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HSH’s Canucks Scouting Report (Pro-Con-Clusion #7 & 8): Miller’s point streak snapped and the PK concerns continue

Harsunder breaks down the best and worst of the last 4 Canucks games as well as a concluding thought in his 7th feature of the Pro-Con-Clusion series

Vancouver Canucks v Vegas Golden Knights
J.T. Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks skates during the first period of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on November 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The last few Canucks games were quite painful to watch, to say the least. With the exception of the last 7 minutes in the Anaheim game, which saw the Canucks claw back with 2 goals to tie the game, the team just couldn’t seem to produce any results in these last four contests.

The comeback in the Ducks game saw the Canucks pick up a point, in a game they would eventually end up losing 3-2 in overtime. This was followed by a 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, a 7-4 at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, and another 5-1 loss to Anaheim Ducks.

A whole lot needs to change if this team has any hope of making the playoffs, as the Canucks currently find themselves with only 12 points in 16 games. season, which puts them at a miserable pace of just 61 points in a full 82 game season.

Even during the dog days of Willie Desjardins’ tenure, the Canucks were never that putrid.

Regardless, let’s take a look at 1 pro and 1 con over these last four Canucks losses, as well as a concluding thought before the Canucks get set to take on the Colorado Avalanche in what is sure to be an interesting game on Wednesday.

Vancouver Canucks v Vegas Golden Knights
J.T. Miller #9 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on November 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

Pro: At least JT Miller is trying...

If there was one positive from the Canucks abysmal last few games, it was the fact that JT Miller picked up points in 3 of these 4 contests, which extended the Ohio native’s point streak to 7 games. Miller was the one who scored the first Canucks goal in the Ducks game last week, a tally that sparked a comeback and allowed the team to pick up 1 point.

Miller has also been fantastic in the faceoff circle for the Canucks. coming into the weekend boasting a percentage of 56.5% in the dot, putting him 2nd amongst all Canucks forwards behind only Bo Horvat (57.2%).

Miller had a big night in the faceoff circle in the Colorado game, winning 10 out of the 13 draws he took, allowing him to rack up a faceoff percentage of 76.9% against the Avalanche. He followed this with a perfect night in the circle against Vegas, going 11 for 11 on the draws he took on Saturday.

While Miller has been clicking on almost all cylinders this season, the team’s play around him has been nothing short of utterly disappointing. With that said, let’s look at the most significant con, which had the biggest impact on the Canucks in these four games.

Vancouver Canucks v Vegas Golden Knights
Jonathan Marchessault #81 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates after scoring a goal during the third period of a game against the Vancouver Canucks at T-Mobile Arena on November 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

Con: The PK nightmares continue

As far as the Canucks penalty killing is concerned, the stats pretty much sum up the whole story. Through 14 games coming into the weekend, the Canucks ha a mediocre PK% of 62.8%, which puts them at dead last in the league. After a weekend that saw them give up 4 more goals on the man advantage, the Canucks now have a terrible PK% of 62.2%.

Not to mention, a couple of those powerplay goals were given up against Vegas, a team that has one of the worst powerplays in the league this year.

What hasn’t helped the cause is the fact that the Canucks have given up at least one powerplay goal in each of their last 10 games.

The simple question on every Canucks fan’s mind is, what exactly is wrong with the Canucks PK? The answer is a lack of aggressiveness.

Make a comparison with the teams killing off Canucks powerplays. What exactly are they doing so well to thwart the Canucks on the man advantage? Once again, it all comes down to being aggressive and putting pressure on all the opposing players.

For example, you would notice that often times the Canucks are on the powerplay, you would have a player charge right for Elias Pettersson or Quinn Hughes when either of them has the puck. This doesn’t just pressure on both of them to make plays quickly, but it also cuts down their percentages of getting shots through, which is imperative as Hughes and Pettersson are the biggest shooting threats on the Canucks man advantage.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Canucks have been failing to apply this kind of pressure to the powerplay specialists of other teams. You would notice that often times the penalty killers of the Canucks are just stationary, which is also the factor causing headaches on their own powerplay as well.

The best structure to have a successful penalty kill is to have each player in a position where they can be very mobile while avoiding going out of position at any point.

First of all, it is very important to have the center go out to the top of the zone and apply pressure on the quarterback. The main key to a successful man advantage is the play of the quarterback. If you’re constantly applying pressure on the quarterback and forcing him to make quick decisions, chances are quite high that you can force him into making an error and eventually clear the zone as a result.

Secondly, it is extremely important to identify which player on the powerplay is the trigger man. For example, if you have the pure shooter of the man advantage on the left flank, then it is important to keep a right-handed D man within a few feet of the shooter. This not only applies pressure on the shooter but a right-handed D man would have the luxury of covering all passing lanes to the bumper slot as well as to the goal line down low.

Thirdly, the winger must be stationed in a position directly between the player on the opposite flank and the player in the bumper slot. This player would be able to pressure the opposite flank shooter into making a mistake while blocking every possible avenue the powerplay has to penetrate into the slot from that particular side.

Lastly, the second D man must be positioned right around the crease. A position from which he can box out anyone who tries to get in front of the goalie, and easily race to the corner to retrieve and clear any loose pucks.

Following such a structure can go a long way in approving the Canucks shorthanded play, especially if all the team’s penalty killers are being mighty aggressive and not leaving the opposing powerplay any margin for error.

Vancouver Canucks v Anaheim Ducks
Vancouver Canucks look on during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 14, 2021 in Anaheim, California.
Photo by Foster Snell/NHLI via Getty Images

Concluding thought: How will the Canucks respond and which player will lead the charge?

There is no doubt that the Canucks must be very anxious to get back on the ice on Wednesday night and put the memories of this road trip behind them.

With a fanbase that is beginning to lose hope, there will be a lot of pressure on the Canucks’ top guns to lead the charge and help the team get back to winning ways. With that said, there is one other important factor to consider here.

This is obviously the first time the Canucks would be playing against the Colorado Avalanche ever since getting destroyed 7-1 in the first game of this road trip. . You can bet the hunger for revenge on the Canucks end would be an important factor setting the stage for the team to come up with a perfect response.

One player to keep an eye on though in Wednesday night’s tilt against the Avalanche would be Brock Boeser. With just 3 goals in 13 games this season, the leading goal scorer for the Canucks last year is still yet to score a 5-on-5 goal for the team this season, However, the 24-year-old was sniffing around the net quite often on every night in this road trip and he did have a quite a few decent scoring opportunities as well. Including a couple of shots in the last 2 games that beat the goalie but found iron.

It will be interesting to watch if Boeser can bump the slump and finally ripple the mesh against Colorado on Wednesday because it sure seems like a goal from him is right around the corner. It will surely be a welcome sign for the Canucks if Boeser can get going and begin to produce at a pace close to or similar to last year.

What do you think Canucks fans? Do you think the team would come up with a perfect response against the Avalanche in this Wednesday night tilt? Are you expecting a big game from Brock Boeser around the corner?