The problem

I am not upset with the Canucks’ 6W-6L record. I have been impressed with their new additions and the offense has produced beyond expectations. Luongo is a slow starter, however he has not been the cause of any loss, and his game is starting to pick up. His 12 of 13 saves in the shootout against Anaheim was worthy of his Captain status (still not a fan of that choice though).

The problem with the Canucks was summed up on the review of last night’s game in the Globe and Mail:

The Canucks were the best penalty-killing team in the NHL that season (2006-2007), negating almost 87 per cent of opponents’ power plays and winning the Northwest Division. They slid to 14th in the league last season and, not coincidentally, missed the playoffs.

This year, Vancouver ranked 21st heading into last night, even though it was perfect on GM Place ice, having erased the first 12 short-handed situations of the new season. But the Canucks had also permitted 12 power-play goals in just 46 opportunities on the road and that trend hit home last night.

The stats on the penalty kill this season are as follows:

  • Goals allowed – 15 (Last in League)
  • Times Shorthanded – 63 (Second most in NHL)
  • Penalty Killing percentage – 76.2% (24th in the league)

The obvious problem is that the Canucks are taking too many penalties.  Ryan Johnson said it best, in hockey-speak no less: the best way to kill penalties is not to take them.  On the surface, the Canucks have to address this issue- staying out of the penalty box.

However, looking at the statistics for the completed 2006-2007, that statement doesn’t quite work:

  • Goals allowed – 57 (5th best in League)
  • Times Shorthanded – 436(5th most in NHL)
  • Penalty Killing percentage – 86.9% (Best in the league)

The Canucks that year gave up the 5th most penalties but still managed to retain the number one penalty kill in the league!

I would expect a strong penalty kill given the make up of this team.  This team is built around strong defense, world-class goaltending and a strong third and fourth line (players who are supposed to be specialty players).  However, the penalty kill looks to be scrambling most nights and having problems clearing the zone.  Also, Luongo has not been the best penalty killer on the ice as he needs to be. 15 of the Canucks 38 goals allowed (40%) have been while shorthanded.  This percentage is too high given the talent.

So what has changed from the 2006-2007 season?

Burrows, Kesler, Ohlund, Mitchell, Pyatt, Salo and Bieksa are still there with the additions of Ryan Johnson and Edler.  Gone are Linden, Jan Bulis, Brendan Morrison and Matt Cooke.  It is strange to admit but I remember Jan Bulis being an incredible penalty killer.  He always pressured the point and was able to win the scrums along the half board and at blue line to clear the puck.  Is he the solution?  Probably not.  But interesting at least.

Anyway, probably not adding any solutions to this but just pointing out some facts.


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