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Canucks Watch: Lies, damn lies and statistics

To paraphrase that great Olivia Newton-John song from the early ’80s: Let’s get statistical/statistical/I wanna get statistical/Let’s get statistical…

With more than 50 games under their belts, we’ve got a good sampling to see how the Canucks have stacked up against the rest of the NHL this season, from their prowess on the power play to their fighting frequency to scoring exploits.

SCORING: The Canucks are averaging exactly three goals per game, good for 10th in the league. And Vancouver’s ratio of 1.12 ranks eighth when it comes to 5-on-5 scoring – in other words, the Canucks have scored 1.12 even-strength goals this season for every one they’ve given up. (As long as the ratio is greater than 1.00, it’s a good sign.)

And whether it’s 5-on-5 or on special teams, the Canucks appear to need a period to get their legs going. Vancouver has scored 60 goals in the second period this season (in 53 games), which is third behind Detroit (68) and Boston (61). However, Vancouver is barely middle-of-the-pack in scoring in the first and third periods.

POWER PLAY: At 19.3 percent, Vancouver was 12th in the league with the man advantage. And, if you saw Mats Sundin working with the Sedins on Saturday night against Chicago, when Vancouver scored four power play markers in a 7-3 win, you have to figure this is an area of strength the rest of the season.

The Canucks have three 4-on-3 goals this season, tied with Boston for the most in the NHL, and five 5-on-3 goals, tied for sixth overall. (Unfortunately, Vancouver has given up three goals while down 4-on-3…and given up five goals while down 5-on-3.)

SHOOTING: At 28.0, the Canucks sit 24th overall in shots per game. Vancouver is surrendering 29.7 shots per game, 14th-most in the league. Don’t be surprised if both numbers go up, with Mats Sundin helping to pad the shots-for total, while Roberto Luongo’s presence may inspire a more wide-open style – and more scoring chances at both ends of the rink.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether the Canucks take more shots than their opponent. Vancouver is 10-8-4 when outshooting the other team, and 12-11-4 when outshot. Oh yeah…the Canucks are 3-1-0 when the shots are even.

FIGHTING: Vancouver ranks third in the NHL in fighting majors, with 52, just behind Anaheim (56) and Philadelphia (55). Surprisingly, only one Canuck ranks among the league’s 50 busiest boxers – Darcy Hordichuk has dropped the gloves 11 times.

(Columbus’ Jared Boll and Philadelphia’s Riley Cote each have fought 17 times this year to lead the NHL.) Otherwise, it’s been uppercut-by-committee, with defensemen Shane O’Brien and Rob Davison each fighting five times and Kevin Bieksa, Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Kesler chalking up three bouts apiece.

Yet for all of the fisticuffs, Vancouver sits dead last in bodychecks, with 844 through 53 games (about 16 hits per game). Maybe coach Alain Vigneault should send Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows over the boards a little more often.

The Canucks are winning 51.9 percent of their faceoffs this season, which might not sound like a big deal, but it’s the fifth-highest percentage in the league. And as you probably know, in today’s game, puck-possession is more important than ever before.

This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.

Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a regular contributor to His blog appears every weekend and his column, From The Point, appears regularly.

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