constantly), I don’t think the problem is with the front 12.

    I think the focus on the lapses from Canuck defensemen this season has emphasized the breakdowns in their own end, and rightly so because they’ve often been glaring. What has been less discussed is the impact of that poor position on transition play going the other way. The D are pretty important to this offensive scheme, from the breakout on out. When they’re struggling in their own end and often trying to catch up to where they need to be, needless to say it doesn’t translate to a good first pass or having the vision to see an opportunity to join the rush. The opposing team has time to get set for Canuck rushes and make sure everyone has their guy. Rarely this year have I seen the other side look like they were overwhelmed, out of position or on their heels.

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    • The Bookie
      October 27, 2011

      actually, that’s a good point. has any D other than Salo even scored yet? all I can think of is Ballard back on opening night.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        October 27, 2011

        Ballard is the only other defenceman with a goal.

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  2. JS Topher
    October 27, 2011

    The following post comes at the risk of sounding like a CDCer:
    I think, since we’ve got a pretty solid forward group on paper and, we’re experimenting anyways, maybe right now might be the time to test out the one line shuffle that AV seemingly refuses to do. Yes, that’s right. They should try to split the Sedins. Everyone else gets shuffled and moved but, that top unit rarely gets touched. I am fully aware of how well they play together but, just take a look at the long list of offensive forwards we’ve got at our disposal:

    Dank, Hank, Burr, Higgs, Kes, Booth, Hansen, Silent G

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we plug any of these guys in with the twins on the top line. However, it seems pretty clear that we’ve got 8 top-6 capable forwards and really only rotate 3 spots all on the same line and we’ve been having troubles getting goals since LAST year… Sedins included. Maybe it’d be worth it to experiment while we can if for no other reason than in case we need to later on down the road.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      October 27, 2011

      Yep, you sound like a CDCer. ;)

      AV likes to work with pairs and then rotate wings when he juggles the lines. Right now those pairs are the Sedins, Kesler/Booth, Malhotra/Hansen, and Lapierre/Weise. That can certainly change, particularly since they’re clearly wanting to limit Malhotra’s minutes since he’s coming off a number of off-season surgeries, but that’s the ideal. If they break up the top line, it will likely be to take Burrows off the Sedins’ wing and stick him with Kesler and Booth. Then you have Higgins or Hodgson playing with the Sedins. Either that or the give up on Kesler/Booth after two games and stick Booth with the Sedins, but I don’t think they’ll do that.

      I really don’t think it’s worth it to split up the Sedins. They’re scoring just fine right now; I honestly don’t think they are the problem.

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  3. Mike
    October 27, 2011

    Here is the skinny. I believe the statistic regarding scoring first is so one sided (for all teams not just the Canucks) not because the first goal is critical in isolation but because the team that is better prepared, plays harder and executes better often scores first. It is easy to say the Canucks have to score first to be successful but I think scoring first is the end result of playing harder and executing better than your opponent. The team that plays harder and executes better usually scores first and as a result of playing harder and executing better they often win the game (not simply because they scored first.) Scoring first does change the game a bit (playing from behind vs. ahead) but I don’t think scoring first overrides the most critical factor which is whoever plays harder and executes better will win 9 of 10 games. The Canucks have not done that this year for a full 60 minutes. That settles it then. Good day!

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    • Daniel Wagner
      October 27, 2011

      That’s fair. The team that’s playing and executing better does usually score first. So, the Canucks need to start playing and executing better so that they score first. It doesn’t really change the post, just takes it back a step.

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      • J21
        October 28, 2011

        The Canucks have been the better team out of the gate in every game I’ve watched this year and most of them last year, so I don’t think it’s as simple as Mike says. They are very formulaic when they don’t score on a bevy of early chance — the other team *always* scores first, even if it’s their first solid chance of the game. I can only think of one or two examples where the Canucks later scored first after squandering early chances. I can’t explain it, whether it’s wilting with disappointment, getting nervous as the clock ticks down in a scoreless game, or the Canucks’ goalie gets cold, or what. But it seems to happen all the freaking time, including in every loss this season.

        No, the main reason why scoring first is important is because scoring at all is important in any low-scoring sport. I think it’s pretty much a structural truism that a team who pots a goal (1/3 of the way to victory in an average game) with less than 60 minutes on the clock is in a better position than its opponent who has yet to do so. Just basic math. I’ll bet “scoring second,” “scoring third” and “scoring fourth” also bear pretty positive relationships, though not as clearly since the score is variable in those cases.

        It reminds me of the stat where “the Canucks have a record of .XXX when Player Y scores a goal” is proof of leadership or something. Um, no. The Canucks’ record will improve dramatically when any given player scores a goal. And the more regularly a given player scores, the less likely it is to have come in a win, too, as compared to less frequent contributors.

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  4. netcrash
    October 27, 2011

    Other teams have analyzed how Buston beat the Canucks in tlast years cup series.
    They swarmed our net and created chaos!! They upset Luongo’s confidence and scored on a lot of rebounds.
    When Canucks had the puck Boston played as a co-ordinated 5 man unit and collapsed into their net. There was nothing for the Canucks to shoot at and Boston was very quick to pounce on the rebounds and rush up ice.
    This is what teams are doing to the Canucks this year!!!. IF AV is a good coach he will find the answer to this problem which is to play the way Boston did.

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    • The Bookie
      October 27, 2011

      …which Boston learned by watching what Chicago did the previous two years. I think what happened here is we caught everyone’s attention by dominating the regular season and going all the way to the finals.

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  5. nazzyfan19
    October 27, 2011

    I think there are simply two things that need to occur and everything will be resolved. First off, Hodgson has to be a natural winger. Sure, you can say that he is a natural center and that playing him on the wing with kesler hasn’t been very successful.

    While true, that’s not my point. We need Hodgson to be a play-making winger to even out the lines. If he played as Kesler/Booth’s other winger and Higgins dropped back to the Malhotra line it would even things up a lot better. Unfortunately he is a center, so until he can time travel back to junior or whenever he decided to be a center and become a winger instead, we’re kinda stuck with what we have.

    Secondly, Ballard needs to be a right-sided defenceman. The only reason our defence pairings haven’t worked is because the Hamjuice, Edler/Salo, and Ballard/whoever pairings give Salo too much ice time and Edler can’t seem to work on the right side.

    Simple solution, Ballard needs to just change his attribute and become skilled on the right side. Then Alberts/Salo, or Tanev/Salo or whoever can fill out the bottom pairing.

    Now I know that these are both solutions that are impossible because Ballard and Hodgson just don’t have these attributes… but what IF?? I know what I’m wishing on when I see a shooting star, I recommend other Canucks fans try the same.

    (At least it’s as plausible as splitting up the Sedin’s…)

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  6. Nlee
    October 27, 2011

    And yet the Jets score 9 goals tonight. Lol…what the h-e-double hockey sticks was that?

    I don’t know whether I should be more jealous of the goal total or disgusted by the 8 goals against…… Crazy.

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    • J21
      October 28, 2011

      You know it’s not really a coincidence. Fanbases tend to only look at their goalies (and to a lesser extent the defense) when their team has given up a lot of goals in a game, even if they scored a bunch, but it is telling that both goalies tend to have “good games” and “bad games” at the same time. Suggesting that perhaps there’s a lot more to it than their individual performances.

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  7. Nth of the 49th
    October 28, 2011

    IMO

    The players are tuning AV out. Very rarely does this not happen.
    What’s it been 6 years with AV?
    I’m not saying he’s a bad coach, I’m just saying that his message has become stale for the player’s.

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  8. cambo
    October 28, 2011

    Keys to beating Nucks…. 1/score first (usually a weak one) 2/ run the sisters at every opportunity 3/throw the puck into Salo’s corner every time and run him too…. 0-41

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