Rob The Hockey Guy

// A Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog

The Canucks power play, beyond the numbers

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Don’t look now, but the Canucks have quietly put together a six-game string of games in which they have scored a power play goal. Looking at it “in-depth”, they were only able to score six goals in that stretch, but they did so with only 24 power plays, meaning they scored on 25% of their chances. None too shabby a turnaround for this much maligned group.

This recent bout of power play success is a welcomed change of pace, for everyone involved. All that remains is to distinguish between what’s been going abysmally wrong, what’s worked and where their power play is headed from here.

Is the Canucks power play set to break out in a big way? Have they been every bit as snake-bitten as some bloggers would suggest? Or is it just plain bad? Lets find out

Analytically Speaking

I’m not ready to write off the league’s 26th-ranked power play as one that is purely a victim of horrendous luck. Any team lucky enough to have the Sedin twins, Jason Garrison and Ryan Kesler at their disposal simply shouldn’t have this much difficulty putting pucks in the back of the net.

Now, all things considered, something has to be said for the Canucks lack of puck-luck with the man-advantage – remember, not letting them off the hook, just acknowledging their luck. When looking at every statistic, save for goals, one could easily be confused into believing the Canucks had an amazing power play. They rank tops in the league at generating shots, averaging nearly 66 shots/60 mins with the man advantage.

What it all boils down to is that the Canucks, be it due to obscenely good netminding from the opposition or just miserable luck, haven’t been getting pucks in the back of the net. Maybe they just aren’t shooting in the right spots? You know, those quality shots that Randy Carlyle likes to talk about… Whatever the case, the Canucks are only scoring with 6.5% of their shots. To put that in perspective, that’s three points off last year’s lowest shooting percentage, which belonged to the Buffalo Sabres and was 9.5%.

That Eye-Test Doe…

There are few things as alienating in the world of hockey analysis as advanced stats. I don’t think shot clips or percentages are all that advanced, or any of it for that matter, but in an effort to ingratiate myself to the less analytically inclined I decided to find some of my own data. Some of my own empirical data.

In an attempt to find out what, if anything, has been working for the Canucks with the man-advantage, I recorded five very simple sets of data. The method of zone entry, the time in which they possessed the puck, what type of shot they scored with, whether it was a screen and if it would qualify as an “ugly” goal. The results, well, they caught me off guard.

Every Canucks power play goal this season:

Player Method of Zone Entry Time of Possession Type of Shot Screen A “Dirty” Goal
5 controlled 0:05 slap no no
22 face-off win 0:52 snap no no
33 regained dump-in 0:08 poked the puck in no yes
17 face-off win 0:12 backhand no no
22 face-off win 0:07 snap no no
17 controlled 0:09 slap yes no
3 controlled 0:05 slap yes no
33 face-off win 0:18 snap no yes
17 face-off win 0:20 snap no yes
33 regained dump-in 0:14 snap yes yes
5 controlled 0:05 snap no no
22 face-off win 0:07 snap no yes
17 face-off win 0:10 snap no yes
17 regained dump-in N/A*  poked the puck in  no  yes

Shocking, eh? I would have expected a power play that is almost entirely reliant upon the Sedins’ efforts cycling and the ensuing production would possess the puck for considerably longer than they do leading up to goals. Apparently it hasn’t taken Glen Gulutzan long to establish his system.

Another striking part of this data was how the pace of “dirty” goals has increased of late; one would have to imagine it coincides with the Canucks recent success. To the naked eye, Vancouver hasn’t necessarily looked like a team that is putting a more concerted effort into getting bodies in front, but hey, no arguing with the data.

Questioning the efficacy of the Sedins’ famed cycle seems nothing short of wrong, but there’s no arguing with the results on the power play thus far. Generally speaking, the Canucks are gaining control off of face-off wins and controlled zone entries, that generally lead to quick strike goals. Another thing that has surely helped the power play is Dan Hamhuis being taken off the first-unit. Nothing against the guy, but his offensive ability, well, it’s lacking.

Closing Thoughts

The Canucks, to this point, genuinely are victims of bad luck with the extra man. Just no denying it. But looking beyond the ever-present victim complex that surrounds this team, there is an interesting trend in how they are turning their luck around. Where the Canucks have had success on the power play, they haven’t had an elongated cycle; and to make matters greasier, a lot of these goals are coming in the nitty-gritty spots in and around the crease. Can you say incoming regression to the mean?

Follow J.D. Burke on Twitter: @JDylanBurke

*The YouTube clip provided incomplete data regarding Kesler’s goal last night.

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