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I Watched This Game: Canucks reject regression in win over Senators

The Canucks didn't play well against the Senators and it didn't matter in the least: they've got PDO on their side.
The Vancouver Canucks scored five goals on 16 shots to take down the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.

Vancouver Canucks fans might be forgiven if they’re tired of hearing about the PDO statistic. 

For the uninitiated, PDO (which is, confusingly, not an acronym and doesn’t stand for anything) is a statistic that adds together shooting percentage and save percentage and is used as a proxy for luck. A team with a PDO above 1.000 is likely getting a bit lucky, while a team with a PDO below 1.000 is likely getting a bit unlucky.

The Canucks’ PDO is way, way over 1.000.

During the Canucks’ game against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, Sportsnet in-game host Dan Murphy pointed out on the broadcast that the Canucks’ 1.088 PDO heading into this game is the highest PDO any team has ever had, which is absolutely wild. 

With a PDO that high, it is certain that it will regress — return closer to 1.000 — at some point this season. There’s just no way that the Canucks can continue scoring on 13.3% of their shots and get a .954 save percentage at 5-on-5. 

So, of course, the Canucks went out against the Senators and scored on their first two shots of the game. They nearly scored on their third shot too, a breakaway by Ilya Mikheyev that he nearly snuck through Anton Forsberg’s five-hole.

By the end of the game, the Canucks had scored five goals on just 16 shots en route to a 5-2 win.

Not only did the Canucks not regress, their PDO got even higher: according to Natural Stat Trick, it was up to 1.092 after the game. The next best PDO in the NHL is 1.037.

PDO? More like, PD-Oh no she better don't. The Canucks laugh in the face of regression.

The good thing is that the Canucks are well aware that they didn’t play well enough in this game. It would be far more of a concern if the Canucks were getting cocky during this five-game winning streak and nine-game point streak. They seemed far more focused on correcting what went wrong with the process than reveling in the result.

“I don’t think it was the best effort from us,” said Elias Pettersson, who had a three-point night to move into sole possession of first in the NHL in scoring. “I think my line, especially me, I wasn’t having my best night. Turning too many pucks over and just playing a little soft but happy with the win.”

“I think we all could agree that wasn’t our best tonight,” said J.T. Miller, who had two points to move into a tie for fifth in the NHL in scoring. “Came out with a pretty decent start then kind of didn’t like the way we were going into the second. And then we were just kind of sloppy all over the ice.”

“It wasn’t our A-game, obviously,” said Rick Tocchet, who has coached the Canucks to the third-best record in the NHL. “We’ve got to be careful, we’ve got to make sure we’re playing a 60-minute game because, where our record is, teams are going to want to beat us now. It’s a different standard.”

The Canucks took some advice from Kendrick Lamar after I watched this game.

  • This game was wilding right from the start. Anton Forsberg absolutely robbed Brock Boeser 15 seconds into the game off a superb cross-ice setup by Phil Di Giuseppe. Boeser couldn’t one-time the puck coming across his body, giving Forsberg just enough time to lunge across with his glove like Orlando Hudson to snag the puck.
  • Only, the puck actually went in. At the next stoppage a minute later, the officials reviewed the play and it revealed that Forsberg’s glove was behind the goal line, turning the spectacular save into the game-opening goal. It was Boeser’s 11th goal of the season, putting him on pace for a very nice 69 goals.
  • A few minutes later, Ilya Mikheyev made it 2-0. The Pettersson line pressured hard on the forecheck and Andrei Kuzmenko blocked a breakout pass to create a turnover. Pettersson immediately sent the loose puck to Mikheyev, who smartly made a quick deke to open up Forsberg’s five-hole. Just when Forsberg realized what was happening, Mikheyey went underneath his right pad. 
  • After scoring two goals on two shots, the Canucks only got one more shot the rest of the first period. To be fair, it was yet another grade-A scoring chance, as Mikheyev stole the puck in the neutral zone and burst the other way for a breakaway. He tried to go five-hole again but, like Daffy Duck blowing himself up, that trick only works once and Forsberg made the stick save.
  • To be fair to the Canucks, they had an additional four shots on goal during the minute of time that was erased when they went back to credit Boeser for his opening goal. Since that minute technically never happened, those shots never happened either, though I bet Forsberg wishes they did for the sake of his save percentage.
  • The funniest moment of the first period was Nils Höglander casually stealing Parker Kelly’s stick right out of his hand as he zipped through the neutral zone. For a moment, it looked like Höglander was considering playing with two sticks, but then he threw the extra one aside.
  • The weird thing about this game is that the Senators are the team that got the bounces. Their first goal, late in the first period, came when Ian Cole whiffed on a bouncing puck — the ice looked atrocious in Ottawa — and Drake Batherson snagged the puck, then cut to the net and calmly chipped it over Casey DeSmith’s glove.
  • Then the Senators tied the game in the second period on a flukey bounce off Elias Pettersson. Artem “Kneel Before” Zub threw the puck towards the net and it seemed to take a double deflection, first off Mikheyev at the top of the zone, then off Pettersson’s stick before cannonading over DeSmith into the net.
  • Just like that, the Canucks early 2-for-2 start was erased and the Senators had all the momentum. It seemed certain the Senators would pull ahead barring something absurd happening.
  • Something absurd happened. Quinn Hughes turned the puck over to Batherson’s forecheck and Josh Norris fed the puck to Brady Tkachuk at the backdoor, where he was all alone with a wide-open net. All the Senators’ captain and leading goalscorer needed to do was corral the puck and guide it into the net. Instead, he rushed it and shot the puck across the face of the goal and out the other side. 
  • A minute later, Di Giuseppe took a nice pass from Cole to gain the offensive zone, then dropped the puck to J.T. Miller and tied up Jack Bernard-Docker’s stick to clear a shooting lane. Miller, unlike Tkachuk, made no mistake with the much more difficult scoring chance and ripped the puck off the crossbar and in.
  • Let’s turn to Tkachuk for a reaction to that stunning turn of events.
  • Oh. Uh. It’s okay, pal. I’m sure sunnier days are just over the horizon. Chin up, buddy. 
  • The Canucks created their own luck to make it 4-2. Kuzmenko made a great defensive play to liberate the puck from Tkachuk, sending Pettersson the other way. Pettersson pulled up in the offensive zone to create some space, then flung the puck toward the net, where Mikheyev deftly deflected the puck in with his skate, which doesn’t count as a kick and is totally allowed. 
  • The Canucks got lucky again, as Jakob Chychrun was called for high-sticking Conor Garland, when what he actually did was lift Garland’s stick and that’s what hit Garland in the face. It was the old “Why do you keep high-sticking yourself?” routine.
  • The power play lasted two seconds flat. Miller won the faceoff cleanly, Hughes moved the puck to Pettersson, and Pettersson teleported the puck into the net. At least, it seemed like teleportation given how quickly the puck was behind Forsberg. It appeared that Pettersson obliterated the puck, shattering it into its constituent atoms, then reconstituted the puck inside of the net. 
  • I cannot emphasize enough that this was a bad game for Pettersson. He didn’t play up to his usual standard, by his own admission, describing his own play as “soft” and saying he committed too many turnovers. In this bad game for Pettersson, he had a goal and two assists. Pettersson is on an incredible heater right now.
  • “It’s an 82-game season, you’re not going to play every single game how you want and win how you want,” said Miller. “You’re gonna have to win some ugly ones. I think it’s important we don’t get too frustrated by not playing exactly how we want to play but, at the same time, learn from the bad and look at the good. Day-by-day, we keep saying that, but I think this is a good example of how we need to learn from it tomorrow and then get ready for the game against Toronto.”