Canucks' Powerless Power Play: How Much Does It Matter?

Thearon W. Henderson

There is a glaring issue that has barely been remedied this season so far. The power play.

The Canucks are the first (and only) team to play 20 games this season at this point. They have an 11-7-2 record and 24 points, good enough for 8th spot in the Western Conference. They are 2 points ahead of the 9th place Kings who have played 3 less games, and 6 points ahead of Nashville (10th), Dallas (11th) and Winnipeg (12th) who have played 17, 17 and 19 games respectively. Now comes the break in the Canucks' crazy schedule. They will only play San Jose on Thursday and Dallas 6 days from now. 2 games in 7 days and 3 games over the next 11 (Florida next Tuesday followed by a 2 day break). So the rest of the teams will catch up in games played and we hope the Canucks will start winning again and stay in a playoff spot over the next 3 games.

I know, it's only 20 games in. But there is a glaring issue that has barely been remedied this season so far. The power play. The Canucks' power play is 6 for 62 on the season, which is a 9.7% average, which is 28th in the NHL. What you may not know is that the Canucks are 4 for 32 (12.5%) on the road which is 23rd in the NHL and an (gasp!) bad 2 for 30 (6.7%) at home which is 29th in the League as they begin a 6-game home stand.

Before I get into what I want to get into, I do want to point out, that, contrary to popular belief, the Canucks do get power play chances. Sure the refs miss calls, but Vancouver's 62 power play opportunities puts them right in the middle of the NHL pack (15th). OK, that average will drop when the other teams catch up in games played, but it won't make the Canucks the most dicked team in the NHL by the officials by any stretch of the imagination.

Let's first take a look at what has gone right on the 6 PP goals the Canucks have scored this season:

October 3, Jason Garrison unloads:

October 5, Daniel Sedin (Sweetness):

October 20, Henrik Sedin (Jam away at it!):

October 25, Ryan Kesler in OT!:

November 2, Daniel Sedin (Blammo by Hank vs the Leafs, puck goes off his brother):

November 5, Ryan Kes-snipe:

And that's all of them so far. I see a bit of a recurring theme or two there. The biggest theme of all is crashing the net. Getting bodies in front. The other theme is Jason Garrison, who has not been the go-to guy lately as John Tortorella has loaded up the first unit with 5 top forwards and Dan Hamhuis. While that was a solid idea, it's not working. Perhaps it's time to change it back up again. Futility like this is not just being unlucky. It's not executing properly.

As John Tortorella said after the Ducks game:

"Our power play sucked."

He wasn't always saying that. For many a game the Canucks pressured the opposition with the man advantage, even to the point of Torts thinking the goals would come. It just has not happened yet, and it really went for a dump against the stingy Ducks.

The importance of scoring on the power play can be both overrated and underrated. Teams don't need to be tops in the NHL with the man advantage to win the race for top spot in the NHL, the Conference, or winning the Stanley Cup for that matter. If fact, history has generally proven otherwise. But when you are losing close games (like the Kings and Ducks games for example), a power play goal can make the difference. And that is really what it's all about. It's an added dynamic to the offence that at times becomes pivotal. I have done a little bit of research to examine the importance of a good power play in relation to success and found that there are other aspects that are generally more important than a smokin' power play. Ready? Keep in mind the overall finish is based on points not standings.

REGULAR SEASON

SEASON TEAM FINISH (Overall) 5 on 5 Rank PP% Rank PK% Rank
2012-13 Chicago 1st 1.52 (1) 16.7 (19) 87.2 (3)
2012-13 Pittsburgh 2nd 1.35 (2) 24.7 (2) 79.6 (25)
2012-13 Anaheim 3rd 1.28 (5) 21.5 (4) 81.5 (13)
2012-13 Montreal 4th 1.25 (6) 20.7 (5) 79.8 (23)
2011-12 Vancouver 1st 1.19 (4) 19.8 (4) 86.0 (6)
2011-12 Rangers 2nd 1.14 (6) 15.7 (23) 86.2 (5)
2011-12 Blues 3rd 1.34 (2) 16.7 (19) 85.8 (7)
2011-12 Pittsburgh 4th 1.17 (5) 19.7 (5) 87.8 (3)
2010-11 Vancouver 1st 1.32 (2) 24.3 (1) 85.6 (3)
2010-11 Washington 2nd 1.07 (12) 17.5 (16) 85.6 (2)
2010-11 Philadelphia 3rd 1.21 (3) 16.6 (19) 82.8 (15)
2010-11 Pittsburgh 4th 1.11 (9) 15.8 (25) 86.1 (1)
2009-10 Washington 1st 1.57 (1) 25.2 (1) 78.8 (25)
2009-10 San Jose 2nd 1.23 (3) 21.0 (4) 85.0 (5)
2009-10 Chicago 3rd 1.20 (4) 17.7 (16) 85.3 (4)
2009-10 Phoenix 4th 1.15 (5) 14.6 (28) 84.5 (6)
2008-09 San Jose 1st 1.09 (10) 24.2 (3) 83.3 (5)
2008-09 Boston 2nd 1.42 (1) 23.6 (4) 82.4 (12)
2008-09 Detroit 3rd 1.20 (4) 25.5 (1) 78.3 (25)
2008-09 Washington 4th 1.10 (8) 25.2 (2) 80.6 (17)

PLAYOFFS

OK, now I'll run the stats from the Stanley Cup Finalists over the past several years.

SEASON TEAM CUP? 5 ON 5 F/A PP% RANK PK% RANK
2012-13 Chicago W 1.39 (1) 11.4 (13) 90.8 (3)
2012-13 Boston L 1.39 (2) 17.5 (8) 88.7 (4)
2011-12 Los Angeles W 1.52 (1) 12.8 (12) 92.1 (2)
2011-12 New Jersey L 1.33 (2) 15.3 (9) 73.2 (13)
2010-11 Boston FU 1.82 (1) 20.4 (8) 84.4 (6)
2010-11 Vancouver L 0.88 (10) 11.4 (14) 80.8 (9)
2009-10 Chicago W 1.22 (5) 22.5 (5) 83.3 (4)
2009-10 Philadelphia L 1.15 (6) 21.9 (7) 85.3 (2)
2008-09 Pittsburgh W 1.09 (5) 20.6 (7) 83.3 (5)
2008-09 Detroit L 1.74 (1) 23.7 (4) 73.2 (14)
2007-08 Detroit W 1.62 (1) 18.9 (9) 85.7 (4)
2007-08 Pittsburgh L 1.21 (3) 22.8 (3) 87.1 (3)

I think we can draw some general conclusions here.

-You need to be good 5 on 5 (d'uh), since that is the majority of the time played. If you are lacking there, you had better be scoring power play goals. If you are good at both you will kick some ass as long as you are keeping goals against down and filling the opponents' net.  I think the best example there was the 2008-09 Red Wings. But the stats I have given become a bit of a generalization because every playoff series can be different. I'm just giving you a visual here.

-Penalty killing is generally crucial, as the tables show. But only if you are having a tough time scoring 5 on 5 or on the power play. You can succeed with a less-than-average PK if you score over 3 goals per game on average.

So this post becomes elementary in a sense but that's OK.

Let's get back to the Canucks and their futile power play. Are they going to succeed at a 9.7% success rate? I am going to place the odds against them on that one. They must get better on the man advantage.  HOWEVER, being tops in the NHL on the PK at a 89.4% kill rate and 12th overall 5 on 5 and 13th in goals against per game means only one thing:

The Canucks are close.

Get that power play going. Maintain the 5 on 5 scoring pace or greater. Maintain that almost impossible to maintain penalty kill and things are lookin' up.

3 points total on the powerplay from all Canucks defencemen combined. 2 from Garrison and 1 from Edler. Isn't it time for a change? Somebody step up and be an Ehrhoff or Salo FFS.

Hope you enjoyed this post!

Leave your comments and opinions in the comments thread. I would like to hear your opinions and insights!

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