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This week's inaugural playoff edition of Number Crunching explores the statistical oddities from the first week of action in the NHL post-season and looks into the wacky tacky officiating from the first two games of the Canucks/Kings series that leads us to wonder out loud if in fact the NHL really does have a bias against the Canucks. FLYING SAUCERS? OR JUST ZEBRAS ON THE SAUCE? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1710_lui2_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Now, we're not saying there's some sort of conspiracy theory going on with the officiating in the Canucks/Kings first round series...oh wait, actually that's precisely what we're saying and we've got the numbers to back it up. Through the first two games of every 2010 playoff series (with the exception of the Nashville/Chicago series that had played just one game as of this writing on Sunday morning), the Canucks lead the League when it comes to penalty minutes with 31 in two games - an average of 16.5 per game. That's three more penalty minutes per game higher than the next highest penalized teams in the NHL playoffs - the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins who are tied for second place with an average of 13.0 penalty minutes per game. The Kings, meanwhile, have the second lowest average penalty minutes per game at just 9.0 - one minute on average more than the San Jose Sharks who bring up the rear after two games played with 8.0 penalty minutes per game. The Canucks/Kings series, through two games played, also has the highest differential in average penalty minute accessed to the two teams. Below is a breakdown of the penalty minute discrepancy in each series (minus the NSH/CHI series) after the first two games: MTL (9.5) vs WSH (9.5) = 0.0 BOS (13.0) vs BUF (13.0) = 0.0 DET (9.0) vs PHX (10.0) = 1.0 OTT (11.5) vs PIT (9.5) = 2.0 COL (11.0) vs SJS (8.0) = 3.0 PHI (10.0) vs NJD (13.0) = 3.0 LAK (9.0) vs VAN (16.5) = 7.5 *Bracketed numbers indicate respective team's average penalty minute per game through two games played Gary and Colin, Canucks Nation awaits your rebuttal. OH CANADA <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1510_smythlui_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">With the Senators, Canadiens and Canucks all winning their opening playoff games this season, it marked the first time since the 1998 playoffs that every Canadian team in the post-season all won their opening playoff games. That year all three Canadian entrants - the Senators, Canadiens, and Oilers - entered the post-season as heavy underdogs (the Senators were an eighth seed in the East while the Canadiens and Oilers were seventh seeds in their respective conferences) but all managed to pull off Game 1 upsets in a manor resembling how this year's playoffs began for the Canadian teams. All three of those respective 1998 opening games involving Canadian teams were decided by one goal (just like this year) and two of the three contests were decided by overtime (also just like this year). The Senators knocked off the Devils 2-1 in overtime, the Canadiens knocked off the Penguins 3-2 in overtime, and the Oilers took a 3-2 regulation victory over the Avalanche. And how's this for an omen? That year, all three Canadian teams managed to win their series and advance to the second round. In fact, 1998 is the last time that all Canadian entrants in the playoffs managed to advance to Round 2. Unfortunately, all three would meet their demise by the second round that post-season. OPENING NIGHT OVERTIME CURSE? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1510_obburr_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For the superstitious types, you may want to ignore this entry. Thursday marked the 13th time in Canucks team history that they have opened a playoff series with an overtime game. Historically, the Canucks haven't fared well in playoff series that have opened with a game requiring extra time. Win or lose in that first game, Vancouver's all-time record in series where Game 1 has gone to overtime is just 3-9. The numbers aren't much better even if the Canucks open the series with an overtime victory in Game 1 although it is slightly less troubling than what the aforementioned overall mark is. The Canucks are 2-4 in series when they win Game 1 in overtime. The last time the Canucks opened a series with an overtime game was back in 2007 with that memorable quadruple overtime game against the Dallas Stars. The Canucks prevailed 5-4 that night thanks to a 72-save effort by Roberto Luongo who was making his NHL playoff debut. The Canucks would go on to win the series four games to three. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYOFF PERFORMER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1510_happy_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Three goals in two games played. The Canucks brought in Mikael Samuelsson to be a key performer come playoff time and he certainly has lived up to that billing in the first two games of the series. Samuelsson scored twice on opening night, including the overtime winner in Game 1, and added his third goal of these young playoffs in Game 2 in a losing effort. Samuelsson's three goals is already more than halfway to his entire goal output from the 2009 playoffs when he recorded five goals in 23 games in the Red Wings Stanley Cup run that ended with a Game 7 loss to Pittsburgh Penguins in the Finals. Samuelsson is also halfway to establishing a new personal points record in a single series. His previous high was six points (0-6-6) set during the 2007 Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks. Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
The Vancouver Canucks' motion for a victory was denied by the hot Ottawa Senators near Parliament Hill on Thursday night. Though they didn't all 'fall flat', the Canucks had to acknowledge the patient game the scalding hot Ottawa Senators are playing (Photo courtesy of Phillip MacCallum/ Getty Images) Thanks in large part to the play of sophomore goaltender Brian Elliot and center Jason Spezza, Ottawa extended it's team record winning streak to 11 games, defeating the Canucks 3-1. Elliot may have lost the shutout bid with 99 seconds remaining, but he beat his own team record with his ninth straight win. Captain Daniel Alfredsson netted three assists during the victory, while Jason Spezza extended his goal scoring streak to six games. "Ells (Brian Elliot) has been phenomenal, there's not enough we can say about how well he's played," noted Spezza. "He just keeps it going and it seems like every night he seems better and better, so it's going well for us." Mike Fisher of the Senators (#12) goes fishing for a rebound, but Raycroft left nothing en route to an 18 save performance (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/ Getty Images) After winning 7 straight, the Canucks have run into some hot teams from the East, first Montreal Tuesday, and now Ottawa on Thursday. But the road trip gains some optimism with a trip Saturday morning (10 am PST) to Boston, where the Bruins have lost nine straight, including a 3-2 overtime loss to the surging Montreal Canadiens. "We had been good on the road prior to these last two games and the game in Montreal, but that being said, we've got a lot of guys whose personal stats are as good on the road as they are at home," said coach Alain Vigneault with some concern in his voice. The Canucks finished with 30 shots, and threw a lot (including Kyle Wellwood) at the net, but Brian Elliot is enjoying a career season (Photo courtesy of AP Photo) Alain Vigneault decided to start Andrew Raycroft, after starting Roberto Luongo the past 26 games. In that span, Luongo's record was 17-6-3. Raycroft recorded his 100th career loss, right on the heels of his 99th career victory in a comeback victory over Toronto on Saturday. Raycroft made 18 saves on the night, with the 3rd Sens tally being scored into an empty net. Daniel Sedin fires a slapshot at Brian Elliot from the faceoff circle at Scotiabank Place Thursday night The Canucks have an immediate chance for some redemption when they take on the listless Boston Bruins, who have lost 9 straight, Saturday. But they also have a chance for retribution once they finish their landmark 14 game road trip. The Senators will play in Vancouver March 13th, the Canucks first home game back after this trip, with Luongo almost certain to get that start. Canucks fans do a fantastic job of representin' with the large Vancouver posse "in effect" at Scotiabank Place February 4th Kyle Wellwoods 2-1 marker vs Ottawa (courtesy of Pouya from CanucksHD, - just click) Larenzo Jensen, with files from Yahoo Sports, Getty Images and CanucksHD