Photo Credit: Sergei Belski – USA TODAY Sports
A few weeks back, Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins pledged his full support for his team’s struggling power play. ‘Good players who’ve scored before’ was the beleaguered coach’s rationale when pressed on reasons for sticking with the same groups and essentially the same formations he’s used all season with limited success. And in the past eight games, the Canucks power play is 3 for 14 (21.4%) – which by Canucks’ standards this season is scorching hot. Brandon Sutter bunted a puck out of mid-air past Devan Dubnyk late in the second period of Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Minnesota and prior to that Sven Baertschi in Colorado and Troy Stecher in Chicago had scored with the man-advantage.
So maybe, just maybe, there are signs the Canucks power play is awakening from a season-long slumber. Maybe. Bet let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The power play is 8/58 (13.8%) in the past 20 games and on the season remains a huge issue sitting 28th in the league at 22/153 (14.4%).
With the Canucks launching into a six-game road trip Tuesday night in Nashville, the team’s brutal road record this season will inevitably be a topic of conversation. And there is no question an ineffective power play is a big part of the reason the Canucks have won just six times away from home this season – with only four of those wins in regulation time. On the road, the Canucks have stumbled badly with the man-advantage going just 9/73 (12.3%) this season. But the issues run much deeper than that. Considering the Canucks scored a pair of power play goals in their first road game of the season in Los Angeles, the team has converted just seven times in 23 road games since then. The Canucks are 7/67 (10.4%) on the power play on the road since losing at Staples Center on October 22nd.
Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with three road power play goals this season and is the only player on the roster with more than one power play goal away from home. Stop and read that sentence again. Twenty-four games into the season, exactly one player has struck for more than one road power play goal. And with all due respect to Daniel, two of his three road power play goals were scored on two-man advantages (in New Jersey and Philadelphia), so regarding conventional power play goals, no member of the Canucks has scored more than one all season. If you consider Alex Edler scored a late 6-on-4 goal in Los Angeles early in the season, three of the nine Canucks road power play goals have come while up two skaters. Simple math tells you the team has scraped together a grand total of six conventional power play goals in 24 road games this season.
Bo Horvat – the team’s leading goal-scorer with 15 on the season – has yet to score a road power play goal. That said, he’s scored only one power play goal all season, so it’s not as if he’s cashing in at Rogers Arena. Like most others on the team, he hasn’t simply hasn’t found the mark at all with the man-advantage. Henrik Sedin’s lone road power play goal game in Los Angeles in October, so he’s gone 23 road games without a power play goal. Markus Granlund’s road power play offering was November 7th against the Islanders, so he’s gone 18 road games without scoring. Loui Eriksson scored a power play goal on November 26th in Colorado. You get the idea. It’s been a while.
The power play – home and away – has been an on-going issue for the Canucks for years now. Under Willie Desjardins, the Canucks scored 19 road power play goals in 2014-15 and 16 last season and it its current pace, the power play is projected to score just 15 times this season. For some context, the 2010-11 Canucks team that won the Presidents Trophy and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final scored 42 times on the power play on the road. That’s what good teams do.
With 30 games to go this season, the hill is a steep one for the Vancouver Canucks – and getting steeper on a daily basis as they stare a difficult six-game road trip in the face. A couple of power play goals along the way would surely help them in their effort to stay within an arm’s reach of the pack in the playoff chase. But this is a team that’s been looking for power goals in critical situations all season with little success.
The coach may still feel it’s just a matter of time. But time is running out on the Vancouver Canucks.