Double Time

Saturday, 14.04.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Double Time
There's a problem with the Canucks power play - but it has nothing to do with X's and O's. Actually, that's not entirely true, but it's hard to know how well the Canucks are executing with the man-advantage because they're not giving themselves enough of an opportunity to skate a man up.

The box score from Friday's 2-0 loss to Dallas shows that the Canucks were 0 for 6 on the power play. But the bigger story was that four of those man-advantages were cut short after the Canucks took penalties of their own. Instead of a full 12 minutes of power play time, the Canucks had just 6:32 with an extra skater.

Rather than blasting pucks at the Dallas net, the Canucks continually shot themselves in the foot. "You can complain all you want as a team, but the whole year we've been taking way too many penalties," says Mattias Ohlund, the lone Canuck to score a power play goal so far in the series. "And 99% of the time the penalties you take on the power play are bad penalties. We have to find a way to stay out of the box."

Through the first two games of the series, the Canucks are 1 for 14 with the man-advantage. That's reason for concern in itself. But the bigger issue right now has to be the fact that seven of the team's 14 power plays have ended prematurely; however only one of those has ended with a Stars player leaving the box. Six times now a Canuck has seen fit to keep the penalized Dallas player company.

"It's a no a brainer -- not giving yourself a chance," Brendan Morrison says, when asked which was the bigger issue: the lack of power play production or the fact the team's not giving itself every opportunity to produce with the man-advantage. "I don't know if it was two or three times tonight within 10 seconds there, we took penalties when we had full two minute power plays. It's frustrating and hypothetically it could have changed the outcome of the game, who knows? Those are good, opportune times to get back in the game."

In a tactical match-up like the Canucks have drawn with Dallas, it could very well take two full minutes on a given power play to generate the one chance needed to score. The Canucks are hurting themselves in that regard. Even if they don't score, there's a good chance they would create momentum that could swing things in their favour.

"Some of them (penalty calls) were suspect, but I don't think we can put ourselves in that situation. We have to be careful," says Daniel Sedin, whose interference penalty off a third period face-off Friday came just four seconds after Sergei Zubov had been sent off for tripping. "They're going to call the hooking and holding and those things. And we know that."

By taking penalties while the on the power play, the Canucks aren't only missing out on a chance to score big goals. They're also squandering an opportunity to wear down key Stars like Zubov, Phillipe Boucher, Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen by forcing them to skate short-handed for longer stretches of the hockey game. And, of course, the Canucks are easing the burden on netminder Marty Turco by failing to put him in the mental and physical pressure-cooker of two full minutes on the power play.

The discipline issue is something Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault knows has to change - and in a hurry - in order for his team to maximize its power play potential.

"Obviously, not only the fact that our power play wasn't clicking, but it seemed every time that we were on the power play we were taking a penalty 15 or 20 seconds later, so that made it challenging for us," he told the assembled media at GM Place in his post-game press conference.

"Some of those calls," the coach continued with a sigh, offering enough about the officiating without saying anything that could get him in hot water with the league. "I have to see the replays."

Alain Vigneault may watch those replays, but he certainly doesn't want to witness a replay of his team's lack of discipline when the series shifts to Dallas for Games 3 and 4. The Stars showed Friday what they're capable of. It's pretty clear they don't need any help from the Canucks.



Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca