The little things...

Friday, 19.12.2008 / 12:37 PM / Features
By Jeff Paterson
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The little things...
That 1-0 loss on home ice to Boston. A pair of shootout setbacks against Colorado. The 2-1 loss on Long Island last month.

In fact, eight of the Vancouver Canucks last 10 losses have been by just one goal. Welcome to town, Mats Sundin. Here are your skates, here’s your jersey -- your job is to get out there and help the Canucks find a way to turn those narrow losses into victories.

Obviously, with 18 wins in their first 32 games, the Canucks have more than held their own without Sundin and for long stretches without Roberto Luongo, Pavol Demitra and Kevin Bieksa.

But once they inject Sundin in to the line-up, his skill and his ability to bring out more from the guys he plays with, should go a long way to helping the Canucks win a few more of the tight games they have let slip away so far this season.

INSIDE THE BOX
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca


FAST FIVE
Just take those games mentioned above for example. Perhaps Sundin sets up a goal to get the game with Boston into overtime to earn the Canucks at least one more point in the standings.

Then let’s, for argument sake, say that helped the Canucks win one of the games against Colorado in overtime instead of letting it get to a shootout and maybe the Islanders game never even gets beyond regulation.

Based on those three games alone, there’s an additional three points in the standings that would have the Canucks three points up on Calgary in the Northwest Division. And as recent years have shown, even three points at the end of the season, can mean an awful lot.

Granted, all of the above is hypothetical, but the point is that in theory the addition of Sundin should help the Canucks in almost every area – but most-importantly in the win and point columns.

While everyone will surely marvel at Sundin’s size and playmaking and his consistency, here’s another much-more subtle area where the big free-agent is bound to make the Vancouver Canucks a better hockey club.

Lifetime, Sundin is 10 for 24 (41.7%) in shootouts. On a hockey club that is one for four in game-deciding skills competitions so far this season and one that has won just seven of the last 20 shootouts it has been involved in, there is plenty of room for improvement in that department.

That means over the past season and a half, the Canucks have left 13 bonus points on the table – or worse, in many cases, allowed divisional and conference rivals to wrestle those points away from the Canucks. To put Sundin’s shootout skills in perspective, his 10 career shootout goals equal the combined career output of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Taylor Pyatt, Ryan Kesler and Kyle Wellwood.

Obviously, Mats Sundin wasn’t pursued by the Canucks with the sole purpose of helping them win games in shootouts. Ideally, with Sundin in the line-up, the Canucks are hoping they can score a few more goals along the way to prevent some of the close games they find themselves in from ever reaching that stage.

Sundin should make the Canucks power play better immediately. Whether he becomes the right-handed shot to play with the Sedins or whether he’s paired with the likes of Pavol Demitra, Sundin is a presence on the ice that other teams simply have to be wary of.

Six times in the past eight years, Sundin has scored 10 or more power play goals (a total of 88 PPG during that stretch). That’s significant because as it stands right now, Kyle Wellwood appears to be the only Canuck likely to threaten double-digits in power play goals this season.

Obviously, with Sundin joining the Canucks near the midway mark of the season, everything, including expectations, has to be pro-rated but there’s still plenty of time for him to make the team’s power play much better than 16th in the league where it currently stands.

Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago are the top four teams in power play statistics and are among the top four teams in the league. It’s not a co-incidence. And in a league where games are so often so tight and a power play goal can make the difference, having Sundin out there working with the man-advantage should translate into a few more wins along the way.

Mats Sundin is a big man and his addition to the Canucks is very big news, but at the end of the day, it’s some of the little things that he does so well that should really pay dividends.