The Canucks Power Play on the Road; The Struggle is Real

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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.

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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.

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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.

  • JuiceBox

    Nice write up, but it’s nothing new, and nothing we didn’t already know.

    So the Canucks can’t score a powerplay goal on the road; that’s a symptom. What is the problem and how can it be fixed?

    With your media access to the team you have an inside to information that nobody else around here has, surely you could get to the bottom of it. Use that access to give us readers some information we didn’t already have, and wouldn’t have otherwise known.

  • Bud Poile

    With the Sedin’s aging the PP requires a quarterback that can mesh with them and one to protect them.

    I hope Tryamkin’s skill levels will rise to the level so that soon he can play alongside Edler,Olli or Stetcher and give the Sedin’s a protective lift in the final year of their contracts.

  • wojohowitz

    So whose fault is it? Jarvis? Pearn? Or is it Willie just being Willie who keeps throwing out the same group and expecting different results. There are times during the power play when all eleven players on the ice are standing still with them all waiting for Henrik on the half wall looking for someone to get open for a pass and yet nobody moves. Only Edler and Baertschi view the power play as an opportunity – everyone else sees it as a burden.

  • TD

    Horvat is your leading goal scorer and he plays on the second PP which gets very little time and usually gets on when the puck is 200 feet from the opposing net. I know he only has one goal on the second PP, but he deserves a better chance and the team needs to do something to change the PP. What could it hurt to try.

    At this point they should try almost anything. Their PP rate per sixty can’t be much better than their 5 on 5 rate per sixty. It’s a miracle they were in the race at the all star game considering how bad their special teams are. Imagine where the team would be with even an average PP. 4 more wins and 8 points? You would have to think at least that many. That would have them solidly in the playoffs.

    • Dirty30

      Exactly — the tired narrative and lack of innovation from WD et al. needs a drastic make-over.

      Horvat, Baertschi, Granlund, Sutter, Burrows, Hansen all provide you with different options on the PP that might be more effective than the tired cycle that no longer provides scoring chances.

      Stecher can carry the puck in with Tryamkin, and let your first unit set up -Tryamkin in front and then let Bo, Baer and Granlund go for it.

      Let Bo power his way to the net. Let Baer pot some garbage goals from Tryamkin screen — Chicago used to make a meal out of the PP by having Buffy stick his butt in Luongo’s face and make it as difficult as possible for the Canuck’s PK.

      Right now WD does the opposite — he makes the PP easy for other teams to defend because nothing happens for two minutes.

      Claude Julian just got fired … maybe he can successfully coach Benning’s Boston model Canucks.