Fixing the power play: analyzing what has worked for the Canucks this season

It’s been obvious for a long time: the Canucks’ power play stinks. The halcyon days of the Canucks having the one of the best power plays in the league are gone. The special teams that allowed the team to adopt a zen philosophy, punishing teams, not with their fists, but with goals on the man advantage are not so special any more.

In order to identify what’s gone wrong with the power play, I’m going to look at what’s gone right. In order to see how the Canucks could be more successful on the power play, we can look at how they have been successful by looking at all of the power play goals they’ve scored this season. Regrettably, this won’t take very long.

This post also stands as proof that the Canucks have, in fact, scored some goals this season. Hard to believe, I know. I won’t post video for every goal, just ones that seem representative of what works for the Canucks power play.

1 | Jason Garrison vs San Jose Sharks, October 3, 2013

The Canucks first goal of the season tricked us into thinking we were going to see a very different team. They opened the scoring on the power play against the Sharks on their first power play of the game, then failed to score another on their five other power plays and lost 4-1.

It’s a simple enough play: a zone entry by Daniel Sedin on the left side, followed by a quick give-and-go between the twins along the left boards leading to Daniel setting up Jason Garrison for a massive one-timer from the slot.

Couple important things here: the Sedins are on the left side, the play is quickly set up after the zone entry, and Garrison is shooting from around 35 ft out.

2 | Daniel Sedin vs Edmonton Oilers, October 5, 2013

This was simply a gorgeous play by the Sedins, one we gave the full Breakdowning treatment. It’s notable, however, for the personnel on the ice: the Sedins, Kesler, Garrison, and Edler, whose vision and passing makes the play possible.

An argument can be made that the power play wasn’t actually broken early in the season, as it was creating plenty of shots and scoring chances, but just wasn’t putting the puck in the net. By attempting to fix it, the coaching staff actually made things worse. We haven’t seen anywhere near enough of these five players together on the power play.

3 | Henrik Sedin vs Columbus Blue Jackets, October 20, 2013

Henrik scores by jamming in a Kesler rebound. While we haven’t seen enough recently of Daniel peeling off the right wall the way he does here, there’s not much to be learned from this goal.

4 | Ryan Kesler vs St. Louis Blues, October 25, 2013

Another play by the Sedins coming off the right boards, though this is a 4-on-3 in overtime, making it difficult to assess in terms of a regular power play. Kesler, as the net front presence, knocks down a deflected Daniel shot and elevates the puck on the backhand.

5 | Daniel Sedin vs Toronto Maple Leafs, November 2, 2013

The Canucks were 1-for-9 on the power play in this game. Yikes. This goal, however, is a pretty one, and it comes via what appears to be a set play. Kesler wins the faceoff and goes to the net. Garrison gets the puck to Hamhuis, who wheels around the outside until he’s on the left boards.

Hamhuis’s shot isn’t a shot at all, which is probably a good thing considering his struggles finishing on the power play. Instead, it’s a pass to Kesler, who tips it through to Henrik waiting at the backdoor. His shot nicks his brother on its way in.

Is there a reason why we’re not seeing more of this type of creativity on the power play this season?

6 | Ryan Kesler vs Phoenix Coyotes, November 5, 2013

This is an interesting one because it uses the same setup that Tyler Dellow identified in the Washington Capitals power play, with Kesler in Ovechkin’s place as the right-handed trigger man. It’s a long pass from Henrik, forcing the goaltender to move a long distance side-to-side, opening up holes for Kesler’s shot from the top of the circle.

It’s a setup I’d like to see more often, preferably with a harder shooting defenceman on the point in place of Hamhuis and a bigger body like Kassian down low in place of Burrows.

7 | Kevin Bieksa vs San Jose Sharks, November 14, 2013

The Canucks once again open the scoring on the power play against the Sharks and, once again, it’s a one-timer quickly set up after gaining the zone. This time it’s off the right boards and it’s a right-handed shot from Bieksa rather than Garrison’s left-handed bomb. Bieksa’s not known for his slap shot, but he gets it through traffic.

8 | Henrik Sedin vs Dallas Stars, November 17, 2013

This is an odd one: Bieksa quarterbacks the power play from the left boards. He feeds the puck down to Kesler who tries a jam play, with Henrik cleaning up the rebound. To a certain extent, you could say it resembles goal #5, with a defenceman down low on the left boards and Henrik at the backdoor.

9 | Ryan Kesler vs Chicago Blackhawks, November 23, 2013

While the Sedins seem to work best when they’re close together, this goal comes with Daniel playing the left point. He works a give and go with Kesler on the left side that creates a shooting opportunity for Garrison from the point. The rebound is kicked out to Kesler, who finishes the play. The goal is at 5-on-3, so it’s not readily applicable to the regular power play.

10 | Henrik Sedin vs Los Angeles Kings, November 25, 2013

This is a 1-3-1 setup with Daniel in the slot and Henrik quarterbacking from the right boards. The attempted slap-pass doesn’t get through to the net, but Daniel quickly finds Henrik again. Garrison’s presence at the point forces a defender high to respect his shot, opening up the original passing lane to Daniel.

11 | Jason Garrison vs Ottawa Senators, November 28, 2013

This goal bears somewhat of a resemblance to the first goal of the season: Henrik and Daniel gain the zone, work the puck along the boards and draw defenders in, then find Garrison for a one-timer. Once again, Garrison’s shot comes from in close, this time about 22 ft from the net.

12 | Daniel Sedin vs New York Rangers, November 30, 2013

Simple: Edler gets a wristshot through from the point, Daniel, playing down low, shoves in the rebound.

13 | Ryan Kesler vs Carolina Hurricanes, December 1, 2013

Another 5-on-3 goal and, again, it’s Kesler cleaning up a Garrison rebound. This time, the setup for Garrison’s one-timer comes from Henrik on the right.

14 | Ryan Kesler vs Nashville Predators, December 3, 2013

We’ve seen this before: the Sedins make a quick play along the left boards, drawing defenders in, then set up Garrison in the slot. This time, he can’t get the one-timer off and has to use a wristshot. The goaltender makes the initial safe and Kesler scores on the rebound.

15 | Jason Garrison vs Phoenix Coyotes, December 6, 2013

Once again, we see the Sedins on the left boards creating a shooting opportunity for Garrison, this time routing through Hamhuis at the left point. Garrison’s shot comes from much further out than previous examples, but the distance Hamhuis’s pass travels is key, forcing the goaltender to come pretty far across and making it difficult for him to get set.

16 | Daniel Sedin vs Edmonton Oilers, December 13, 2013

It’s tough to glean much of use from a 4-on-3, but it’s interesting to once again see Daniel on the left point. This time, he scores from there with a slap shot.

17 | Dale Weise vs Edmonton Oilers, December 13, 2013

File this under “Things we’ll never see again.”

18 | Henrik Sedin vs Boston Bruins, December 14, 2013

Daniel is back in the slot with Bieksa providing the right-handed shot from the left point, with Henrik set up on the left, presumably to give a better angle to set up one-timers for Garrison. Instead, he ends up with the puck after Bieksa’s shot is blocked and Daniel backhands it to his brother.

19 | Brad Richardson vs Winnipeg Jets, December 22, 2013

With seconds remaining in the power play, the third line comes onto the ice and gets a goal on a nice tip. There’s nothing wrong with just getting the puck on net with traffic in front, particularly if there isn’t much time left in the power play to set up a better scoring chance.

20 | Ryan Kesler vs Los Angeles Kings, January 4, 2014

The Sedins are once again on the left boards on this goal, with Kesler on the right side, which is unusual. It’s also odd since the big shot on the point is a right-handed one in Weber, so it makes little sense for the Sedins to be on the left. It works out, however, as Daniel finds Kesler with a gorgeous pass.

21 | Ryan Kesler vs Anaheim Ducks, January 5, 2014

This bears a strong similarity to goal #6. It’s a 1-3-1, with Garrison on the point, Sestito parked in front, and Daniel sneaking into the slot. The long pass across to Kesler makes it difficult for the goaltender to get set and Kesler buries the one-timer from the top of the faceoff circle.

22 | Tom Sestito vs Anaheim Ducks, January 5, 2014

This is the same setup as the previous goal, just with Daniel vacating the slot to provide a passing option down low. You’ll notice defenders playing high on both Garrison and Kesler, taking away their shots, which leaves Henrik with plenty of room to blast a slap shot of his own, that Sestito tips in from in front.

23 | Zack Kassian vs Anaheim Ducks, January 15, 2014

This is an atypical power play goal, as Booth drives the puck to the net off the rush and Kassian cleans up the rebound. This could be a prototype for how the second unit should play, but it doesn’t provide much insight into the first unit’s struggles.

24 | Yannick Weber vs Calgary Flames, January 18, 2014

Here is one benefit of having a right-handed shot at the point: a quick one-timer can be created off a won faceoff at the right circle. Weber quickly creates some space for himself and Edler sets him up nicely.

25 | Alex Edler vs Winnipeg Jets, January 31, 2014

This a great play by Edler, making a slick backhand pass to Daniel then going hard to the backdoor to finish off the play. It’s a frustrating setup, however, with Kesler in the slot forced to use his backhand on Daniel’s slap pass, which is clearly not ideal.

***

There’s a lot to take in, making it difficult to draw conclusions, but I saw a few setups in these goals that really seemed to make sense and would be viable options for the Canucks to try to recover their man advantage mojo.

I would like to see the Sedins set up on the left boards more frequently, as it provides better opportunities for setting up the likes of Jason Garrison and Alex Edler at the right point for one-timers. It’s possible, as well, that the Sedins have become too predictable in their usual home in the right corner, and switching to the left boards may force them into some different looks.

Alternately, a right-handed shot, preferably Kesler, could play at the left faceoff circle in a 1-3-1 formation with either Garrison or Edler at the point. The focus, then, would be on creating space for Kesler with the cycle, then setting him up for a one-timer with a pass long enough to take the goaltender out of position, akin to what Washington does for Ovechkin.

A combination of these two setups is possible, with the Sedins switching sides as needed to set up either Garrison/Edler or Kesler for one-timers. The benefit of this type of formation is that opposing teams will have to respect both of their shots, hopefully creating space for the Sedins to work while whatever net front presence (Burrows? Kassian? Sestito?) creates some havoc in front.

Ideally, Hamhuis would not be on the first unit, as his shot doesn’t threaten and there are better passers on the team. Edler, in particular, has both a better shot and a better pass than Hamhuis, so it’s confusing to see his use limited with the man advantage. Burrows, as well, who has never been a point producer with the man advantage, should probably be relegated to the second unit.

2 comments

  1. Snepsts
    February 5, 2014

    “We haven’t seen anywhere near enough of these five players together on the power play.”

    ENOUGH SAID. Please, please please put Garrison, Edler, the Sedins and Kesler back together on the PP. Just give it some time. So frustrating to watch this team right now.

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    • Aaron
      February 5, 2014

      AGREED! Good write up.

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