There is no scoring chance more thrilling in the moment than one that comes off the rush.
What’s not to love about a player bursting down the wing, looking to take a shot, or perhaps set up a teammate in the slot or on the far side of the net.
To see the goalie set themselves, ready to make a save off a hard shot from the wing, or suddenly having to dart across their crease in an effort to face a shooter from another angle.
A rush chance quickens a fan’s pulse.
Scoring off rush chances has been a wild strength of the Vancouver Canucks this season.
The Canucks aren’t particularly notable for generating more rush chances than other teams, but their ability to finish rush chances is out of this world.
Earlier this week, SportLogic’s director of analytics and insights Mike Kelly revealed something remarkable about the Canucks this season — the team has scored on 22 per cent of their rush chances.
The next best team has scored at 13 per cent of their rush chances. The NHL average is 11 per cent.
That’s a very fun way to play.
But there’s no particular separating talent to scoring off the rush, hockey analysts have found. At one point, the online hockey analyst who calls themselves JFresh thought perhaps there was some skill to scoring off the rush, that teams and players who were adept at generating rush chances also raised their chances of scoring more than expected.
But not so, JFresh came to conclude.
What matters across all types of scoring chances, is all the stuff we know — make the goalie move, and make it hard for him to see the puck.
“Based on research I did with Corey Sznajder’s tracked data, there wasn’t a difference between total goals above expected on the rush versus in-zone opportunities. This would suggest that the pre-shot variables like passing and screens are more important,” JFresh told Postmedia on Thursday.
According to Clear Sight Analytics’s Stephen Valliquette, the average Stanley Cup winner yields just two “high-danger” rush chances against per game.
On Monday against the New York Rangers, according to Clear Sight, the Canucks generated five high-danger chances on the Rangers’ net.
In the three games in the Big Apple — versus the Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders — the Canucks did so well creating high-danger chances that Clear Sight’s model credited them with 10.3 expected goals in all situations across the three games. CSA credited the Canucks with 24 high-danger chances for.
Even better, on defence, they gave up fewer quality shots against — just 17 high-danger chances against — adding up to just 7.8 expected goals again.
In comparison, though, the first game of the current road trip in St. Louis last week, the Canucks generated only four high-danger chances for, and gave up six against.
In CSA’s model, a high-danger chance is a shot that has a 20-per-cent or greater chance of becoming a goal, based on previous shots taken from that spot, and accounting for whether there was a pass before the shot, where the pass came from, what the goalie had to do to get into position ahead of the shot, and if there was any traffic between the goalie and shooter.
With fan voting for the final 12 spots for the NHL All-Star rosters in Toronto a month from now, there is a decent chance the Canucks could be the first team in two decades to send five players to the mid-season hockey carnival.
Quinn Hughes was selected by the NHL last week. As of Tuesday, there stood a very good chance that Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko would join Hughes in Toronto.
The voting closed Thursday at midnight — fans could vote either on the NHL website or on social media — with the top eight skaters and top four goalies in voting being announced in two stages on Saturday.
Demko is just about a lock. In Tuesday’s initial voting update, he was far and away the No. 1 goalie, sitting more than 340,000 votes ahead of second-place Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky.
Pettersson had accumulated the fourth-most votes amongst skaters (518,168 votes) and seemed pretty likely to be voted in, with more than a 170,000-vote cushion over ninth-place Mikko Rantanen of Colorado.
J.T. Miller had the sixth-most votes on Tuesday (452,451, not far behind Pettersson) and has a strong chance as well. Seventh-place Brock Boeser has a good chance too, but at 383,954 was just over 40,000 votes ahead of Rantanen.
The Blackhawks sent four players to the 2011 All-Star game, but the last team to send five was the 2001 Colorado Avalanche. The Avs won the Stanley Cup that same season.
The Winnipeg Jets are red-hot and rounding themselves into true Stanley Cup contender status.
And they are narrowing in on a remarkable record, one that is even more remarkable given the high-goal environment the NHL has become.
Going into a Thursday home game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, the Jets have gone 30 straight games giving up just three goals or less in a game.
The longest streak of games giving up three goals or less since the NHL expanded in 1967 is 35 games for the 2014-15 Minnesota Wild.
The head coach of that Wild squad, which was one of the Western Conference wild card teams that season, was current Canucks assistant coach Mike Yeo.