Teams love to watch video of their opposition to get a deeper understanding of what makes their opponents successful, of what they need to try to stop.
Opponents, obviously, try to do that with Quinn Hughes.
That’s all well and good, J.T. Miller says.
“They can say, ‘Yep, we got him.’ And then you hit play.”
It is Hughes’ ability to ad-lib that makes him so impactful, Miller believes.
“He keeps plays alive. It’s so fun to play with a guy like that. He makes us look good.”
Two seasons ago, Miller tallied 99 points, the best scoring season of his career. But this season, he’s playing even better — and that’s not just because he’s on pace for triple digits in points.
He is genuinely playing like the two-way force he’s always believed he could be.
In the 114 minutes that Hughes and Miller have been on the ice together this season at 5-on-5, the Canucks are getting 51.8 per cent of the shot attempts, a solid total that’s even more impressive when you consider how most nights he has been matched up against the opposition’s best players.
For comparison, in the 93 minutes Miller has played at 5-on-5 without Hughes, the Canucks’ shot-attempts percentage is a miserable 39 per cent, but that figure is heavily driven by the 4-3 upset of Edmonton in the second game of the season where the Canucks got badly outshot on the whole, and their 5-2 win over Ottawa last week, a game the Canucks themselves admitted they had no business winning.
The point is, when Miller’s line is on the ice with Hughes and Filip Hronek, the Canucks are thriving overall, because that also means Elias Pettersson is playing against the opposition’s second and third lines.
There remains a large amount of luck to the Canucks’ run of success, but the fact remains that underneath that luck is a solid foundation of play. And as long as Miller and Hughes are controlling play as well as they are, the Canucks stand a good chance of their success carrying on.
Let’s take a look at a few more numbers to better understand just how good things are right now, and how promising the path ahead is.
The Canucks have scored 21 power play goals on the season.
Of those, 15 have come with Miller, Hughes and Elias Pettersson on the ice together.
That’s more goals on the power play than every other team in the NHL save three.
The Canucks’ prolific power play is a huge factor in those three being tied for the league lead in scoring (26 points) after Wednesday’s 4-3 comeback win versus the New York Islanders.
Just how wild has the Canucks’ scoring success been this season?
They have spent more time at 5-on-5 leading by two or more goals than they’ve spent trailing — at all.
The Canucks have been losing to their opponent just 21.2 per cent of the season so far.
They are going to stop scoring some of the goals they have been scoring to date, but that just means they’re going to be in more one-goal games.
If you told Brock Boeser in the summer he would regain his scoring touch this season, he would have told you he’d be delighted.
Boeser has done better than that. Skating alongside Miller, and of course, Hughes, The Flow has 13 goals on the season.
He is nearly halfway to his dream of 30 goals in a season — and the Canucks aren’t even a quarter of the way through the schedule.
Like the Canucks’ playoff chances at this point, it is hard to see how Boeser doesn’t reach his dream. Touch wood.
The Hughes-Pettersson-Miller points pace is so astounding that if they are somehow able to keep their scoring pace up, they will manage something that hasn’t been done since the 1980s: have three 100-point scorers on a team, and one of those players is a defenceman.
The last team to manage this feat was the 1988-89 Pittsburgh Penguins, led by Mario Lemieux. Lemieux’s winger Rob Brown also cracked the 100-point barrier, and the brilliant Paul Coffey did too.
The Edmonton Oilers accomplished this three times in the mid-1980s — Coffey was part of all three teams — and the 1979 New York Islanders did so as well, with Denis Potvin the high-scoring blueliner.
The Boston Bruins, driven by Bobby Orr, did so twice in the early 1970s.
We close this week with one worrying number: the Canucks’ penalty kill hasn’t hurt them much this season, certainly not in comparison with the last two seasons, but it can still be better.
They have done a better job of reducing cross-ice passes, giving their goalies more time to set and face the shooter.
But they are still bleeding a lot of shots against, likely far too many even if the shooters are static.
The Canucks are conceding the second-highest rate of shot attempts against on the penalty kill, more than two shots attempts against per minute of shorthanded time.