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THE MOJ: As playoff grind looms, Canucks need to fix their power play

Coach calls Vancouver’s man-advantage ‘mechanical’ as team, struggles to weaponize extra man
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Vancouver’s J.T. Miller skates by while the Dallas Stars celebrate a goal during Thursday night’s 3-1 win over the Canucks at Rogers Arena. Dallas Stars photo

As the Vancouver Canucks continue to work on their game with the playoffs approaching, there is one facet that is a major area of concern.

The power play.

After Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars at Rogers Arena, the power play unit was a main topic of conversation and rightfully so.

The Canucks didn’t score on three power play opportunities while the Stars capitalized on two of five opportunities.

That, it a nutshell, was the difference in the game.

“We came up empty. We’ve got to make some plays. We had a couple of looks in the middle…a couple of shots…couple over the net. Sometimes on the power play you’ve got to get those gritty things. Too many set plays I think burns us sometimes. We have to get guys to understand that we have to get pucks to the net. There has to be gritty goals on power plays – (they all) can’t be pretty,” Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet stated after the game.

Looking at the numbers, there should be concern with this group.

The Canucks sit 14th in the league with a 21.7% efficiency rating – which is at least palatable.

What’s concerning is that the power play unit is trending in the wrong direction.

Over the last 10 games, the power play has gone 4 for 28 for a 14.2% conversion rate. A deeper dive shows that the unit has been struggling for over the last quarter of the season, going 8 for 67 for a 11.9% success rate over the last 24 games.

“We had a couple of looks, but honestly, it’s not good enough. Not enough momentum for the group. We’re not getting any loose pucks back. It just feels like we are playing slow. I don’t think we are getting to the inside enough. Myself…I’m not really creating driving play right now. I need to be better and as a leader of the team, I hold myself to a higher standard than that. It feels like I’m one-and-done a lot,” explained Canucks forward J.T. Miller.

Tocchet has a simpler explanation for the Canucks power-play woes.

“It’s too mechanical. I’ve said it all year. It has to be organic. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had (to work on) this year,” he noted.

It’s surprising that the Canucks power play is having its troubles as it does boast four all-stars in Miller, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson.

Perhaps some of the issue has been the rotation of the fifth member of that group.

Fillip Hronek, Conor Garland, Elias Lindholm, Pius Suter and Nils Hoglander all have had stints with the first unit but to no avail when it comes to developing some chemistry.

Whether it’s getting more pucks to the net, fighting to get positioning inside, puck retrieval or just being ‘more organic’ as Tocchet says, the bottom line is that the unit has to start producing if the Canucks are to have any success in the post-season.

We are already seeing evidence of teams focusing on defense with the playoffs approaching and goals will be at a premium. Having a power-play unit that isn’t taking advantage of its opportunities doesn’t bode well – something that Miller recognizes.

“It all comes down to special teams which is how it works in the playoffs sometimes,” he said.

OVERTIME

* With his next point, Elias Pettersson will crack the Canucks Top-10 all-time scoring leaders. He is currently tied with Don Lever with 407 points.

* Canucks recalled forward Arshdep Bains from Abbotsford and he logged 110;39 of ice time. “I thought he helped us with some speed. The speed is here. Hopefully he can build of off that,” said Tocchet.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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