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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Radim Vrbata opens scoring at the NHL All-Star Game

As is his wont, Radim Vrbata has had a quiet, unassuming All-Star Weekend. There were no drunken shenanigans during the draft for Vrbata, as he simply grinned, enjoying the moment. He was decent during the skills competition, breaking four targets in the accuracy shooting competition in just over 22 seconds, enough to defeat his opponent, John Tavares, but far from the best result of the evening.

All season long, Vrbata has let his play do the talking, leading the Canucks with 18 goals. So far at the All-Star Game, he’s doing the same, opening the scoring for Team Foligno against none other than Roberto Luongo.

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Jake Virtanen goes end-to-end, scores ridiculous goal

It’s been an odd season for Jake Virtanen. It started late, as he was still recovering from his off-season shoulder surgery, and it was interrupted by the World Junior Championships, where he won gold while playing in a lesser role. Perhaps this is why it’s been hard for Virtanen to truly get rolling.

While he is still averaging more than a point-per-game, he’s on-pace for fewer goals than his draft year and hasn’t taken a big step forward as an 18-year-old in Junior. There are certainly positive signs –he’s picking up far more assists, which might alleviate concerns about his passing and vision — but it’s hard not to expect more from the Canucks’ highest draft pick since the Sedins.

But when he scores an astonishing goal like he just did against the Swift Current Broncos, all the reasons why Jim Benning and the Canucks were so high on the kid come crashing back into view.

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The Paper Feature: In defence of the NHL All-Star Game

It’s been three years since we’ve seen an NHL All-Star Game, as the 2013 game was cancelled due to the lockout and the Olympics wiped it out in 2014.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for many hockey fans and writers.

This year, the complaints range from the jersey design (Ugly and tacky!) to Zemgus Girgensons leading the fan ballot (Absurd and a mockery!) to certain stars getting left out of the game all together (an All-Star Game without P.K. Subban? Preposterous!). Meanwhile, the game itself is still derided as boring, slow, and meaningless.

Pretty much all of those things are true, to a certain extent, but they all completely and profoundly miss the point.

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Canucks of the Week, starring All-Star Radim Vrbata

Canucks of the Week, written by Kevin Vanstone, examines who and what is keeping hockey in Vancouver interesting these days. That’s right: who and what. It need not only be players. After all, we are all Canucks. All people, places, things, abstract concepts, ideas, emotions — if it’s a noun, proper or common, it’s a Canuck, and it’s eligible to be a Canuck of the week.

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Ducks, January 27, 2015

Just two games to choose from this week, unless you count the All-Star Game, and I don’t. While Daniel Wagner may have dedicated this week’s main feature space to defending a glorified game of shinny — because he likes shinny, so of course he’s going to love glorified shinny, all transfigured on the mountaintop — I won’t be doing that here.

The All-Star Game is dumb. The bad kind of dumb. It could be the fun kind, but when you leave P.K. Subban and the Sedins at home, you’ve intentionally made things hard on yourself. It’s like going camping. Why leave all the good things about life at home? Where’s the fun in struggling to survive? There is none. The fun is in making it easier. Give me a beach and drinks with tiny umbrellas. Give me a life so easy we care about protecting our beverages from heatstroke.

Anyway. As for the two actual games this week, we have our choice of the Anaheim Ducks and the Buffalo Sabres, hockey’s best and worst teams, respectively. Yeah. This bit right here is about the only time you’re going to see these two teams discussed in the same breath. So which to choose?

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Big Numbers: Promising playoff odds and too many too many men penalties

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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Stick in Link: Bieksa out indefinitely; don’t call it a comeback for Edler

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Spitballin’ on breakaways, breakouts, and All-Star breaks

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Lightning 4

At the beginning of the week, I warned that this game against the Tampa Bay Lightning would be one to miss. There were just too many factors lined up against the Canucks: the second game of a back-to-back, at the end of a road trip, against arguably the best team in the NHL, with Eddie Lack presumed sick and left on the bench and Ryan Miller starting on back-to-back nights for the second time in six days.

The only way the Canucks would have a chance, I figured, was if they made the game an ugly one: clogged up the neutral zone, limited chances for both teams, and hoped for some puck luck. The puck luck arrived in a different way than I expected, however, as they ended up with 7 power plays, including two opportunities at 5-on-3.

All those opportunities were ultimately just opportunities to lose the game. The Canucks played over a minute-and-a-half at 5-on-3, and would have had even more time if a Radim Vrbata penalty hadn’t taken them off their second two-man advantage, and they mustered just two shots on goal. Their power play was powerless and it powerbombed them.

I warned everyone about this game, but didn’t take my own warning to heart. Instead, I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: stopping Stamkos, wicked Virtanen, and tackling Tanev

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Panthers 1

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States, or, as it’s known in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, and this is no joke, Martin Luther King Jr. AND Robert E. Lee Day (since it definitely makes sense to celebrate the guy who led Team Slavery and the guy who gave the “I Have a Dream” speech on the same day). But anyway, I suspect the Canucks had the laughable alternate holiday in mind during this game, since Robert E. Lee day would be an appropriate evening to stage an event where a group from the North defeats a group from South.

Much like the Panthers’ visit to Vancouver two weeks ago, the story of this one was goaltending, but just as the victor was flipped, so too was the standout netminder. Ryan Miller led the way here, very nearly stretching his shutout streak to three straight games. Mercifully, however, the Panthers managed to end it, just in time for the Canucks to start Eddie Lack Tuesday in Tampa Bay as they should, rather than riding the hot hand for the second straight back-to-back, wearing Miller out, then wondering why he stopped playing well. Much like Eddie Lack tonight, but thankfully, not tomorrow, I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 19: Florida Back-to-Back and Seahawks Comeback

The Canucks head into Florida at the end of their road trip for back-to-back games against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Can the Canucks continue their winning ways?

We discuss this and much, much more, touching on Roberto Luongo’s Heritage Classic gear going up for auction, the one-year anniversary of John Tortorella’s hallway tirade in Calgary, Kevin Bieksa’s pranking bromance with Dan Murphy, Dan Hamhuis returning to the lineup, and Ryan Miller’s back-to-back shutouts.

Along the way, we talk about soup, pizza, Dragonball Z, and Doritos. But before all that, we marvel at the Seattle Seahawks incredible come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

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Happy birthday to John Tortorella’s hallway melee

Earlier today, we wrote about Roberto Luongo’s Heritage Classic gear, which is up for auction and, according to a cheeky reminder from Luongo himself, “like brand new”.

But we’d be remiss if we let another classic moment from last season go uncelebrated, especially since it happened a year ago yesterday. January 18 was the first anniversary of the Canucks’ infamous War of the Idiots, in which John Tortorella and Bob Hartley went goon squad for good squad off the opening faceoff (or, as Tom Sestito aptly suggested, idiot for idiot), leading to a two second NHL debut for Kellan Lain after he was swept up in a boatload of ejections.

Let us take you back to that wonderful night. Cue flashback harp, and action:

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Roberto Luongo’s ‘like brand new’ Heritage Classic gear can be yours at auction

The Vancouver Canucks spent the weekend in Florida, which is where Roberto Luongo now lives and works. The former Canucks netminder is a Panther now, thanks to a series of bungles, fits of mismanagement, and disrespectful snubs that could only be treated with a seriously heightened proximity to DisneyWorld. Unhappy, Roberto Luongo got proactive, demanding that the team ship him to the happiest place on earth.

The last straw, according to Luongo, came at the Heritage Classic, when Luongo was scheduled to play before John Tortorella decided to start Eddie Lack instead. He made no bones about it during his first stopover in Vancouver as a member of the Panthers.

“There’s no hiding it,” Luongo said. “I did want to play that game. I mean, that goes without saying, and if I would have played I probably would maybe still be here. Who knows?”

With that quote, it seemed a safe bet that Luongo, “a proud athlete”, according to everyone who casually wronged him over the last three years or so, was still pretty upset about getting benched for the marquee game. And it seemed an even safer bet Monday, when Luongo zinged the Canucks, who are auctioning his gear from that game on Twitter.

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Game of the Week: Canucks at Panthers, January 19th, 2015

The Canucks’ road trip concludes this week with two back-to-back games in Florida, followed by a week-long break, which seems like really odd scheduling. Are the Canucks planning on taking a bus back from Florida?

On Monday, the Canucks will be in Sunrise to face Roberto Luongo and the Panthers, while on Tuesday they’ll be in Tampa Bay to take on Steven Stamkos and the Lightning. Which game gets the official PITB GOTW stamp of approval? We’ll go with Monday’s game against the Panthers for two big reasons.

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The Paper Feature: Seven ways to improve the experience at Canucks home games

Talk to any number of Vancouver Canucks fans about the in-game experience at Rogers Arena and you’re going to hear a few things more than once: “Funny, I forgot all about the option of attending a game live,” many will say. “I quite enjoy doing the wave,” others will add, infuriatingly. And others still will not hesitate to tell you the live experience is too “corporate”.

I don’t agree at all. Have you ever been to a corporate event? Those people know how to party.

The folks hosting Vancouver Canucks games, on the other hand, do not. As attendance continues to dip, even after several changes this summer, many are beginning to wonder if there aren’t ways to make Rogers Arena a more desirable place to visit on game nights.

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Kevin Bieksa can’t stop messing with Dan Murphy

The first period of Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes passed mostly without incident. While there were a few good scoring chances and two posts, no goals were scored and a lot of time was spent in the Canucks’ zone, so Canucks fans on Twitter started to get a little restless.

Fortunately, there was a great distraction from the game itself in the form of a hilarious moment before the game when one of the Canucks (assuredly Kevin Bieksa) decided to have a little fun with Sportsnet reporter Dan Murphy. Whoever it was (it was definitely Kevin Bieksa) stood just off camera and used his stick to poke behind Murphy’s head, making it appear as if he was attacking his ear.

This unknown rapscallion (who is absolutely Kevin Bieksa) caused a kerfuffle on Twitter because the culprit was unclear (and certainly named Kevin Bieksa).

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Hurricanes 0

There will be a segment of the Canucks’ fanbase that will discount this win, along with Thursday’s thumping of the Philadelphia Flyers, because it is against a “bad team.” You’re supposed to win these games, of course, because bad teams are bad.

The fact is that no game is a gimme — the Hurricanes have beaten the Penguins, Predators, and Kings this season and the woeful Sabres have wins over the Kings, Lightning, Red Wings, and two each over the Sharks and Canadiens — so seeing the Canucks handle two lower tier teams with such ease is legitimately reassuring.

Also, the Hurricanes are not your typical bad team and are arguably much better than their record would suggest. They actually keep their heads above water in puck possession, with a 51.8% corsi, and boast one of the league’s best penalty kills. So why are they last place in the Metropolitan division? Two reasons: their goaltending is atrocious and they have less finish than a piece of low-end Ikea furniture.

The Hurricanes have the worst PDO in the league, thanks to a 907 team save percentage and a league-worst 5.9 team shooting percentage at even-strength. That’s truly terrible — the next worst team has a 6.6 shooting percentage — and it’s why they’re the second lowest-scoring team in the league. It’s baffling, too, as they have some talented players who should be able to put the puck in the net — Jeff Skinner, Eric and Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, and Jiri Tlusty are all pretty okay at hockey.

So, what we saw in this game is basically a microcosm of the Hurricanes’ season: they controlled possession, particularly in the first period, but couldn’t buy a goal, and Cam Ward gave up 3 goals on 13 shots. I watched the Hurricanes get ready to draft a franchise player when I watched this game.

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Canucks of the Week, in which Superman returns

Canucks of the Week, written by Kevin Vanstone, examines who and what is keeping hockey in Vancouver interesting these days. That’s right: who and what. It need not only be players. After all, we are all Canucks. All people, places, things, abstract concepts, ideas, emotions — if it’s a noun, proper or common, it’s a Canuck, and it’s eligible to be a Canuck of the week.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @wholegrainne’s questionable grasp of Italian

You folks made some good tweets last week. Some real good tweets.

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Stick in Link: Hamhuis returns; why the Canucks will make the playoffs

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Flyers 0

Ever since 2015 began, the burning question in Vancouver has been: “What’s wrong with the Canucks?” (Followed closely by: “Did all of B.C.’s mayors get together and decide to be more newsworthy in 2015 or something?”) The team has struggled to score — making them look like fools for trading Roberto Luongo, then making Joni Ortio look like Roberto Luongo — and thus, they have also struggled to win, as you need to score to win. (Something Eddie Lack keeps trying to bashfully suggest. But he’s just so friendly, it’s hard to take him seriously.)

But now there’s a new question: Why can’t the Canucks play the Flyers more often? Because it seems as though, in just sixty minutes versus the struggling Eastern Conference club, all the questions about what ails this team were put to bed. Nick Bonino? The Sedins? Goal-scoring in general? Fixed, fixed, fixed. Just this weekend, I pegged this as the game to watch, and was I ever proven right when I watched this game.

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Big Numbers: Bonino’s woes, Kassian’s luck, and Lack’s lack of support

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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The Prospector: Tryamkin’s dropping ice time, McCann’s hot December

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

This time around, we look at how Nikita Tryamkin is performing in the far-off land of Russia, how Cole Cassels and Jordan Subban performed while the World Juniors were taking place, and how Jared McCann dominated December.

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