The NHL has been harping on and on about penalty calls being the lowest in 30 years this season. And yet, the Canucks are on track to get 290, just 6 short of last year. Good thing it doesn’t matter how many powerplays the Canucks get because right now they can’t even score on 1.
Over these past 20 games, the Canucks have managed to score just 5 goals on 48 opportunities, working on an anemic 10% success rate. Compared to their league leading 24.3% conversion rate last year, this is a serious step down. Granted, they were holding top spot in the league for a good portion of this season and have now slipped to 3rd at 20.5%, but lately the downgrade has been very evident. The change between last season and this one is that other teams have finally figured out how to shut down the Canucks PP.
After watching Vancouver’s cup run, it seems the other teams in the NHL finally got the memo: if you give the Sedins space, they will emulsify you. Now, in a lesson from Boston’s playbook, teams have stopped chasing the Sedins around the ice like chickens with their heads cut off and are applying just enough pressure to keep the Sedins from creating space while simultaneously preventing them from getting comfortable. But solely blaming the Sedins isn’t fair because the second PP unit isn’t scoring either. Thus, if the entire teams’ powerplay is incapable of scoring goals due to systematic issues, the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of Alain Vigneault.
There are several solutions for Alain to Vancouver’s faltering PP. Kassian can be tried with the Sedins, giving Kesler, booth and burrows the opportunity to form the second PP unit. This would give the Sedins a big body in front of the net and add a bit more grit to their line. Having Kassian on the top PP unit changes the system entirely; the Sedins would be forced to get shots on net and feed the point rather than cycle through the corners in an attempt to draw out defenders (which as previously mentioned, no longer works).
If Kassian and the Sedins doesn’t work out, plan B is to split the twins up outright, thus making both PP units far more dangerous. It is also far more difficult for the opposition to decide who to play their top defensive pairing against if both PP units posses equal offensive potential. Even keeping the Amex line (Booth, Higgins, Kesler) together would not be detrimental as It would make the shift after the PP easier to arrange lines.
No matter what it takes for Vigneault to get the Canucks’ PP out of its funk, it is important to see the silver lining. The Canucks have historically been very reliant on their PP both to get them into a game and to win it. With powerplays on the decline in the NHL and notoriously less calls soon to come in the playoffs, this is a chance for the Canucks to get used to playing 5-on-5 hockey without their powerplay crutch before the post-season starts.