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A closer look at the Vancouver Canucks’ power play, by the numbers

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
1 month ago
Going 0/6 on the power play at any point through two games is not the best look. But that’s the case for the Vancouver Canucks through two games in the playoffs, unable to strike on what was the 12th-best power play in the regular season. Definitely not world-beaters on the man advantage, but also definitely above average.
Now granted, it isn’t entirely due to the Canucks’ incompetence. Nashville defended hard and got bodies and sticks into shooting lanes. That’s the name of the game when on the penalty kill. But the fact remains that Vancouver had 6 cracks on the power play and has so far been unable to capitalize –  so what gives? Perhaps taking a look at the numbers the Canucks are posting on their power plays could offer some clues as to what’s going on under the hood.

Not generating quality chances

This seems pretty obvious at first glance, but the extent to which the Canucks are struggling to get good scoring opportunities is quite something. Amongst all playoff teams, Vancouver currently has the worst xGF (0.65) and is tied for a league-low of 2 high-danger chances total. They’re currently sitting as the third-worst team in terms of xGF% at 80.29, with the only teams below them being the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.
This is a far cry from the regular season power play, which saw the Canucks have the third-highest total xGF (60.28) and the 10th most high-danger chances of any team on the man advantage. Per 60, that’s a drop from 8.76 xGF/60 in the regular season to 3.28 xGF/60 in the postseason. The Canucks haven’t gotten nearly enough high-quality looks at the net, and that’s been dragging the power play’s efficacy down along with it.

Plenty of possession, not a lot of shots

Vancouver has consistently possessed the puck well on the power play. During the regular season, the Canucks ranked 6th in the league in power play CF%, and in the postseason that jumped up to 4th place. It isn’t as if this team is coughing up the puck at every given moment, generally maintaining possession in the offensive zone well. The problem is that they aren’t doing much with the puck.
The Canucks saw their shots for/60 drop from 55.21 in the regular season to 25.21 SF/60 in the playoffs, with that number giving them the second-worst shots for rate. A good chunk of that shot rate decline can be attributed to the Game 2 block party that the Preds had – Vancouver is actually ranked 7th in the postseason when it comes to CF/60 (since Corsi includes blocked shot attempts), while being 9th during the regular season.
That being said though, the number of shots getting through to the net needs to be increased if the Canucks want to start getting their power play clicking again. From the previous point, Vancouver hasn’t gotten enough grade-A opportunities, and their shot rate has declined from the regular season too. While part of this can be attributed to the Predators’ penalty kill, it could also suggest that the Canucks aren’t making the best use of their zone time. They have a good edge in Corsi but are unable to efficiently generate shots – which leads to a lack of high-danger chances. It might be because they are looking to make the perfect play, and thus the volume of opportunities suffers as a result of passing up shooting opportunities. Especially on the power play, that’s a critical piece, and one that the Canucks are missing 6 power plays into the postseason.

A bit of bad luck

That PDO bender the Canucks had to start off the year had many talking heads wondering when they would crash down to earth. On the power play, that wasn’t overly the case, but it is interesting to note that Vancouver is down from a 1.039 PDO to a 1.000 PDO in the postseason when on the man advantage. It’s a dead even slate right now, where the Canucks’ 0.00 shooting percentage on the power play is equalling Saros’ perfect save percentage.
It’s interesting to think about in conjunction with the eye-test. In game two, Vancouver had a couple glorious opportunities to capitalize on the power play, only to come up empty. A missed wide-open net, a redirection off the post, there were more than a few near-misses that didn’t count as a shot on goal – and yet if it went the other way, the “Canucks power play bad” narrative would be flipped on its head. But as it stands, the bounces didn’t go Vancouver’s way, and that much is reflected in the 0/6 bagel that’s currently hanging above their heads.
What the Canucks need to figure out is how to effectively and efficiently use their advantage in puck possession and translate that into scoring chances. The raw volume of shots is down, and while the opposition does contribute to that, Vancouver has also looked reluctant to shoot. It might be wise to try and get some more pucks through to the net, getting the Nashville penalty kill into a bit of a scramble and looking to create high-danger opportunities through the chaos. A lot of their base building blocks still remain generally the same from the regular season – the question is if they can figure out how to get past the legions of yellow jerseys.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com

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