Paterson’s Point: For all the attention paid to it, penalty killing remains a sore spot for the Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
For all the attention it got as a story in the market and all the resources spent to address it over the past 12 months, the Vancouver Canucks penalty kill still simply isn’t good enough.
Last night in Los Angeles was the latest example in an unfortunately long list of them in recent weeks. The Canucks gave up a pair on the power play in a 4-3 loss to Colorado a few weeks back. They gave up two to Dallas last week. And they surrendered two each to Vegas and LA in the bookends of a three-game road trip that came to a screeching halt with a 6-3 loss to the Kings at Crypto.com Arena. Oh, and for good measure, the lone goal they allowed in Arizona on Wednesday was – you guessed it – also on the power play.
Quick math shows that’s five power play goals against in the past three games and seven over the last five. That’s a dangerous way to play at any point in the season but especially so with the playoffs on the horizon. The only time the Canucks penalty kill managed to keep an opponent at bay in the past 10 days was Anaheim which sits 30th in the league in overall offence and 24th with the man-advantage. 
On the season, the Canucks penalty kill ranks 18th in the NHL at 78.5%. On the road, it drops to 23rd at 75.9%.
And since the All Star break – when the overall team play has sagged – the penalty kill has been a big part of those struggles running at 75.9% over the past 28 games which puts the Canucks 24th in that category over the stretch.
Now, there are certainly some key factors at play. The four five-on-three goals they gave up in that crazy 10-7 loss in Minnesota on February 15th certainly didn’t help the statistics. Nor did the fact starting goalie Thatcher Demko went down with injury nearly a month ago. Add to that two of the Canucks better penalty killing forwards missed long stretches with Dakota Joshua sidelined due to a hand injury and more recently Elias Lindholm sitting out with a wrist issue.
Undoubtedly, the Canucks will be better as a team and stronger on the penalty kill when back to full health. But it’s also fair to ask if they will truly achieve full health at this late stage of the season. Can Demko find his difference-maker status in short order and will Lindholm be the defensive force and faceoff ace he was before leaving the lineup? Getting Joshua back has helped offensively, but the big winger hasn’t been able to prop up an ailing penalty kill in his five games back in the lineup.
The Canucks went into last summer prioritizing the penalty kill as an area that required immediate attention. The club added Filip Hronek (who was acquired last February but only played four games for the Canucks last season), signed Ian Cole, Carson Soucy, Teddy Blueger and Pius Suter as free agents and then traded for Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm in season. All have been significant parts of a penalty kill that has ultimately let the hockey club down once again.
Sure, it’s better than it was last year. But that’s not saying much when last season’s penalty kill finished dead last in the NHL at 71.6%. With all of the reinforcements and a better defensive structure, the Canucks penalty kill isn’t even at league average and certainly not even close over the past two months.
Whether its personnel, deployment or the systems being implemented, the Canucks have to recognize the work is nowhere close to done when it comes to addressing a key area of the game that has once again become an issue.
The organization as a whole has taken significant strides year over year, but for all of the progress it has made in many areas, the penalty kill is still costing this team hockey games. And at the rate things are going, it’s hard to imagine that won’t be the case in the playoffs, too.
Join Sekeres & Price and the CanucksArmy crew on Saturday April 20th at the Hollywood Theatre in Kitsilano for a special tribute to their late friend, Jason Botchford, presented by Fountain Tire. “Bro, Do Your Playoffs” is a media event celebrating the life and legacy of Jason that will feature shared memories, special guests, an exclusive performance from The Matinée and the celebration of Vancouver’s triumphant return to the playoffs. This event is in support of the BC Mental Health Foundation. Get your tickets now at https://www.showpass.com/hollywood-brodoyourplayoffs/

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