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How do the Flames and Canucks match up statistically?

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There are still a number of hours to go until the puck actually drops. Until then, everyone's next favourite thing: numbers!

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames couldn't have asked for a better opponent. They're in just the second year of a rebuild, hence, not great; really, a little overachieving. A lot overachieving. And you could probably expect most playoff teams to wipe the floor with them.

That's why it's so nice they drew the Vancouver Canucks in the first round. Not only is it an excellent divisional rivalry, ripe with rather recent history (even if most everyone involved in that is gone), but they're the two teams that are the best matches for one another.

See, the Canucks aren't exactly world beaters themselves. You know what that makes for? An evenly played, exciting series. Anticipate more one-goal games than blowouts. And really, the entire point of sports is to feel panic and anxiety as the strongest of emotions before they either erupt in joy or melt into crushing disappointment, right? This series is going to offer that.

Let's take a look at both teams' numbers from the regular season.

The basics

Calgary Flames Vancouver Canucks
Regular season records
45-30-7
(97 points)
48-29-5
(101 points)
Home
23-13-5
(51 points)
24-15-2
(50 points)
Away
22-17-2
(46 points)
24-14-3
(51 points)
Overtime records
13-7 12-5
Goals for
241 242
Goals against
216 222
Goal differential
+25 +20
Goals per game
2.89 2.88
Goals against per game
2.60 2.68
Shooting percentage
10.5% 9.6%
Save percentage
91.1% 91.0%
Faceoff percentage
47.4% 46.7%
Offensive zone starts
47.9% 48.5%

These numbers are all really, really close. The Canucks won a little more than the Flames did, but both teams have good home records. However, Vancouver's away record is a touch noticeably better.

They scored the same number of goals, pretty much, but the Flames prevented fewer against them. The Flames had a higher shooting percentage, indicating they take fewer shots but score just as often as the Canucks do. Goaltending is almost a total wash.

While neither team is great on the dot, the Flames are better. Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund have better percentages than Nick Bonino and Henrik Sedin - 49.3% and 48.3% compared to 47.4% and 45.0%, respectively. One way to help stop the Sedins is going to be to win faceoffs against them and control the puck immediately, and hey, that just might be doable.

Puck possession

Calgary Flames Vancouver Canucks
Shots per game
27.5 29.9
Shots against per game
29.2 29.8
Corsi for
46.8% 49.1%
Fenwick for
45.7% 50.4%
Scoring chances for
45.1% 48.3%
PDO
101.6 100.6

Here's where things start to pull away a bit. The Canucks take more shots per game than the Flames do, and are much better when it comes to controlling the puck at even strength. They aren't great themselves - throughout the regular season, they still had the puck less often than other teams - but they're better than the Flames.

The basic rundown for any of you new to all this:

  • Corsi = shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots
  • Fenwick = shots on goal + missed shots
  • PDO = on-ice SH% + on-ice SV%, very roughly defined as "luck" as over the course of an entire season, a team's PDO should regress to 100.0

So when we see the Canucks take more shots per game, we see they have a greater corsi rating than the Flames as well; not only do they take more shots, but they take more missed shots and blocked shots. The point of this isn't to cheer for missed and blocked shots; because of hockey's very chaotic nature, shots are used as a proxy for puck possession. After all, you can't shoot the puck - and have it go on net, miss the net, or be blocked en route to the net - if you don't have it.

Things even out a bit more in the scoring chances department, which makes sense; the Flames are among the most efficient shooters in the league, and that's in part because they often wait to take a shot until they're in a spot more favourable for scoring. You know how Monahan constantly does this thing where he enters the zone, pulls up, waits, moves laterally to get a defender out of his lane, and then shoots? That kind of thing.

The only area the Flames succeed here is the shots against department, and even then, it's not a very big difference. Still, it's worth noting: the Flames give up fewer shots on net than the Canucks. With both teams' goaltending being pretty much a wash, as long as the Flames keep shooting accurately, that could be a key factor.

Penalties

Calgary Flames Vancouver Canucks
PIM per game
7.6 10.9
PP time
435:04 395:49
PK time
311:56 449:58
PP minus PK time
+123:08 -54:09
PP%
18.8% 19.3%
PK%
80.6% 85.7%

Here's where things start to turn more in Calgary's favour.

Penalties are less called in the playoffs than in the regular season, but we have 82 games' worth of data to look at how each team performs. And generally: the Flames do not take penalties. The Canucks do. The Canucks are on the kill more than on the powerplay, while the Flames' numbers are comical in comparison: more minutes with an extra man than down one.

That said, Vancouver's special teams are better. Their powerplay scores more, but they aren't on the powerplay as often. Their penalty kill is more successful, but they've had more chances to practice it.

As long as the Flames play clean, though, that could be enough. Mike outlined it in further detail here.

All situations

Calgary Flames Vancouver Canucks
Goals for
5v5: 161
PP: 48
SH: 6
5v5: 155
PP: 46
SH: 6
Goals against
5v5: 155
PP: 36
SH: 3
5v5: 161
PP: 38 
SH: 2
Shooting percentage
5v5: 8.9%
PP: 12.4%
PK: 9.6%
5v5: 7.7%
PP: 13.3%
PK: 6.7%
Save percentage
5v5: 92.2%
PP: 94.8%
PK: 85.1%
5v5: 91.7%
PP: 98.2%
PK: 89.8%
Corsi for
5v5: 44.4%
PP: 87.7%
PK: 13.3%
5v5: 49.5%
PP: 88.4%
PK: 13.7%
Fenwick for
5v5: 45.7%
PP: 86.2%
PK: 14.5%
5v5: 50.4%
PP: 87.1%
PK: 16.0%
Scoring chances for
5v5: 45.1%
PP: 87.0%
PK: 15.4%
5v5: 48.3% 
PP: 86.0%
PK: 16.1%
PDO
5v5: 101.1
PP: 107.2
PK: 94.7
5v5: 99.4
PP: 111.5
PK: 96.4

Thanks to the gap in penalty differential - Calgary very much in the positive, Vancouver in the negative - this series could, potentially, be made on penalties. The majority of the game, however, especially in the playoffs, is played at even strength. Here, we've broken down some of the above numbers into their respective situations.

Ultimately, the Flames are luckier at even strength, while the Canucks are luckier when it comes to special teams. This bodes poorly for the Flames, as if regression chooses to strike in the playoffs, it's ultimately going to be the Flames suffering.

Player usage

Finally, via War on Ice, let's take a glimpse at how each team uses its players:

flamescanucksusage

Points of note:

  • All of the red circles mean pretty much everyone involved is a negative possession player. The bad news is pretty much all the Flames' key players are, while the Canucks' top players are positives.
  • Over the course of the season, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau have received the most offensive zone starts out of everybody. Expect this to continue in the series.
  • Henrik and Daniel Sedin have played the highest quality competition.
  • TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano played tougher minutes than the Canucks' top pairing of Christopher Tanev and Alexander Edler. The Flames' new top pairing of Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell can't compare to either; they're not only far more sheltered, but worse as well.
  • The Flames shelter their players against tough competition far more than the Canucks. Rafa Diaz and David Schlemko are the most prominent examples of this. Things get even worse when Corey Potter is included.
  • At the same time, certain Flames players start most often in the defensive zone way more than any Canucks player; primarily David Jones, Lance Bouma, and Matt Stajan. Backlund's back there a bit, too. Hartley does his best to get his top line in prime scoring position, so someone's got to take the hit for that, hence increased defensive zone starts. All things considered, they don't fare too badly.
  • Both teams have a jumbling of mediocre players in relatively easy situations; more Canucks skew towards defensive zone starts out of that group, however. It looks like Willie Desjardins goes for balance with his lines, while Bob Hartley utilizes extremes when deciding what circumstances his players will play in.
  • Not that it wasn't obvious before, but: Giordano's presence is going to be missed, big time.

Ultimately, the Canucks should be favoured to win this series. However, things are hardly skewed in their favour. It's going to be a pretty even series, and the Flames definitely have what it takes to win.