What’s gone wrong with the Canucks’ power play?

The Canucks are going into the All-Star break on a roll, or maybe they’re not, depending on how few or how many games you want to bundle into the phrase “going into the All-Star break”. As pointed out earlier this week, the Canucks enter the break with a loss, but won three-of-their-last four, but only won five-of-ten in January.

We can say pretty definitively, however, that the Canucks’ power play is not on a roll going into the All-Star break, unless you mean rolling down a hill towards a pile of sharp rocks, gaining speed all the while.

After failing to score on a whopping 7 power plays against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canucks have now had 13 straight power plays without a goal. It’s even worse when you consider the Canucks had two 5-on-3 power plays against the Lightning, playing with a two-man advantage for over a minute-and-a-half, and only managed two shots on goal in that time.

That only represents three games without a power play goal, with the Canucks going 2-for-3 against the Philadelphia Flyers and their 29th-ranked penalty kill. Before that, they went 0-for-10. That means they’re 2-for-26 on the power play over the last 8 games, for a 7.7 power play percentage. That’s bad. That’s really, really bad.

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Can the Canucks avoid a potential franchise record in power play futility?

Alex Burrows set a franchise record on Saturday against the Red Wings, scoring just 6 seconds into the game. It was the quickest goal in franchise history and just one second off from being tied for the fastest goal in league history. It was the lone bright spot in an otherwise frustrating game.

The Canucks may be on their way to another franchise record, one that is significantly less positive. See, Burrows’ record-setting goal, like all of the other Canucks goals over the last 11 games, was at even-strength. The team has now gone 11 games without a single powerplay goal and haven’t scored on the powerplay in their last 34 opportunities.

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18 brilliant suggestions to resurrect the Canucks’ struggling powerplay

The Vancouver Canucks’ powerplay is in a state of disarray. It’s been 9 games now since they scored with the man advantage.

Yes, the unit did create a goal Tuesday versus the Blue Jackets, but the goal came after the Columbus player exited the box, meaning Vancouver’s worst powerplay drought in 10 years continues.

We simply can’t allow it to. It’s time for some bold thinking to get off the schneid. It’s time for some new ideas. That in mind, we here at PITB have done some serious brainstorming and put together a list of brash, innovative suggestions that could kickstart the Canucks’ flagging man advantage. We offer them freely to Newell Brown and the rest of the Canucks’ coaching staff. Gentlemen, brace yourselves for genius:

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Canucks play keepaway in Dallas; why Kesler prevents that from happening more often (VIDEO)

Henrik Sedin has two goals this season, and neither are a result of the Canucks’ Captain making the choice to shoot. In both instances, Alex Burrows has made the choice for him with late, unexpected return passes that leave Henrik with no room and no choice but to do anything other than put the puck towards the goal.

This is the rub when it comes to the Sedins, and Henrik especially: sometimes you have to force the issue. Henrik Sedin has led the NHL in assists for three years in a row. He’s a pure passer; passing is his jam. If he were on the Price is Right Showcase Showdown, he’d pass twice.

We saw yet another example of Henrik’s pass-first mentality Thursday night when he spearheaded a full, two-minute session of keepaway in Dallas. When the Stars went down a man one second before the two-minute mark, it became apparent to Henrik that, in order to nurse the Canucks’ one-goal lead home, all he and his teammates had to do was maintain possession for 120 seconds. No shooting. All passing. Here’s Henrik living the dream, as the Canucks’ powerplay trolls the Dallas Stars.

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Where the Canucks really missed Christian Ehrhoff

One of the questions we’ve been trying to answer all season is whether the Canucks miss Christian Ehrhoff. This question usually focusses in on the gap in the Canucks’ top four defence corps on Alex Edler’s right side. The Canucks struggled to find a consistent partner for Edler and it showed in the playoffs. What should have been a breakout season for Edler, as he set a career-high in points and went to his first All-Star Game, fizzled.

But when it came to points from the blue line, the Canucks did just fine in Ehrhoff’s absence. In fact, the Canucks improved. In 2010-11, the Canucks got 157 points from their defence. This season, thanks to career years from Edler, Bieksa, and Hamhuis, as well as a mostly healthy season from Salo, the Canucks got 180 points from their defence. Just looking at points, the Canucks didn’t miss Ehrhoff at all.

There was one area, however, where the Canucks dearly missed Ehrhoff, and it happened to revolve around his deepest flaw: unpredictability.

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10 crazy ideas to fix the Canucks powerplay

It’s no surprise to fans that the Canucks powerplay is struggling. After an incredible start to the season that saw the team once again lead the league in powerplay percentage, it crashed and burned in the second half of the season. The powerplay was 4-for-42 in their last 10 games, and that’s just an arbitrary round number of games to select. Other than a 4-for-11 outburst against the Boston Bruins, the Canucks powerplay hasn’t truly been good since December.

On Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings, however, the team’s pwowerplay woes went from troubling to truly disastrous. On two Willie Mitchell holding penalties, the Canucks not only couldn’t score, but also gave up two shorthanded goals to Dustin Brown. It’s gotten to the point that fans everywhere wish the team could just decline the penalty and continue to play 5-on-5, where the Canucks have actually outscored the Kings 4-3 in the first two games.

Considering most people still think of the Canucks as a team that tries to draw penalties and beat you on the powerplay, including the Canucks themselves, it’s not surprising that this power outage has led to an identity crisis in Vancouver. Something needs to change and the Canucks can’t count on the return of Daniel Sedin. According to Kristin Reid, not only will Daniel not be travelling to Los Angeles with the team, he won’t be back for the rest of the series.

The Canucks may need to do something drastic. Here are 10 crazy ideas to fix the powerplay:

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Breakdowning Alex Edler’s end-to-end goal versus the Columbus Blue Jackets

Most of the time, we use the “Breakdowning” feature to unpack busy goals. Back in December, for instance, we broke down two Sedin goals versus the Minnesota Wild. Both featured a great deal of movement and, eventually, a tiny defensive error on which the twins were able to capitalize. We also looked at a powerplay goal versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. In it, the Leafs’ penalty-kill unit made an error, and the Canucks were able to pull off a complex scoring play as a result.

Alex Edler’s end-to-end rush Saturday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets was hardly complex. Basically, the Swedish blueliner just skated straight up the middle of the ice.

And no one stopped him. If you’re wondering how this goal happened, let me make it very clear: typically, a skater isn’t allowed to do that. But Edler was, and thus we break down exactly what allowed Alex Edler to go coast-to-coast like Space Ghost on the Columbus penalty kill.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Columbus Blue Jackets, March 17, 2012

The Columbus Blue Jackets are like Dan from Dan in Real Life (or any other advice columnist from the movies): they can help everyone but themselves. Are your superstars struggling to score? Has it been awhile since your best defenceman wowed everyone? Has your team looked listless for weeks? Well, then you’re in luck, because the Blue Jackets are in town to get your game back on track. They’ll encourage you, set you up to succeed, and even play alongside you, gosh darn it — they want you to do well.

Columbus was exactly what Vancouver needed Saturday night: a beatable opponent. Granted, the Canucks still weren’t perfect, but if there’s one thing you don’t have to be to beat the Blue Jackets, it’s perfect. In the end, the secret to beating Columbus is simply to “score one more goal than them,” as Kevin Bieksa so succinctly put it in the postgame scrum. And that’s what the Canucks did. I watched this game.

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Breakdowning Sami Salo’s 5-1 goal versus the Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s not hard to spot the big mistake the Toronto Maple Leafs made in allowing Sami Salo’s 5-1 goal midway through the second period of Saturday’s game in Vancouver. With the Canucks on the powerplay, James Reimer makes a save on an Alex Edler shot, and the rebound bounces into the slot, where Matthew Lombardi has a chance to fire it the length of the ice. He whiffs on the clear, however, instead putting the puck right back on the stick of Edler at the point. The next time the Leafs touch the puck, they’re fishing it out of their net.

It was one of a salad bar of errors the Leafs served up to the Canucks.

It’s not difficult to see why many in the Toronto media call for Ron Wilson’s head on a regular basis: his team is abysmal defensively. All six Maple Leaf goals against Saturday were the result of defensive errors. Furthermore, four were the direct result of a senseless turnover, and two of those four were the result of a series of defensive errors after a senseless turnover.

Salo’s goal falls into the final category. Lombardi’s failure to ice the puck is one of two mistakes he makes on this play. Furthermore, while the flubbed clear undoubtedly enables a goal, it’s not the mistake that eventually causes it. Let’s take another look at this one:

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Drance Numbers: What’s behind the Canucks’ powerplay power outage?

Vancouver’s hockey fans have high and often unreasonable expectations for this version of the Canucks. Over the past month, the team has struggled to dominate opponents with their usual zest, and as a result, they’re compared to the living dead in the press.

This is despite being undefeated over their last ten games.

Frankly, the Vancouver Canucks don’t have real problems (besides a minority quasi-criminal element in the fan-base). What they have are the NHL equivalent of “first world problems,” or, “division wrapped up in mid-January problems.” Among these: the recent “power-outage” that has caused their league leading power-play unit to slump over the past 15 games.

The Canucks haven’t scored two powerplay goals in a game since they scored four (in eleven opportunities) against the Boston Bruins in early January. Following the game in Boston, the Canucks had scored 39 times on the power-play in 42 games. In the fifteen games since, they’ve only managed to add 7 powerplay goals to their cumulative total. What’s going on?

The most important point is that they’ve received significantly fewer powerplay chances over the past six weeks. Since their 11 opportunities against Boston, the Canucks have seen only 40 man advantage situations. That’s their lowest total over a 15-game stretch since the lockout (the next closest was a stretch from February 1st to March 3rd last season, where they only received 43 powerplay opportunities). In part, the decrease in opportunities received corresponds with a general, league-wide trend, but I’d suggest to you that there are other, unique factors at play as well.

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Should Cody Hodgson be on the first unit powerplay?

The Vancouver Canucks have the best powerplay in the NHL, but you wouldn’t know it from their last 15 games. The Canucks have gone 9-for-55 in that span for a percentage of 16.4%. That’s including the game against Boston when they went 4-for-11. Take that game out of the equation and you get some ugly-looking math.

While Sami Salo’s injury against Boston hasn’t helped, the Canucks powerplay was struggling even before he got injured. While his victory in the hardest shot competition in the Canucks Superskills on Sunday may be an indication that Salo is close to returning to the lineup, the Canucks need to consider all options to fix the ailing powerplay.

One of those options should be promoting Cody Hodgson to the first unit.

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Spitballin’, (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a new feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because after a game like last night’s there are lots of things to find and colour. While we covered most of them in the I Watched This Game post, Daniel would have been writing for six more hours if he tried to hit absolutely everything. Here are a few more topics that deserve mention.

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Canucks 2 – 1 Red Wings Anyone hoping for another game of the year candidate between the two best teams in the Western Conference was likely a little let down by last night’s affair, which saw both teams play hard–just not too hard. With only ten games to go in the regular season, the Canucks [...]

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Canucks 1 – 3 Coyotes A goaltender’s duel is nowhere near as much fun as it sounds (just ask Rick DiPietro). Despite the picture you have in your mind, in reality, neither goalie draws pistols, nobody walks paces, and nobody is slapped with a glove. Furthermore, there is never any threat to the United States [...]

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Canucks 4 – 2 Wild Like the opening scene of Carrie, this game was all about the 1st period. In the opening twenty minutes, the Canucks jumped out to a 3-0 lead after a quick one by Raffi Torres (above), and two debilitatingly effective powerplays. While Minnesota would regroup and take over the game in [...]

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Kings, March 5, 2011

After spending about twenty hours in the Nissan Versa, bickering about music selection, coining new swear words, and fighting off an invisible army of cramps, well, it was some sort of glorious reprieve to finally get to the hockey portion of the road trip. Not that there weren’t highlights en route. For example: Bonnie Tyler’s Faster Than [...]

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Canucks 1 – 3 Bruins Last night’s tough loss to the Boston Bruins keeps the Canucks mired in their pattern of alternating wins and losses, a pattern that’s now persisted for 10 games. That said, you have to think last night’s loss was different–that is was the toughest of the most recent five. Tied at [...]

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Canucks 4 – 1 Stars It might be safe to say the Canucks are better than the Stars. It stands to reason. The Canucks have beaten the Stars in every single one of their three meetings this year (QED, bitches). In fact, Vancouver has outscored Dallas 15-3 in these contests (4-1, 7-1, and 4-1). From [...]

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Canucks 4 – 1 Stars The Canucks closed out 2010 the same way they opened it: with a win over the Dallas Stars, but don’t let the 4-1 score fool you into thinking this was just another rout of a good team. Vancouver outscored Dallas, but that’s about the only stat category they won. Thankfully, [...]

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It’s Christmas Eve and I’m with my wife’s family in Redmond, WA. “Die Hard 2″ has been watched, stockings have been stuffed, and the cinnamon rolls for tomorrow morning’s breakfast are in progress right now. As for me, I’m left to ponder the Canucks Christmas gift to their fans, a marvelous 7-3 victory over the [...]

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