Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Paterson’s Point: Enough already, it’s time for Canucks to find power play time for Nils Höglander
1 month ago
Enough with the madness. The time has come for Nils Höglander to get power play time. With two more goals on Saturday against the Maple Leafs, Höglander now has a career-high 14 goals on the season and sits fourth on the Vancouver Canucks in goal scoring this season. The guy is the fourth leading triggerman on the team and he can’t get a sniff with the man-advantage. Somebody make it make sense.
All 14 of Höglander’s goals – including the pair that put the Canucks up 2-0 in the first six minutes on Saturday – have come at even-strength. Who knows what his goal total might be if he had the chance to work on the power play? And we’re not talking about top unit billing here. But how can Rick Tocchet and his staff keep the young Swede off the power play any longer?
Currently, any time an opponent heads to the penalty box, Höglander sits and watches as the likes of Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty and Conor Garland get repeated opportunities ahead of him. Sorry, but none of those power play regulars has scored a goal with the man-advantage this season. Not one. And, look, I get that the second unit doesn’t see a ton of power play time, but that’s no excuse or reason to simply sweep this issue under the rug.
The last member of the second unit to score a power play goal was Filip Hronek in San Jose on November 25th. Incredibly, the last forward to cash in as part of the Canucks’ second power play unit was Pius Suter in Toronto on November 11th – more than two months ago.
In a perfect world, the big guns start – and end – every power play by scoring. But that’s not the way the game works. So teams need a second unit. And it’s reached the point now where there is absolutely no plausible explanation to keep Höglander from getting a look with the man-advantage.
Even if you want to counter that power plays are more about set plays and players locked into certain roles or positions on the ice, the time has come to find a spot for Höglander. Carve out a place on the power play for the dude. He’s earned it. He deserves it. Let him work off one of the half walls and use his hustle to retrieve pucks to keep plays alive. Let him cause havoc in front of the net and perhaps tip the occasional puck. Give him a chance to jump on a rebound.
I don’t care if he isn’t known as a one-time guy. Neither is Mikheyev. Or Lafferty. Or even Garland, for that matter.
Höglander has spent a grand total of 9:13 this season on the power play. Usually, it’s as it was Saturday against the Leafs when he got the final 18 seconds of a third period power play along with regular linemates Nils Aman and Sam Lafferty.
At this rate, Höglander won’t catch Anthony Beauvilier, who hasn’t played for the Canucks since the final week of November but has still somehow logged 16 minutes more this season with the man-advantage than Höglander has. Even Teddy Blueger has seen four more minutes than Höglander has.
We’re talking about a player that scored six of his 14 goals in Abbotsford last season with the man-advantage, so it’s not like you’d be asking Höglander to grasp new concepts. Goals are goals. And in the last 10 games, Höglander has one more than the team’s leading marksman, Brock Boeser.
There are just three players in the NHL this season with 14 or more goals and none on the power play: Tyler Seguin in Dallas, Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers, and Höglander. Seguin and Ehlers both average over 16 minutes of ice time per night. Höglander has done his damage in just 11:06 per game.
Reward the man. Bump up those minutes. Give him some shine. And more than anything, give him some power play time. It may not amount to anything, but there is absolutely no down side to it. And maybe, just maybe, it will help a 14-goal scorer get to 20 before the season’s end.
Although the way Nils Höglander is going these days, he’ll likely get there anyway.
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