After a string of success, the Canucks’ power play is back to its early season struggles, with just one goal with the man advantage in the last seven games. That one goal hardly counts, as it was scored by Brad Richardson as a power play expired. The actual power play units haven’t produced a goal in their last 19 opportunities.
Unsurprisingly, Canucks fans have turned to armchair coaching, with one of the main targets being the presence of Dan Hamhuis on the first unit. Everything else about that unit makes perfect sense: the Sedins provide the playmaking, Jason Garrison has the big shot from the point, and Ryan Kesler can be a trigger man or provide a screen in front.
The only player that doesn’t seem to fit is Hamhuis, who has never put up much in the way of points on the power play in his career and is neither a quarterback nor a cannon on the blue line. Compounding matters, he’s yet another left-handed shot, with many of the Sedins creative plays coming to a screeching halt without a right-handed shot available for the one-timer at the left point.
While Hamhuis has many strengths, the power play just doesn’t seem to be one of them, but John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan seem intent on using him there. While doing some analysis on individual shot totals for the Canucks, I stumbled across an interesting statistic that may help explain why.
You see, while Dan Hamhuis does not have the most powerful shot, he is the most effective at getting his shot on net among Canucks’ defencemen.
Hamhuis has 170 shot attempts this season. Of those, 90 have been shots on goal, 30 have missed the net, and 50 have been blocked. This means that 52.9% of his shot attempts have been on goal, highest among Canucks defencemen. In Big Numbers on Monday, Harrison shared that Garrison actually led Canucks’ defencemen in this statistic, but Hamhuis was close behind and passed Garrison in the past two games.
Among Canucks defencemen who have played any significant time this season, Garrison and Hamhuis have the lowest percentage of their shots blocked. This seems like the kind of thing that John Tortorella, a connoisseur of blocked shots, might notice and care about.
We’re talking about small differences here between many of the defencemen, but they become a bit more stark when we look at just the power play.
Here’s a quick key to the follow chart: S = shots on goal, MS = missed shots, BS = blocked shots, SOG% = percentage of shot attempts that are on goal, BS% = percentage of shot attempts blocked, TS% = true shooting percentage, ie. the percentage of shot attempts that result in goals. The raw data comes from ExtraSkater.com.
Garrison’s numbers really stand out here. His 101 shot attempts on the power play easily leads the Canucks — just his 61 shots on goal come close to matching the second-place Kesler’s 65 shot attempts — but what is remarkable is how few have been blocked, particularly when you consider that most penalty kill units anticipate his shot from the point.
Just 17 of his 101 shot attempts on the power play — 16.8% — have been blocked and a similarly low percentage have missed the net.
What’s interesting is who is next best among defencemen: Hamhuis. Of the four defencemen on the chart who have spent significant time on the power play, Hamhuis is the only one other than Garrison who has more shots on goal than shots blocked. Edler’s numbers are particularly noticeable: 22 of his 41 shot attempts on the power play have been blocked.
Edler’s numbers hold up in all situations, as he has the lowest percentage of shot attempts that hit the net, other than Alberts and Corrado, who haven’t taken enough shots to provide much of a sample. Perhaps this is why he found himself moved off the first unit on the power play at times before his injury.
It’s possible, then, that Tortorella and Sullivan are playing things a bit too safe on the power play, going with a defencemen who won’t get his shot blocked, potentially providing short handed chances the other way. Or perhaps it’s not safety they’re concerned with; perhaps they just prize a player’s ability to get shots through traffic above other qualities.
It’s also entirely possible that I’m reading too much into this. After all, the sample size of shots gets awfully small when we restrict things to 5-on-4. Of course, that small sample size also means that the shots that are blocked stand out a bit more to observation.
If this kind of thing does play into the decision-making, it’s encouraging to see Yannick Weber matching Hamhuis with his shot on goal percentage in all situations, albeit with a limited number of shots as a sample size. On the power play, Weber has yet to have a shot blocked. Weber was billed as a power play specialist when he was signed and he has the powerful and accurate slap shot that Hamhuis lacks.
As an added bonus, Weber is a right-handed shot and could provide the weapon for one-timers that has been missed on the power play since Sami Salo signed in Tampa Bay.Tags: Dan Hamhuis