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Canucks’ Special Teams Struggle Continues in 3-2 Loss to Predators

The Canucks’ slow start to the season have much to do with the lack of special team performances. Where do they go from here?

Despite a roster that boasts Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Vancouver Canucks can’t score on the power play. And, even worse, they can’t keep the puck out of the net on the penalty kill.

Going into tonight’s game against the Nashville Predators (official stats aren’t yet available as I write this article) the Canucks were in 24th place in the NHL on the power play, and 28th on the penalty kill. Tonight was certainly no exception, as they surrendered two short-handed goals and couldn’t capitalize with the man advantage. Something needs to change.

If you watch a Canucks power play, the reason for their struggles might be obvious: all five guys stand still! Canucks fans have been vocal about this on social media for quite a while now. The assumption was that the power play would look different this year as the Canucks changed out their power play coach (Jason King replaced Newell Brown), but old habits die hard.

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King is best known in Vancouver for his place on the “Mattress Line” in 2003, playing with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They were called that because the line consisted of two twins and a King. Although King wasn’t necessarily a power play guy as a player in the NHL, he ran the power play as an Assistant Coach for the Utica Comets from 2016 until last year. Alex Burrows, another linemate of the Sedins, has a big say in the power play.

It makes sense the team would use former players who played with the Sedins but the Canucks have access to something even better: the actual Sedins. Henrik and Daniel were brought back to the Canucks organization this off-season as Special Advisors to the GM. Although on-ice play isn’t in their job description, it may be beneficial to have them join the power play meeting from time to time. The Sedins ran one of the most successful power plays in the NHL for the better part of their careers.

Canucks Need to Change Things Up

The Canucks have experimented with power play personnel over the last few games, trying Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland on the first unit. It hasn’t changed much of anything, as the Canucks are still struggling.

As far as the penalty kill goes, the Canucks have never missed Tyler Motte and Brandon Sutter more. Both penalty killers have missed the entire season so far, Motte recovering from a neck surgery, and Sutter with long-term health issues from COVID-19.

Despite what seemed like a million quality scoring chances and some stellar goaltending from Thatcher Demko, the Canucks’ special teams failed them tonight. The team is learning that it doesn’t matter how good you are at even strength if your special teams are incompetent.

If the Canucks can fix their early problems soon, they could save this season and even make a nice playoff run. If their problems persist, they could be looking at yet another top-10 draft pick.

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