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Bo Horvat has been phenomenal, but he can be even better.

Before you start furiously typing in hateful comments, hear me out. Although the captain is currently leading the postseason in goals (which includes two game-winners), his underlying numbers have been surprisingly sub-par. 

During the regular season, Horvat controlled shot attempts 49.15% of the time and had an expected goal share of 48.34% when he was on the ice at 5 on 5. Ideally, those numbers would be north of 50%, but they’re still decent figures considering the tough matchups he faced on a nightly basis.

However, his current postseason data indicates that he’s actually taken a dip in these metrics. After eight playoff games, Horvat’s expected goals share has dropped to 46.76% and he’s controlling shot attempts only 46.15% of the time. This isn’t a small sample size, either, as he’s already logged over 117 minutes of five-on-five time.

But this is the playoffs! He’s facing tougher competition, right?

Not so fast.

Instead of having his captain shoulder the burden of matching up against the opposition’s top line, Travis Green has decided to have Horvat face secondary competition during the postseason. He was on the ice against Joel Eriksson Ek for over 20 minutes and only 13 with Eric Staal at five-on-five during the Minnesota series. While facing Eriksson Ek, the Canucks controlled shots at a decent rate of 51.43% but had an abysmal 38.69% expected goal share with Horvat on the ice.

In his defence, this sample size is minuscule and Eriksson Ek is one of the most underrated shutdown centres in the league who had an expected goal share of over 54% in the regular season. With that said, it’s still a bad look for Horvat to struggle so mightily against weaker opponents after putting up decent numbers against elite competition all season.

Unfortunately, this trend has continued into the St.Louis series.

Despite scoring four goals in the first two games of round one, Horvat’s underlying numbers have been surprisingly mediocre. Against Brayden Schenn (his primary matchup) at five-on-five, he has controlled shots at a rate of 45.6% and owns 49.15% of the expected goals.

These metrics are even more underwhelming when considering that they largely exclude Horvat’s lacklustre game four, as his line was matched up with Ryan O’Reilly’s for the majority of the game. Those numbers indicate that he didn’t dominate Schenn during the first two games as much as the boxscore says; even though Horvat scored four goals, most were from incredible individual efforts rather than controlling the play, which is unsustainable.

However, the good news is that Horvat has shown the ability to get the best of Schenn in their matchups. During the regular season, he had a 54.55% share of attempted shots and an expected goal rate of over 60% against Schenn at five-on-five. These numbers only represent 12 minutes of ice time, but it still shows what Horvat is capable of when he’s not being matched up against elite competition.

Ultimately, even though Horvat has stuffed the stat sheet during these playoffs, his underlying metrics have only been mediocre. Since St. Louis is now focusing more attention on him, the Canucks will need their captain to do a better job of controlling possession at five-on-five in order for them to dethrone the defending cup champions. Horvat has shown the ability to dominate play and step up when his team needs him most; don’t be surprised when he plays like a man possessed for the rest of this series.

All stats from Natural Stat Trick.