Chris Higgins scores goals, has abs

If I told you before the season started that, 20 games into the season, Chris Higgins would be tied with a Sedin for the team-lead in goals, you would assume I was joking. If I told you the Sedin was Henrik, you would know I was joking.

But that’s where we are right now: both Higgins and Henrik have 7 goals in the first 20 games of the season, one more than Daniel Sedin. Ryan Kesler, on the other hand, has fewer goals than Aaron Rome and Rome has played 9 fewer games. Clearly we are in some bizarre alternate dimension.

Higgins is challenging Kesler to be the team’s go-to goalscoring American. He is also challenging Kesler to an ab-off, judging from the picture on the right. Of note, unlike Kesler, he doesn’t require fancy lighting or airbrushing.

If only he only had six goals, I could make a six-pack joke. Now, if I wanted to draw a correlation I’d have to assume that Higgins has a seventh ab and that’s no good.

One of the reasons the Canucks have gotten off to such a slow start this season is that Higgins, along with Cody Hodgson, has been the Canucks’ most consistent forward in terms of effort. The crazy thing is that he’s also been consistent offensively. His longest spell without a point so far has been three games.

He’s on pace for a career-high 29 goals, but it should be noted that his shooting percentage this season is 14.3%, above his career average of 10.5%, so his goal-scoring pace might not continue. With that said, it’s below his career-high in shooting percentage from his rookie season of 15.5% and he’s averaging the most powerplay time of his career since his 2007-08 season with the Canadiens, when he scored 27 goals, with 12 of them coming with the man advantage. So, there’s the possibility that Higgins could return to his 20+ goal ways from the beginning of his career.

But Higgins is not just scoring goals and exposing stellar abdominal muscles; he has contributed to every aspect of the game and has underlying numbers that indicate he is one of the most valuable players in the lineup.

Over at Canucks Army, Cam Charron put together some numbers on the Canucks special teams. On the powerplay, Higgins has been nearly as effective at shot-creation as Kesler and Hodgson, the team’s two best players with the man advantage. His dogged puck pursuit has been a great compliment to Hodgson’s heady playmaking, turning the second unit into a legitimate threat. As for the penalty kill, Higgins is third amongst forwards in shot prevention behind French-Canadian pests Maxim Lapierre and Alex Burrows. What’s most impressive is that he’s doing it against tougher competition.

At even-strength, Higgins has been remarkable: his relative Corsi is sixth amongst Canucks forwards, indicating that he continually creates more shots for than shots against while he is on the ice. He’s pushing puck possession in the right direction with fewer offensive zone starts than the 5 forwards above him in relative Corsi. He’s also the only forward with more than 50% of his starts in the offensive zone whose shifts end in the offensive zone more than they start. Excluding neutral zone starts, Higgins has started 52.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and ended 53.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone. He consistently moves the puck towards the opponent’s net.

He’s playing against tough competition at even-strength as well, facing the fourth toughest competition amongst Canucks forwards, behind Manny Malhotra, Kesler, and Jannik Hansen, making his solid Corsi particularly impressive.

Finally, we’ve talked about PDO a fair amount this season as a guide for judging a player’s luck and whether a hot or cold streak is likely to continue. PDO combines the team’s save percentage and shooting percentage when a player is on the ice to create a number that trends towards 1000 over a long period of time. With Higgins on pace for a career-high in goals and fourth on the team in points, you would expect him to be riding a PDO over 1000, but that isn’t the case.

Higgins’ PDO through 20 games is 951, one of the lower numbers on the team. This is mostly due to a sub-par on-ice save percentage, which partially explains his minus-5 plus/minus rating, the one blemish on his stat-line. Despite his own above average shooting percentage, that of his linemates is much lower, which may mean that he is due for a few more assists, particularly if he continues to play on the second line with Kesler, who is due to start finishing on a few more of his chances.

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10 comments

  1. chicken chick
    November 22, 2011

    since it seems you’re not going to join everyone else on the sydney crosby bandwagon, i thought to leave you with this:

    I wasn’t home to watch the game:
    Clay Pigeon’s soccer is to blame.

    Missed The Return Of Sid The Kid!
    I ask The Flock how well he did:
    “He is the best!” Jen Wren insists
    “He had two goals and two assists.”
    And The Olde Coot has this to say,
    “Seems like The Kid’s still good to play.”
    “You know he’s only twenty-four.
    He’s good for many seasons more.”

    That last comment from dear Dawn Duck.
    “He’s great with and without the puck.
    The Pens are even better now.
    Quite honestly I can’t see how
    They’re not the favorites for The Cup:
    One might well say, ‘Their stock is up!’”

    Chicken Chick

    PS

    Marc Andre too is looking good.
    He’s playing like Luongo should!

    Jenny Wren

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  2. MelT
    November 22, 2011

    Can I just say that one of the things I love about this blog is that you understand that there are some female fans who might be knowledgeable about hockey AND find hockey players attractive as well. Obviously you guys are confident in your own masculinity, or perhaps your wives suggest topics and visuals.

    So, um, thanks for the photo, I’ll read the stats parts later.

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    • BeCanucks
      November 22, 2011

      I’ll second that.
      I love the fact that I can come here and giggle like a schoolgirl AND find interesting, well balanced posts, and nice visuals ;-)
      Once again, thank you PitB!

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  3. tj
    November 22, 2011

    “His dogged puck pursuit has been a great compliment to Hodgson’s heady playmaking, turning the second unit into a legitimate threat.”

    (I’d love to see an Ezra cartoon of Higgins’ Puck Pursuit complimenting Silent G’s Playmaking? It would be both absurd and ethereal.)

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  4. Tebowed
    November 22, 2011

    Ladies love it when men wipe their nose with their shirts.

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  5. PuckBuddys
    November 22, 2011

    Teh gay hockey fans are loving this!

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  6. Sach
    November 22, 2011

    …Yum :D Thanks for the photo PITB. I admit I stared at it a bit before reading the column hehe.

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  7. Pseuccubus
    November 22, 2011

    I’ll be in my bunk.

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  8. tom selleck's moustache
    November 23, 2011

    Wish I had abs.

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  9. SteveB
    November 24, 2011

    Considering that Keslurk’s photo was done with studio lighting, the editor’s pick of any number of shots and very likely the image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software, Kiss Huggins’ abs are magnificent in their definition and form, given that the photo was taken under less than ideal conditions.

    I have abs too, but I keep them modestly hidden, under 25 lbs of blubber.

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