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Penguins vs. Canucks preview

The never-ending road trip finally makes it’s last stop for the Penguins tonight in Vancouver to meet the Canucks.

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NHL: Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Seems like this road trip has been going on forever, doesn’t it? Well tonight is finally the last stop for the Penguins as the finish out the trip west with a game against the Canucks from beautiful Vancouver.

The Canucks have started out a bit better than most pundits expected, they’re at 6-4-2- right now but coming off a 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. And they’ve done it with new faces. For long it’s been the Sedin show, but Daniel (2g+3a) and Henrik (0g+3a) aren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard just yet and at age 37 are clearly on the decline from the dominant players they once were.

Instead, the Canucks are led by youth. 20-year old Brock Boeser has 9 points (2g+7a) in 9 games. Boeser is joined on the first line with 22-year old center Bo Horvat (4g+3a in 12 games) and 24-year old Sven Baertschi.

Vancouver also boasts two former Penguins, and interestingly enough they’re two lightning rods among the fan base. Center Brandon Sutter only has 1g+2a in 12 games this season. Defenseman Derrick Pouliot has played well in a 3rd pair role with 0g+3a in 9 games as a Canuck, playing 16:09 per game in a sheltered role. Pouliot’s involvement and opportunity (or lack thereof) with the Pens has been beaten to death, but Tyler Dellow at The Athletic had a very eye-catching article that reminded us of this situation.

In other words, even if you don't care about the Dallas Stars, the thinking in here probably applies to some team or player that you do care about because it's a universal problem: Stupid coach who has unfathomably won a few hundred games doesn't recognize that some bottom end player with great numbers should be given a larger role.

To translate: the Stars put up a 59.5 percent Corsi% when Honka was on the ice. They got 65.1 percent of the scoring chances and 66.7 percent of the high danger scoring chances. He posits that because Dallas got outscored 4-1 with Honka on the ice, the Stars don't see his real value.

Look, sometimes hockey people, be they coaches or GMs, do crazy stuff. Sometimes they get things wrong. But hockey analytics — as useful and helpful as it is — is far from a finished or exact science. You're looking at stuff, understanding some historical context for that information and then trying to figure out what it means. This should include trying to figure out how it might mislead you.

In a perfect world, you'd really try to understand what the pure hockey people are saying and then you'd try and reconcile that with what the analytics seem to be saying. I've seen instances in which I think hockey people were right and instances where I thought the analytics people nailed it. Nobody's got a monopoly on objective truth here (including me; I'm just a guy thinking things through and making arguments) and if you try and reconcile the two schools of thought, you can make them better.

The rest is worth a read and we won’t violate all the paywall, but it’s a good look at how shift starts and zone starts can aid, boost, detract or explain how defensemen’s numbers can be a little misleading. Pouliot has been used well by Vancouver to get the most out of him (according to Dellow’s data), and so far it’s looked like it’s worked well for him up there. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Another item to consider, just as some food for thought is the recent events around Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart was the #4 overall pick in 2012, the same year Pouliot was drafted 8th overall. Reinhart’s got size and a right-handed shot, yet he was exposed in the expansion draft (like Pouliot) and was the selection by Vegas from the Oilers. However, he played 0 games to date with Vegas and they waived Reinhart lately. No teams claimed him.

Perhaps the Pens were fortunate to recoup even a 4th round pick for Pouliot, a player who wasn’t established and not in their plans.

Anyways, Pouliot and the Canucks will play the Penguins starting at 10 PM Eastern tonight so get a nap or some coffee or something and let’s get ready to go.