powerplay

Canucks Power Play: Insert Coin To Continue

Oh great, another Canucks power play article, super!

Things have unraveled so quickly on the man-advantage that coach Travis Green has regressed to running three units with the Sedins still being trotted out on the regular. The obvious answer early on was to get Brock Boeser the puck in a shooting position. Green has committed to putting Bo Horvat, Boeser and Sven Baertschi on his top line but it doesn’t carry over to the power play.

Like a classic game of NHL Open ice, the Canucks are going to need to put a few more tokens in the machine to continue this game.

 

Obviously, the Canucks don’t have snipers like Pavel Bure and Alex Mogilny but at least back then the coaches knew what do with them. Across the league, the top teams on the PP have dedicated gunners from “the spot” as Jeff Paterson labeled it a week or so ago. The Canucks have seen a few of these teams set up the guy on the spot, namely the Dallas Stars and Tyler Seguin.

The top powerplay producers in the league have players put in a position to score. Dallas, Tampa, New York, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg are all in the top-five for power play percentages. Their stars Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Patrik Laine, and the aforementioned Seguin all have schemes set up to get them the puck. How Green hasn’t figured out he already has a guy, actually a few if you include Thomas Vanek and probably Bo Horvat as well.

It’s not for a lack of opportunity either; the Canucks are three chances back of Chicago for most powerplay opportunities in the league, a dramatic improvement from a year ago where they had 25 fewer chances at this same point in the season. What seems to be hampering their chances is their inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone for longer than the initial zone entry and even then half the time it looks like a dump and chase.

Back in the day, the Sedins would cross the blue line, make their quick drop pass to the other twin and begin their cycle until the puck found its way to the back of the net. When the West Coast Express was rolling over opponents, Brendan Morrison would setup Markus Naslund at the face-off dot and pull the trigger which either went in the net directly or Todd Bertuzzi would clean up the garbage.

This new Canucks team has a few weapons that have proven to be deadly when configured properly. At the beginning of the season, it was all about quick passes and keeping the puck moving. When defenders get enough time to set up their blocks they have a better chance of… well, blocking the shot or worse, clearing it down the ice.

What the Canucks need to do is have a triangle offense where Boeser and Vanek are the face-off dot shooters, a middleman, say Horvat and a guy who can hold the line on defense which would probably be Alex Edler? Have as much potential firepower as possible on that first unit and build a complementary transition group that can maintain that speed.

Unless Green catches lightning in a bottle with Loui Eriksson or Sam Gagner, they should be nowhere near that powerplay. Gagner is too predictable, much like the Sedins are now, so having a possession-based second unit with Brandon Sutter, Michael Del Zotto and Ben Hutton as the set pieces at least until Troy Stecher returns. Markus Granlund could probably be used in there as well as Sven Baertschi and use the Sedins as a last ditch effort if things aren’t going well at all.

Seeing the Canucks’ powerplay opportunities grow is all the more reason to input the young players instead of watching a two-minute snoozer with the old guard.

Video games have a pause and a reset button, arcades make you put in more coins when you’re losing; the Canucks need to pause and reset their approach if they want to have any kind of success when they draw a penalty.

Sadly, there are no cheat codes in real life.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

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Please Stop Talking About The Canucks Power Play

When the Canucks brought back Newell Brown as an associate/assistant coach (call it what you want), the big talk was how he was going to revive the power play and bring life to a long dead system. It is in fact dead. 2011 was so long ago and what was once a behemoth of firepower is now a squirt gun with no water.The problem, however, is that the Canucks power play isn’t the biggest issue. Sure, creating scoring chances and goals are at the top of the list with line chemistry nearing the top as well, but what the Canucks strongly need to address is the way they create power play opportunities.

If you happen to have watched even a handful of games last season, you would have noticed the Canucks aren’t all that fast. We can skip the “they aren’t very good either” comment because that’s a forgone conclusion. Penalties, for a large part, are taken when someone faster has the puck and the defending player can’t keep up so they obstruct the player to level their own playing field.

There are also penalties of the violent nature but again, it was pretty rare to see a Canucks commit one of those.

Last season, Vancouver ranked 28th in PP opportunities with 227, 50 behind the Philadelphia Flyers at #1. The Canucks power play connected a whopping 32 times so even when they did have the man-advantage, they were lost.

Of all places to draw penalties, one would think home ice would be the place to do it. It used to be back in the day when Brown ran the show and the last thing teams wanted to see was the Sedins set up for an eventual goal. They’re still setting up but the league has caught up and Henrik and Daniel aren’t as scary anymore.

Vancouver’s home PP opportunities were one better than the Columbus Blue Jackets last year with 112 to CBJ’s 111. Not much speed in the Canucks’ legs for most of the year meant they weren’t going to be breaking away from their opponents, it also meant they weren’t going to be catching up with them either as the Canucks tied the New Jersey Devils for 6th in goals against with 241.

Former coach Willie Desjardins didn’t create lines that made teams think how they would defend the Canucks and at the same time, the talent on Vancouver’s roster didn’t exactly scream “competitive”. Loui Eriksson was supposed to bring scoring and his injury-plagued season combined with turrble (Charles Barkley’s pronunciation of terrible) linemates and a lack of opportunity with the Sedins kept the Canucks predictable.

The old Canucks became a powerhouse because they had two strong lines that were creative and just when you thought you had the book on them, they changed it up. From the slap-pass to the slingshot, it was the Sedins that led the charge and opponents had to try and cheat to stop their progress and that’s when the penalties came.

All too often it was shift after shift of going through the motions. There weren’t many memorable games, let alone shifts and even crossing the opponent’s blue line was a challenge unto itself. The Canucks are a team of personified tar so asking them to be faster won’t be fixed with a team building weekend at Whistler.

This problem will take time to turn around and in time it will but for now simply getting close enough to put pucks on net would be their first goal.

In 2018, players like Nikolay Goldobin, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser give the Canucks an opportunity get creative again and input speed into every shift. One can only hope that newly-signed Erik Gudbranson can deliver what he says he can bring which I think is muscle and maybe some scoring, Alex Edler helps the rebuild by showing the young defenders what goal scoring used to look like and a bounce back season from Troy Stecher gets the ball rolling again.

By no means will this team turn it all around and have a top-5 PP unit but it can only go up from where it was and that at the very least is worth talking about. Once the expansion draft happens and everyone knows what is left, Jim Benning can hopefully bring in a new player that can help the Canucks get ahead.

So let’s stop talking about this new power play, alright? It’s hard enough watching them score ANY kind of goal.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

photo – vancouversun.com