It’s time for the Canucks to take Elias Pettersson off the top power play unit

Should the Canucks take Elias Pettersson off the top powerplay?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
After a disappointing Game 4 loss, there is no weakness more glaring than what happened to this Vancouver Canucks top power play unit.
It hasn’t been all bad this series, as they’ve converted on three of their nine opportunities through their first three games. But when you have the chance to even up the game in the first period on a four-minute power play, and your top unit fails to get set up in the zone until 50 seconds in, there’s bound to be frustration and disappointment that somebody has to answer for.
J.T. Miller expressed his disappointment with the media after the game when asked about the power play: “I’m just going to be honest with you. I’m tired of talking about it. I’m just going to tell you the same thing.”
You can tell that this has weighed on him and the team. Those are the best five offensive skaters on the team, and they’re failing to get set up in the zone. 
The Canucks are just so predictable on power play zone entries; no wonder they struggle to get set up in the offensive zone. Quinn Hughes goes back to retain the puck, then two forwards swing behind him, ready for the drop pass. Then, those two forwards pass it to each other as they gain speed through the neutral zone while the two other forwards wait along the blue line. All the Edmonton Oilers had to do was step up to Miller and get their stick on the puck, and it’s a turnover. 
During their double-minor power play opportunity in the first period, those five failed to breach the zone twice. Once they finally gained the zone, they controlled play for about 10 seconds before Pettersson lost a board battle, and the Oilers cleared the zone.
Surprisingly, in what was a complete 180 from the regular season, the second power play unit looked much more dangerous than the top unit — especially one player in particular who even had a stint with J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser on the man advantage. We’ll get to that later. 
Firstly, the powerplay struggles of Elias Pettersson. 

Elias Pettersson

Since Pettersson inked his new contract on March 2nd, he’s played 30 games and registered only seven power play points. To put this into perspective, the other two perimeter players, Quinn Hughes (16) and J.T. Miller (11), have decently outscored him. 
In the 10 games of this playoffs, Pettersson has two power play points after the top unit has converted on 5/25 power play opportunities. While getting two points on five goals isn’t a terrible feat, his overall positioning during his time on the power play has me wondering if a change could help the top unit. 
I’ve cut up some clips from this series to highlight his play so far this series.
It’s his positioning on this play that had me puzzled. When there’s a board battle on the far side, three Canuck forwards and all four penalty-killers are in the scrum, and Pettersson just hangs out at the far point. He’s so far out of the play that he’s not in an advantageous area to score or even receive a pass. 
Look at all the open ice in front of the net there. If he moves closer to the slot area and the puck pops out to the middle of the ice, it’s Petey one-on-one with Stuart Skinner, who just allowed two straight Canucks goals with tons of time to beat him. At the very least, Skinner yells at a penalty killer to come to his aid. However, this now either leaves Hughes wide open at the point or takes a player out of the scrum, giving Vancouver the extra man in the scrum to retain possession.
Let’s jump to Game 3 here. I know this play is on the far side, but Pettersson stays like a statue and is such a non-threat to the penalty-killers that they never even looked his way to make sure he was still there. It’s cause they know he isn’t going to move, so if the Canucks aren’t going to look his way, why should they?
Also, this play shows how beneficial it is to keep constant movement on the power play. Miller and Hughes pass it off with Elias Lindholm, who then streaks to the net and gets rewarded with his goal. Just watch Edmonton’s power play; those guys constantly move around and are often rewarded.
Look what happens when Petey moves! He enters the zone and glides behind the net to his normal side. The movement from Petey on the zone entry allows him to go unnoticed by the defenders and score his first power play goal of the playoffs. 
But then, in Game 4, he returns to his statued ways.
I don’t hate the speed at the beginning of the play. Right off the faceoff, he sprints to the open area of the ice. But then just doesn’t move out of that faceoff circle. Once the play goes to the corner again, there’s a lot of open ice in the slot area that he can go to or behind the net for a swing around pass the other way. Miller retains possession of the puck and sends it to the middle of the ice, but Petey is far out of position, and it’s an easy clearance from the Oilers’ penalty killers. 
Now that I’ve illustrated some of Pettersson’s flaws on the powerplay, let me show you his replacement.

Conor Garland

Might I interest you in some power play, Conor Garland?
Just watch his power play time from Game 4.
Garland shows off his movability right off the bat. He receives the pass at the goal line and then positions himself along the half-wall to become the playmaker. With Connor Brown pressing him, he turns on a dime and is now a sniper with a wide-open lane. Garland didn’t stop moving his feet the entire clip.
I had to trim this into two separate clips to fully paint the picture of how dangerous Garland looked on this shift. 
He grabbed five loose pucks on these clips, three from plays that he passed the initial scoring chance, and two off his own shots on goal. Why is that? Because he doesn’t stop moving. Heck, he even grabbed the rebound on the opposite side of the zone he’s moving so much. 
We got a sneak peek as to what this might look like late in the double-minor power play in Game 4.
Garland had just come off the bench and, with all his speeds, carried the puck through the neutral zone for an easy zone entry. Garland goes unnoticed, right back to his spot at the side of the net. And while he may not be the best of screens, his shiftiness allows him to maneuver his body to get the puck on his forehand, nearly beating a sprawling Calvin Pickard.
Now, I’m not sure Conor Garland would be the answer to fixing this top power play, but I think it’s worth a shot. On the other side of the ice, you have exhibit A as to what a successful powerplay looks like, the Edmonton Oilers and their constant movement. 
Elias Pettersson has been a staple on the top power play unit for years now with his infamous and always dangerous one-timer from the half-wall. But he’s not just using it during the playoffs. Pettersson has three shots on goal in 10 playoff games. So if he’s not utilizing that lethal shot nor moving around to get open, what is he doing out there?
What do you think, Canucks fans? Do you think Elias Pettersson still warrants a spot on the team’s top powerplay with his current production?

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