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The Tape: How the Canucks’ penalty kill handled the dangerous Oilers power play in Game 5

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
27 days ago
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The Vancouver Canucks maybe played their best overall game of the entire playoffs. They played their game for a full 60 minutes, something that Canucks fans haven’t really seen yet in this series. J.T. Miller gets his revenge after a poor play in the final 30 seconds of Game 4 by scoring the game-winning goal with 30 seconds left in Game 5. And now, the Canucks hold a 3-2 series lead, putting the Edmonton Oilers on the brink of elimination.
But what was most impressive about this win by the Canucks? Their ability to completely smother this Edmonton Oilers power play. 
This Oilers power play of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evan Bouchard set the record for the best power play percentage in a single season in NHL history, converting at a 32.4% clip. This unit remained intact for this regular season and didn’t dip much below that, converting at a 26.3% clip.
And somehow, in this playoffs, they were even better. 
In round one against the Los Angeles Kings, they capitalized on the man advantage in every game of their five-game series, going 9-20 for a 45% conversion rate. Throughout the first four games of the second round, they scored on 50% of their power plays, going 5-10. 
This was a massive drop-off for the Canucks penalty kill after an outstanding round-one penalty kill. Against the Predators, they only allowed two power play goals on 22 power play opportunities against, killing the penalty at a 91% clip. 
To do this against the league’s second-best power play since the all-star break gave fans hope that they would be able to minimize the always-threatening Oilers power play. Nobody thought they’d be able to completely shut that lethal unit down but to have a 50% penalty kill was crushing. 
But in Game 5, they found a way to shut them down as they killed all five of the Oilers’ power play opportunities. I’m not complaining about the officiating, but some of these calls were questionable. But the Canucks did a fantastic job not to allow the Oilers to capitalize on these mishaps.
Let’s look at how this Canucks penalty kill was able to shut down the Oilers dangerous power play.  

Game 5 Penalty Kill

The first Canucks penalty came on a rush chance by Pius Suter, who stopped up a little too late and ran into Calvin Pickard. While the hit wasn’t hard, he does make contact with the goaltender in the crease, and that’s a penalty every time.
After Elias Lindholm’s faceoff loss, he does a great job chasing the loose puck and clearing the zone. Once the Oilers regroup and gain the zone, whoever the puck carrier was, instantly had a Canuck penalty killer on them. The work that Teddy Blueger and Lindholm do to keep constant pressure leaves the Oilers players shocked as you’re taking away what they’re most dangerous with: offensive zone space.
The puck goes to Bouchard; Lindholm’s on him. Passes it to Nugent-Hopkins; Blueger’s on him. McDavid gets pressured by Blueger along the half-wall, and because Blueger’s stick is in the passing lane, McDavid has to saucer pass it to Bouchard. This gives Blueger an extra half-second to get back to Bouchard and get his stick in the shooting lane to deflect the shot. 
There goes Blueger again. Look at how he encaves on McDavid and Bouchard as they try to get set up again. There’s no space to get the puck anywhere, especially with Lindholm lurking for any potential pass going the other way. Blueger gets rewarded as he slides and deflects the pass out of the zone. 
Let’s be honest: with McDavid’s speed, he’s going to get by you from time to time. So when he does get by you, your safety net is your stick. And luckily, Nikita Zadorov has one of the longest ones in the game. While still behind McDavid, Zadorov is just within range to cut his angle off with his stick. When McDavid tries to pass it to the middle of the ice, Zadorov disrupts the play.
Just a little tidbit: Am I the only one surprised that Draisaitl didn’t shoot this off his backhand? With his shooting prowess and nearly 100% of the net open from that angle, the Canucks are lucky on that one.
I included the rest of the clip to show what happens when you don’t pressure the puck carrier. You can’t fault Blueger that much as he’s been out for the entire penalty kill up to this point, but Bouchard and McDavid now have space to pass it between themselves, and McDavid finds the crossbar — scary, scary stuff. 
It’s a small clip here, but the Canucks did such an excellent job of space control that I had to include it.
After a failed clearing attempt from Zadorov, Draisiatl gets it along the far side. Just watch how Zadorov and Dakota Joshua glide in, with their sticks in the lane, to suppress any space for Draisaitl to make any other play than blind-backpass it deep in the zone. This level of gap control ensured everything remained on the outside. 
Oilers power play: 0-1.
With some pesky pressure from Blueger and Lindholm in the neutral zone, this causes a turnover from the giveaway-prone Bouchard. Blueger and Lindholm carry the play into the offensive zone but fail to get the shot off. In desperation to clear the zone, Bouchard rushes a pass into the neutral zone, which again causes a turnover for another opportunity to kill a few seconds off the penalty as Carson Soucy dumps it in.
While the offensive zone rush didn’t amount to any sort of offence, the fearless forecheck in the neutral zone that led to that offensive zone attack managed to kill 30 seconds off the power play. 
This play shows the “McDavid” treatment. When Bouchard has the puck at the point, McDavid trails off to an open position. And it looks like Joshua tied his laces with McDavid’s because he follows him stride for stride. Joshua glides with him and takes away McDavid’s ability to beat him along the inside. McDavid’s only option now is to spin towards the boards and burn Joshua with his speed to gain the middle of the ice.
Except while all this is happening, Zadorov leaves his man (Draisaitl) to go in the corner and steps up into the open ice McDavid was hoping to take. This positioning from Zadorov ultimately limits McDavid’s options, and he has to keep it along the outside to Draisaitl in the corner. 
Draisaitl would find Bouchard for a point shot, which was saved by Silovs because of how well the Canucks cleared the front of the net, allowing Silovs to have a clear view of the shot. Vancouver’s ability to clear the net front and give their goalie back his eyes must have been something they discussed in the penalty kill meetings.
Well, well, well, what do you know? Another Bouchard neutral zone turnover, leading to a short-handed zone time for the Canucks to kill another 20 seconds of a power play. This time, new dad Phil Di Giuseppe almost makes them on his high-slot wrist shot.
Evan Bouchard is doing half the penalty killing for the Canucks!
Oilers power play: 0-2.
Zach Hyman was the Canucks best penalty-killer on this attempt. As he enters the zone with the puck, Zadorov puts his body on him to shut down his speed and space. While along the boards, Hyman pulls on Zadorov’s stick so he can’t ring the puck around the end boards. Luckily for Canucks fans, the ref is right there to see the tug on his stick and calls a penalty. 
Vancouver would spend the remainder of the 4-on-4 controlling play in Edmonton’s zone, allowing them to possess the puck in the Canucks zone for just 15 seconds of the 1:34 4-on-4. 
Oilers power play: 0-3.
In what I think all Canucks fans can agree is the strangest penalty kill in recent memory, Elias Pettersson gets called for charging while standing still to negate their power play. 
On the ensuing 4-on-4, Vancouver would dominate possession, only allowing the Oilers to get set up in the final 10 seconds before their power play started.
There’s not too much to show on this penalty kill, but watch how McDavid constantly moves around the zone. And while it’s impossible to stop him from movement, he’s always kept to the outside. When he finally does find a lane to shoot, it’s from a low-danger, sharp angle, where you just have to trust your goalie to make the save. And Silovs does just that. 
Again, it’s Teddy Blueger’s tenacity on pressuring the puck that results in a McDavid turnover. Blueger pressures Bouchard, knowing that McDavid is along the boards, and gets his stick in that lane. Unfortunately, this time the pass gets through. This was a dangerous play, as had Blueger not disrupted McDavid, he would finally get some open ice to streak down the middle of the zone for a scoring chance. A Canuck defender would have to step up and commit to McDavid, opening up a passing lane for a wide-open Oiler shot.
Blueger would later get rewarded and clear the zone to kill the final five seconds of the penalty.
Oilers power play: 0-4.
This fifth and final power play opportunity for the Oilers was primarily spent in board battles deep in the Canucks zone. Vancouver will be happy to play that game if Edmonton wants to.
Instead of assuming their diamond formation in the defensive zone, the Canucks penalty killers were aggressive by pressuring the puck at the top of the point, nearly leading to a turnover and an easy clear. However, this can be dangerous because if the puck gets behind them, there’s a two-on-one opportunity down low.
And while Ian Cole has mostly been considered an Oilers double-agent in this series, I admire his decision here. Instead of chasing McDavid, leaving the net front wide open, he backs up and covers the passing option to Hyman in front of the net. This confuses McDavid a bit, as he’s used to getting some sort of physical presence along the boards. The second hesitation from McDavid gives the rest of the penalty killers time to re-enter the play, and Nils Äman deflects the pass. 
The final clip from this game wonderfully summarizes the penalty kill’s success. Watch the whole video to see how the play consistently stays along the perimeter of the zone. At no point in this video is there a threatening possession when Nugent-Hopkins, Bouchard, McDavid, and Draisaitl all touch the puck. Incredible positioning by the Canucks.
Oilers power play: 0-5.
Edmonton finished with only three shots on goal and zero high-danger scoring chances in 7:40 minutes of power play time. In fact, they allowed Vancouver to get two shots on goal and one high-danger scoring chance while they were on the power play. 
I’m expecting a more aggressive and angry Edmonton Oilers power play on home ice in Game 6. But if the Canucks can continue to keep the pressure on and limit the number of times the Oilers can enter the high-danger areas of the offensive zone; there’s no reason why they can’t have similar penalty-killing results as they had in Game 5.
What do you think, Canucks fans? How impressed were you by this penalty kill, and do you think that’s something they can build off of in Game 6?

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