The Canucks’ inability to shoot the puck and generate offence, explained

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
20 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. While it’s upsetting to see this be the end result after the exciting success they had this season, I think Canucks fans can pinpoint one of the areas the team struggled with that would have led to this result. It was their lack of getting their shots on net. 
It all started in the first period of Game 1 in their series against the Nashville Predators. Vancouver had 17 shot attempts to Nashville’s 12, but only four of them landed on net. And what can you chalk that down to? Just overall poor play from the Canucks? First playoff game jitters, as this was most of the players’ first playoff games in front of fans?
Nonetheless, this shooting problem haunted the Canucks from the beginning to the end of their run. From here on out, this is how the rest of their series against Nashville went:
I think all of Canucks Army will remember that Game 2 performance, when Vancouver had 84 shot attempts. Specifically in the third period, the Canucks had 37 shot attempts as they tried to get back into the game. 23 of those 37 shot attempts went unblocked, but only six shots landed on net. So I thought, why not watch the third period and see why and how the Canucks were so frequently missing the net.
Shoutout to Josh Eror for this article idea.

Game 2 vs. Nashville, 3rd Period

This was the game where Nashville got in the way of everything Vancouver fired their way, finishing with 30 blocks. Watch this sequence as the Predators get in the way of three straight shots:
Predators players blocked a shot off Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson off the half-wall and a J.T. Miller one-timer off the opposite side. The blocks kept coming and coming, but one common denominator I stumbled upon is that many of their missed shots came off the rush.
Hughes comes through the middle of the ice and dishes it to Conor Garland. Battling for positioning, Dakota Joshua has minimal time to get a shot off the quick pass. With 
Here is a one-timer from Hughes at the point that just goes wide on the far side. This miss came right after the Predators had blocked the three Canuck shots in a row. 
All these misses can be the result of Nashville’s willingness to block everything the Canucks threw at them. This defensive play must have rattled the cages of Vancouver’s shooters, resulting in them rushing their shots (with one-timers) and missing the net. 
Nashville also maintained excellent gap control on Vancouver’s forwards.
Watch this play. It looks like Garland is wide open, but by the time he’s in a proper shooting position, Tommy Novak has a stick in his shooting lane. The usually shifty Garland has no room to take a second to think about his shot, so he has to shoot far side and misses the net. 
The fact the Canucks were trailing late in the third probably had something to do with their inability to hit the net. Players were gripping their sticks a little too tight, leading to poor shots or over-committing to an area where they want to aim the puck, which goes wide. Frustration likely also kicked in as they seemingly dominated this game and couldn’t capitalize. 
We saw similar performances throughout the series, especially from the boys in Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers.

Game 7 vs. Edmonton

Here is the full breakdown of shots for each game in their series against the Oilers.
While in Games 2 and 3, they failed to hit the 20-shot mark, their shot on-net percentage was around average. Games 6 and 7, however, regressed to the means of the playoffs for the Canucks, missing shots. 
I’m sorry, but any team that gets just 29% and 27% of their shots on net probably doesn’t deserve to win the game.
Let’s check out some tape and see if the Canucks had the same problems as they had against the Predators; gripping their sticks too tight and rushing shots with one-timers, or was this something new?
The Oilers picked up on what the Predators did in round one and really minimized the open ice available for the Canucks — except this time, it was in the neutral zone. The Oilers didn’t allow any easy zone entries to set up for the Canucks in the entire period. 
Elias Lindholm receives a stretch pass in the neutral zone, but he has an Oilers defenceman on him like glue. Joshua picked up the loose puck but then was immediately boxed in. Luckily for him, Garland is streaking down the wing in the only passing lane open. But again, it’s the Canucks off the rush and shot it wide. 
This was Vancouver’s first bit of offensive zone pressure since the halfway point of the first period. But can we really call it pressure? 
The Oilers did precisely what the Canucks did so well against them in Game 5, and that was keeping everything along the outside. Not one point in this clip did the Canucks threaten to even get a shot off. It was all work around the boards – it’s pretty hard to register a shot when you’re playing from the perimeter, isn’t it?
The 4-minute powerplay was just pitiful for the Canucks. I tallied up their zone entries to see their success rate. They entered the zone eight times and only successfully set up in the zone three times. All the others lead to a clearance from the Oilers. Not to mention, they had zero shots on just two-shot attempts. It’s tough to generate any sort of momentum when the team can’t even get set up in the zone. 
After the first Edmonton goal, the Canucks gain the zone and let Garland go to work where he does best, behind the net. Often, Garland utilizes his shiftiness to gain separation and find an open man for a shot attempt. But the Oilers learned and completely smothered him, forcing him to take a shot from the most impossible angle. 
The Oilers picked up on the fact that the Canucks just couldn’t carry the puck into the neutral zone to set up offence. Sam Lafferty tries to carry the puck through the zone, but he’s stepped up on by an Oilers defenceman who pokes the puck off his stick. This would lead to a change of possession and, ultimately, Evan Bouchard’s goal. 
Again, the Oilers do a great job of keeping everything along the outside, and the Canucks take low-danger shots. While they do a lot of fancy passing around the perimeter, I disagree with this as the kill shot for Miller on this shot. It’s a weak wrist shot with three Oilers in the way, and of course, the shot got blocked. Where’s the urgency to drive the net? Or push the puck down low and get defenders away from the middle of the ice to open up another passing option?
I’m starting to feel the team had just accepted defeat at this point. After a great Lindholm forecheck, where he takes on two Edmonton defenders and gets the puck to the corner, where’s the pressure on the puck? They just gave him so much time to clear the zone. 
I’m sorry, but they’ve got to get away from the drop-pass zone entry. It’s so predictable. Edmonton knows exactly what Vancouver is going to do, and they double-team Garland as he tries to walk the zone and poke the puck off his stick. 
Now, this one just feels like shooting yourself in the foot. Pettersson does a fantastic job pulling two defenders, leaving Phil Di Giuseppe alone with a sexy saucer pass. And PDG just skys it. The Canucks just scored and weakened the confidence of Stuart Skinner. You’ve got to get that on net. 
This is the stuff you love to see. Tyler Myers jumps to keep the play alive. After getting the puck back, he winds up for a slapshot and gets Zach Hyman to bite. Myers then uses his momentum to open up a shooting lane. But, like all night, it gets deflected. I just wish there was more of this intuitiveness throughout the whole game. 
Ultimately, their inability to get pucks on the net and their zone entries were the demise of the Canucks in this playoffs. In Game 7, Edmonton had 21 blocked shots. The frustration of having all these attempts and nothing to show for it must have built up in their heads throughout the first two periods.
Their zone entries are something the team will need to work on heading into next season. From the 10-minute mark of the first period on, I counted their success rate on zone entries to get set up in the offensive zone. Here are the final stats:
In the end, the Canucks literally couldn’t get out of their own way. I’ll leave you with this, Canucks fans. What if Nikita Zadorov wasn’t in the way of this Miller shot in the dying seconds? Oh, what could have been.

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