Canucks Army Postgame: Decline All Future Powerplays

Really, I have no idea how to describe Vancouver’s 5-4 overtime win against Phoenix in any way that isn’t a series on nonsensical grunts and surprised-sounding noises. Vancouver was badly outshot, but carried a lot of the possession. Antoine Vermette scored on one of his shots, but registered a hat-trick. Mike Smith did Mike Smith things.

Really though, the powerplay reached a season low-point, which is saying something considering that its prevailing ineptitude in January was quite a low point on its own. The Canucks were out-shot and out-scored on their own powerplays, but still managed to come away with a victory because hockey is stupid sometimes.

Zac Dalpe was one of Vancouver’s best players for god sakes. It was that type of night.

The Rundown

Despite nine goals being scored on the night, it wasn’t really a wide open, end-to-end game with tons of chances. It was just one of those bizarre nights when you could have shot a puck from the 500-level and it would have bounced off an ass somewhere and deflected in. Case in point: Vancouver’s first two goals. After the new-look Hamhuis-less powerplay looked absolutely putrid (this is not the last time you will read this, I assure you), Kevin Bieksa floated a limp wrister on Mike Smith, who whiffed like Steve Tambellini at a draft table, and gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Shortly thereafter, Jannik Hansen one-timed a Ryan Kesler pass through Mike Smith to put the Canucks up 2-0 just 44 seconds later:

The two-goal lead would last just 18 seconds however, as Antoine Vermette fumbled a puck on a 2-on-1, somehow causing Roberto Luongo to shovel the puck into his own goal. Also, it was one of the fourth line’s last shifts of the night, largely because the whole sequence was a gigantic clusterbum in terms of a forecheck and neutral zone play. Kellan Lain chased Derek Morris behind the Coyotes net, getting himself caught up ice. Dale Weise, completely flat-footed as Morris blew past him, got himself caught up ice. And Tom Sestito was nowhere to be found. I still have no idea how every Canuck with the exception of Ryan Stanton was able to simultaneously fail at preventing the Coyotes from gaining speed through the neutral zone, especially since coaches spend a ton of time on systems with the express purpose of preventing this. Oh well , these are the types of things that happen to fourth lines from time to time, and with the recent injuries to Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli, it’s not as if the Canucks had a better option that was sitting in the press b–

–oh. Right.

The second period looked like it was going to start poorly, when Kyle Chipchura knocked a puck past Luongo, but it was quickly ruled no goal when video replays confirmed that Chipchura had kicked the puck. Then the second period went right on ahead and started poorly anyways. The Canucks were completely useless, attempting just one shot through the first twelve minutes of the period, and none on the powerplay. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Ryan Kesler scored a goal on the Canucks lone powerplay of the period. On his own team (Antoine Vermette would get credit). 

Yes, Vancouver’s powerplay was so bad tonight that they would have been better off declining every powerplay opportunity, choosing to go shorthanded themselves, and lighting Dale Weise on fire. That’s no exaggeration, by the way. Phoenix had more shorthanded goals through regulation than Vancouver had powerplay shots. Hell, Phoenix had more Fenwicks shorthanded than Vancouver had on the powerplay in the entire game.

It wasn’t all bad though as haha yes it totally was all bad. The powerplay is a mess. I don’t know how you fix it, but I think you start by burning the tapes from tonight and go from there.

Shots on goal were 21-8 in favour of the Coyotes at this point of the game, but the good news was that Mike Smith was in net, Mike Smith isn’t very good, and things like this tend to happen against Mike Smith:

Chris Higgins’ 3-2 goal came out of absolutely nowhere, and Zac Dalpe put the Canucks ahead by two goals once again just 42 seconds after. While John Garrett was transfixed by Jason Garrison’s pass to Dalpe, I was more impressed by Zack Kassian’s touch pass at the blueline to set the table for Garrison, streaking into the rush. It’s the subtle type of play he’s starting to make a little more frequently of late, and hopefully the beginning of some serious progression. 

Vancouver’s lead was again short-lived as Antione Vermette finished off the hat-trick on the powerplay, just over a minute later. To the Canucks credit, they actually made Vermette work a little for this one, and put it in the net himself. Vancouver has now allowed a powerplay goal against in five of the past six games as some regression starts to hit, but ultimately this is probably more a bump in the road than it is a major issue going forward.

The Canucks entered the 3rd period looking to hold off the Coyotes inevitable push, and didn’t really do a good job. Just five minutes in, Shane Doan was sprung on a breakaway. He tried to pull the puck to his backhand, but fumbled it (not to be confused with butt-fumbled it) and somehow snuck the puck under Roberto Luongo and in. It was just one of those nights for both goalies.

Dan Hamhuis also tried to politely exact some measure of "revenge" on Martin Hanzal about halfway through the period, but the referees broke up the scuffle before anything could happen. As meek as the gesture was from Hamhuis, he still at the very least looked like he was willing to make the effort to tangle with Hanzal, which is more than what can be said for Luke Gazdic and the Edmonton Oilers’ quest to murder Zack Kassian. Speaking of which, look who’s on the schedule for tomorrow!

Regulation ended in a 4-4 tie, but not before Derek Morris cross-checked Dan Hamhuis to give Vancouver one last powerplay that would carry over in to the overtime period. As with the rest of the night, Vancouver failed to really look dangerous once again, but they did somehow manage to register a shot on Mike Smith for a huge moral victory.

Once the Canucks averted disaster and killed their powerplay, they were free to attack the Coyotes and press for the winner. Press they did, as Brad Richardson found Kevin Bieksa walking entirely unmolested up main street. Bieksa hacked his own rebound up and over Mike Smith to give Vancouver the 5-4 win in overtime:

The Numbers

Courtesy of ExtraSkater.com.

If you didn’t get the idea from the rundown, the powerplay went from "bad and concerning" to "completely self-immolating" tonight. Vancouver had a 40% Fenwick while on the powerplay and were outshot 3-1. I suspect that this is where they’re going to miss Henrik Sedin’s presence the most. The biggest reason why the powerplay stunk was Vancouver’s complete inability to gain a clean zone entry with possession and establish some offensive zone pressure. Henrik normally sets up the PP zone entry, either through a series of short give-and-gos with Daniel on the left wing at the blueline, or by deferring to a streaking Kesler on the right wing. Without the option to enter on the left wing through deft passing, this forces Vancouver to play dump-and-chase more, which puts the defence at more of an advantage. If you dump the puck in, you relinquish possession. If you relinquish possession, it’s easier to recover the puck and ice it.

Here’s the other thing that jumps out tonight:

Vancouver had their shot attempts either miss the net or slam harmlessly off the shinpads of some Coyote 25 times. Phoenix’s attempts didn’t hit the net just 8 times. The possession is great, but it’s frustrating when you can’t hit the ocean while standing on the beach. Unless the plan is to break Phoenix’s ankles, which I would fully endorse by the way, you’d really like to see some of those Corsis turn into Fenwicks.

Alex Burrows had 4 of his shots blocked, and missed the net one more time on top of that. For a guy with a league low PDO, he’s not doing himself any favours. That being said, his 6 shot attempts were the 3rd highest total in the game, so hopefully that’s a sign that regression is coming soon.

As for the fourth line that was dressed in favour of David Booth? Each less than 4 minutes of ice time, -1 penalty differential, 0 Corsis for, combined -3. Actually, come to think of it, David Booth’s ability to draw penalties may be the very reason why he’s being benched. It all makes sense now!

The Conclusion

The Edmonton Media’s quest for the blood of Zack Kassian continues tomorrow at 7:00 PM on Sportsnet. The Oilers are fresh off thumping the Nashville Predators 5-1, so they’re sure to be riding high despite all the recent bleakness and despair in Oil country. I’m sure Dimitri will have more on that tomorrow.

Also, the Canucks Army event at the Pint is this Wednesday. I just got my ticket this afternoon, so go get yourself one as well and watch the Canucks take on the Chicago Blackhawks with us. We hope to see you there!

  • islander

    I have no idea how to comment on tonight’s game, so I’ll just ask the question we’re all thinking: where the hell did you get that photo of Booth? That’s the craziest-looking picture of a Canucks player I’ve seen, and we’ve had Zack Kassian for like two years!

  • islander

    I usually read the postgame summaries but don’t ever comment but I just wanted to say that this line: “Once the Canucks averted disaster and killed their powerplay,” made me genuinely laugh out loud!

  • acg5151

    How can this team have such a bad power play? It is mind boggling. If anyone had told me back in 2010 or 2011 that this teams power play was going to suck so bad for the next 3 years I would have laughed. We really need Edler to get on the first power play and magically quarterback it to glory.

    I miss Christian Ehrhoff.

    • acg5151

      If I could get one player back from Buffalo it would be him. Exactly what our PP has been lacking for 3 years. A mobile first passer that can get shots through and hit the forwards tape at high speeds. Back then, we were in the zone before the PK had a chance to set up. The big difference I notice now is opponents are already in a defensive posture waiting for us. So they have position, and aren’t doing much chasing. Even the goalies are set for most of our chances. That has to do with how fast we gain control of the offensive blueline, and how we keep it. This was Erhoff’s game and was never replaced.

      I miss him too.

  • islander

    Two points for the W, bank them and move on.

    What in the blue hell has David Booth done to piss off the coaching staff? He had a stretch of a couple games when he was playing really well with Kassian and Richardson, but since then? Did he bring some hunting magazines into the locker room? You can’t tell me that Sestito and Weise bring more to the table than Booth does, not with a straight face.

    Kassian, oh my god. Big fella has put together a decent stretch of games, hasn’t he? That assist was beautiful. Him on the #1 powerplay please.

    When Burr gets his first, I feel that the floodgates will open. Dude is clutching his stick way too tight, pressing way too hard.

    When is Hank due back?

  • islander

    “Mike Smith, who whiffed like Steve Tambellini at a draft table”

    Heh heh. Well played.

    Unlike the Canucks power play which is reaching 1980s proportions when I remember regular chants of “decline it!” throughout the Pacific Coliseum. It’s hard to imagine that every one of these players who is out there has collectively lost their minds about how to be on a PP. Many of them — Kesler, Sedins, Edler, Garrison, Weber to name just a few — have spent tons of time on the PP and been successful. It must be the coaching. Why not just bomb it from the blue line instead of even trying to make passes? The down low plays are NEVER working, in part because we’re too passive, always seem to be outnumbered and/or out battled for pucks and basically we do nothing to threaten. Since it’s no worse than anything else i say don’t even try to set anything up just shots shots shots. Especially against putrid goalies like Smith or whatever zombie the Oilers put in net

  • acg5151

    It’s nice to see Kassian play so well. We’ll see where this goes.

    The real issue with the Canucks powerplay is that the coaching staff needs to look at this like an addiction: on the road to recovery you first have to admit you have a problem. They have been reticent to admit there are any issues. But we know the truth.

  • acg5151

    The Edmonton media and bloggers are relentless in their quest for retribution for Kassian’s hit on Gagner. The time for retribution is 5 seconds after the hit when it’s an emotional response, not 3 months and 3 games later when it’s a premeditated assault. After Moore’s hit on Naslund the media went on for weeks about the Canucks getting their pound of flesh and when the pressure built and Bertuzzi had his melt down, the media crucified him as public enemy #1. All the good Bertuzzi had done as a member of one of the top lines in the NHL immediately became secondary in his career to that one regrettable action. I hope none of the Oilers are drinking the retribution Kool-aid because you know the league will be watching.

  • acg5151

    I’d say the problem with the PP is that the PK can count on Henrik never shooting and just covering the other guys, but I can’t even make that excuse anymore.

    I still don’t understand why one of the best PP dmen the Canucks have ever had (Edler) isn’t on the 1st PP.