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Paterson’s Point: The Vancouver Canucks’ power play is too good to be this bad

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Photo credit:© Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
The Vancouver Canucks’ sagging power play may be a champagne problem for a hockey club with a record of 23-10-3. But make no mistake, it is still very much a problem.
And right now it’s hard to tell where the Canucks are more nonchalant — on the ice with the man-advantage or off the ice talking about it.
There seems to be this belief among the Canucks top players and even head coach Rick Tocchet that the power play is close, that it’s getting its looks and that if it had scored a goal here or a goal there, this wouldn’t even be a topic for discussion.
But this isn’t about how ineffective the Canucks were in three tries against Philadelphia earlier in this week. This isn’t about the last week. Or the past month, for that matter.
In their last 20 games – well over half their schedule so far – the Canucks are nine for their last 64 opportunities. At 14.1%, the Canucks are 26th in the league over that span. That’s a problem and it’s time somebody on the coaching staff or in the leadership group acknowledges it.
If it was easy to simply flip the switch, wouldn’t somebody in the organization have done so by now?
In what world can it possibly make sense that Quinn Hughes has one power play point in his last 14 games? This after racking up 15 points with the man-advantage in the team’s first 22 games of the season.
How can alarm bells not be sounding with both JT Miller and Elias Pettersson scoring one power play goal apiece over the team’s last 19 games?
The easy answer is that the Canucks have produced offence elsewhere and managed to win hockey games of late without their power play. But when the secondary scoring goes quiet, there will be many nights ahead when the Canucks need their top players to perform better than they have of late especially when operating with the man-advantage.
The recent “pass it 10 times around the perimeter to generate one shot” approach sits in stark contrast to the club’s early season success when the power play converted on 21 of its first 63 attempts – or exactly one of every three times it went to work. At that point, just over a month into the season, only New Jersey had a more effective power play than the Canucks.
But something seemed to change after the Canucks beat the New York Islanders 4-3 in overtime on November 15th. The Canucks scored three times while up a man that night. It was the fourth time in the club’s first 16 games that the Canucks struck for three (or more) power play goals in a game. In the 20 games since, the Canucks have scored multiple power play goals in a game just once – a 4-3 loss in San Jose on November 25th. It hasn’t happened since. 
It’s basically been a goal here and a goal there with just five power play goals on 40 opportunities (12.5%) in 12 games in December. Their last two power play goals have come against noted lottery loyalists Chicago and San Jose. Let the record show there are many teams out there better than the Sharks and Blackhawks, and the Canucks are going to need to find a way to break some of those opponents down with the power play. If not now, then most certainly in the playoffs.
Without question one of the biggest differences from the team’s early season success seems to be Quinn Hughes’ role in things. In the first 16 games, the captain had 23 shot attempts on the power play and 16 shots on goal. Over the past 20 games, Hughes has just 12 power play shot attempts and only seven have hit the target. Hughes is the conductor of this symphony that has made sweet music in the past. These days, however, the Canucks power play sounds more like cats fighting.
The Canucks need to find ways to get Hughes to attack the net like he did earlier in the season. And if opponents are adjusting, then the Canucks need to get creative and come up with new ways to maximize Hughes’ many offensive gifts.
With Rick Tocchet running the show and with Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Sergei Gonchar on the staff, and with the assembled collective on the ice, there is too much skill, too much talent and too much hockey intelligence to have a power play languishing near the bottom of the league over the past six weeks.
But in order to address the issues, the Canucks need to acknowledge that there is a problem in need of a solution. And these days, no one around Rogers Arena seems to believe things require repair work.
The numbers, however, tell a much different tale.
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