The New Malhotra

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One of the Canucks’ few question marks entering the post-season was how they were going to replace the minutes played by injured centre Manny Malhotra, their go-to defensive zone forward over the regular season.  As we saw shortly after he was injured, those weren’t going to be easy minutes to replace:

Malhotra, despite his status as a depth player, was a key forward for Vancouver. His faceoff prowess rightly gets a lot of attention (1261 draws taken, 61.7% winning percentage) but honestly it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Malhotra plays 12:39 per night at even-strength (seventh among forwards) and 2:45 on the penalty kill (first among forwards). He plays tough competition, often with less than stellar assistance.  He starts in his own end a whopping 75.0% of the time, allowing players like the Sedins to feast on offensive minutes.

In the piece linked above, I suggested that Ryan Kesler would be asked to take on the bulk of Malhotra’s defensive-zone draws.  The reality has been different; Maxim Lapierre has been asked to take on most of that work.  Here are the Canucks’ three most-used faceoff men, ranked by zone starts:

  • Henrik Sedin, 62.1% of starts in the offensive zone
  • Ryan Kesler, 49.6% of starts in the offensive zone
  • Maxim Lapierre, 27.1% of starts in the offensive zone

This doesn’t mean that Lapierre is handling the entirety of Malhotra’s work load: he has taken on a lot of the defensive zone work, but he isn’t taking on the penalty-killing time or all the even-strength work.  Those duties have fallen to Ryan Kesler, as a quick comparison of his regular season and playoff numbers confirms:

  • Even strength: 17:15 per night vs. 14:18
  • Penalty kill: 3:10 per night vs. 2:33

I haven’t been as blown away by Kesler’s playoffs as others have been; he didn’t have a great round one offensively and it was only thanks to a great on-ice save percentage that he managed to hold his own defensively versus the Toews line (he was out-chanced).  That said, he’s doing a good job playing a ton of minutes for the Canucks: no other player who made it past the first round has played more than his 23:41 per night, and he’s done a good job of helping the Canucks compensate for the loss of Malhotra.

Comments (3)

  1. Hi Jonathan Willis,very interesting post. Thanks for sharing this with us. Got many useful info about Malhotra. Very nice to read such an interesting blog.

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  2. I think the Canucks will wrap it up in a close one tonight. Having said that, if for some reason Luongo gets sketchy all bets are off!

    Here’s a look back at Thursday’s highlights: http://www.hockeybias.com/hockey-news-past/2011/May/2011-NHL-Playoff-Highlights-VAN-4-NAS-2-video.html

  3. Kesler is the man, first round shutting down Toews not a easy feat.He seems to be everywhere ,covers alot of ice.Him and Burrows excellent togather , out worked other team .Kesler is doing all the right things,has a will to win and deserves to be mentioned as one of the best all around players in the league not just playoffs. Anyone who doesn,t see this don,t know shit about hockey . He might not be a Canadian citizen ,but he plays hockey like most true Canadian hockey fans love .LOTS OF HEART GO KESLER

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