Six things the Canucks need to do better in Game 4

For starters, Ryan, you’re holding your stick wrong.

We here at Pass it to Bulis are all about making bold statements. Unlike other blogs and the mainstream media, we don’t shy away from the gut-punch of truth. We tell it like it is, day in and day out.

It is in the spirit of this unflinching commitment to boldness that we make the following proclamation: the Vancouver Canucks, down 3-0 in their first round series to the San Jose Sharks, have not been good enough.

Is everyone okay? Have we shattered your worldview and sent you scurrying for the warm embrace of your loved ones? Because we’re not done. We’re going a step further. Tonight, in game four, the Canucks need to be better.

Not everyone is willing to make such radical statements, but we know that you, our readers, deserve it. But that’s not all. We’re not just bold visionaries speaking truth to power. We’re also practical sorts, who believe in providing real world solutions. So here are six things the Canucks need to do better if they want to win game four and force the series back to Vancouver.

1 | Stay out of the penalty box

In our playoff preview, we highlighted special teams as one of the Sharks’ greatest strengths, noting that the Canucks would need to avoid penalty trouble if they wanted to succeed. Of course, defence and goaltending were supposed to the Canucks’ strengths and that hasn’t entirely worked out, but penalties have been a legitimate concern through the first three games.

Sure, the Canucks have been on the receiving end of a number of questionable calls, but they haven’t helped their cause with their undisciplined play.

The Canucks took the first two penalties in game one, then took the first three penalties in game two. At least when Tom Sestito took the first penalty in game three he took Adam Burish to the box with him, but the Canucks cannot keep giving the Sharks powerplays as the Sharks are simply too good with the man advantage. In game four, the Canucks will need to keep things at even-strength by avoiding retaliation penalties and keeping a cool head in post-whistle scrums.

2 | Better embellishment

The Sharks have been beating the Canucks in every area, including the one that the Canucks are supposed to be the best at: embellishment. I’m not saying the Canucks need to embellish more, just better.

Come on, Canucks, we know you can embellish better than those Sharks. Heck, most of them are Canadian, they’re supposed to be bad at embellishing. Get your heads in the game! Then snap them back.

3 | Gain the blue line with possession

While I haven’t been tracking zone exits and entries for the Canucks this season, it seems to me that they’ve been far more reliant on chipping and chasing than they have been in the past. This can be partly blamed on the trickle-down effect of Ryan Kesler’s absence, as a less-skilled team is more likely to dump the puck in and try to win it back on the forecheck, but even the Sedins have been more prone to dumping the puck in this season.

One of the main issues for the Canucks this series has been creating sustained offensive pressure in the Sharks’ end of the ice. That starts with having possession in the offensive zone, which is most easily created by winning offensive zone faceoffs or carrying the puck over the blue line with possession.

At one point, the Sedins were the masters of this. They would create space for a zone entry with a couple quick five-foot passes, or gain speed through the neutral zone and stop short with the puck as soon as they crossed the blue line. It’s much harder to get a cycle going when you have to first win the puck back from the defence on the forecheck.

4 | Get Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis some more ice time

Kevin Bieksa has been playing like he’s battling through an injury in this series and it shows in his numbers. He’s getting absolutely buried by puck possession statistics and he’s minus-2 by traditional plus/minus. Meanwhile, Alex Edler is playing some of the most tentative hockey of his career and has no points through three games.

Garrison and Hamhuis have been bright spots on the blue line, however, with Garrison in particular driving play, as Dimitri Filipovic pointed out at Canucks Army. And yet, Edler and Bieksa are the ones leading the Canucks in ice time. The difference is small, certainly, but Hamhuis and Garrison have been far more reliable than Edler and Bieksa and should be eating up more minutes, particularly against tough competition so that Edler and Bieksa can face softer competition and, hopefully, contribute more offensively.

5 | Score in the first period, maybe?

The Canucks have faced the Sharks six times this year and have yet to score in the first period in any of those games. It’s not even like that was a major issue for the Canucks during the regular season. They were middle of the pack in goals-for during the regular season, but outscored their opponents 38-28 in the opening 20 minutes.

The Canucks have held a lead for about 16 minutes total this series. While having a lead at the beginning of the game is less important than having it at the end, it’s still (quite literally) a good start.

6 | Lose less

Like, preferably not at all. I don’t think they can handle another loss. May as well give up on the season if they lose again.

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10 comments

  1. akidd
    May 7, 2013

    there ya go.

    watching the first bruin/leaf game i noticed how much the bruins would dump in the puck…and to good effect. there were times they could have carried the puck in easily but nope, just before the blue they’d dump it and be right on top of it by the time the dman got back to it and then bang, smoosh went the leaf dman. there’s no way that series goes too long but if it did the bruins would certainly benefit from this strategy.

    not saying that should be the canuck strategy but its interesting nonetheless.

    it may be too late for this but i thought if the canucks kept on taking the body hard like they did in game one they would eventually wear down the sharks. they seemed to stop hitting so much after game. maybe more hitting would be good. the sharks are big but they’re not that tough.(meanwhile over in the blues/kings series….)

    oh yes, and definitely win more. definitely.

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  2. Brent
    May 7, 2013

    Funny stuff here. You missed that they should try to score more goals than the other team. That would help to!

    It would be good if they would not lose tonight and bring it back to vancouver for the fans.

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  3. kenahora
    May 7, 2013

    JUST PLAY THE GAME AND WIN

    TWO DAYS IN EVERY WEEK THAT DONT COUNT…..YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW.

    YES….YOU CAN..!

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    • akidd
      May 7, 2013

      //puts fingers in ears and grimaces….

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    • biznow
      May 7, 2013

      See, I actually vote for more embellishment, I’m not sure better embellishment is possible.

      Did you see the theatrics when Kesler was high-sticked by Marleau, he grabbed his throat as if his larynx had been crushed. It reminded me of a pantomime poisoning scene. The only thing that would have made it better is if he collapsed, his eyes turned into X’s like in the cartoons, then his soul flew out of his body playing a harp.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bagging Kesler, I actually enjoyed the performance.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        May 7, 2013

        I honestly don’t think there was any embellishment on that one, actually. Kesler just had his helmet ripped off his head, so his chin strap likely caught him right in the throat.

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        • biznow
          May 7, 2013

          I agree about the chin strap, I also agree with the penalty. But I just dont think it was as bad as it looked, he probably could have got up and skated off. But what do I know? the worst injury I’ve ever had from sports is a mild thumb cramp from changing the channel.

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  4. Nee
    May 7, 2013

    “Get your heads in the game! Then snap them back.”

    Bahaha. This post put me in a better mood for tonight’s game. Thanks Daniel.

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  5. Abby
    May 7, 2013

    I’m glad this post was funny because I don’t think I could bear to boycott my favourite canucks blog until after we bite it.

    As always, I remain an optimist. However , it’s a lot less hopeful one, and forgive me for saying it but I did have a few moments after game 3 where I would have been okay with a sweep, if only to put an end to my Canuck love=stress for the year.

    Not a fair weather fan, by the way. I think I care too much and I’m just trying to deaden the pain.

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  6. steveB
    May 7, 2013

    To tell you the truth, I would’ve preferred an blow-out loss instead of overtime.
    I just felt dread as the Third headed to the final minutes. I fully expected yet another powerplay for the Sharks to tie the game and then in Overtime, I had a premonition that the Referees weren’t done with the Canucks yet.
    It’s going to be another long Summer. :-(

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