How the Vancouver Canucks Burned the Nashville Predators with a Blast to the Past


After a year of stagnated offense and little to no impact with a man up, the Vancouver Canucks went into this season trying to find ways to reinvent their structure and deployment.

It’s safe to say they’ve gotten off to a pretty good start.

Alexander Edler’s power play goal at 11:10 of the second frame would turn out to be the only time the Canucks would score against a vastly improved team in Nashville, but there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism when it comes to the offensive side of things. Particularly, the rejuvenation of a power play that finished 26th in terms of PP% (15.2%) thanks to a change to the 1-3-1 system and some fortuitous personnel decisions.

Most notably, Linden Vey has grabbed ahold of a great opportunity and isn’t letting go anytime soon – he’s been money in the high slot for the Canucks, and not just by scoring goals, but by providing another option that teams must account for when defending the Sedin’s. Vey’s plucky play is a large reason behind the success the Canucks have been enjoying with the man up so far this season – they currently sit in sixth with 10 power play goals – and his versatility as a player who goes to the dirty areas of the ice and as both a centre and winger are refreshing for a team that had neither or last year.

Edler’s goal was quintessential puck movement and manipulation of space and passing to generate the goal. Let’s take a look:

The play starts with a Henrik Sedin win in the faceoff dot against Paul Gaustad. Linden Vey swoops in to pick up the loose puck and establishes zone territory by getting it back to Edler at the point, who then lays it off to Vrbata on the near side boards.


The movement is superb and it’s compounded by crisp passing around Nashville’s compressed four-man box. Daniel Sedin reverses the puck to the far side to Henrik who laid it off to Edler with miles of room to operate with the two Predators getting caught so low. Edler moves the puck once more to Vrbata where he and Vey interchange down near the goalline.

With the puck on the near goal line, and then behind the net, it forces the Predators to take their eyes off all five Canucks, which isn’t a very promising sign when you have two of the most prolific scorers in the NHL on the same unit. To Nashville’s credit, they don’t become disjointed and stay in at home within their structure, but they again allow to much room for Edler to get a puck through. The result is the only goal of the game for the Canucks, eroding Nashville’s spatial awareness with the free-flowing movement of the Canucks’ power play. Notice how often Vey, Vrbata and Daniel interchange within that little triangle on the near boards. It eventually allows Daniel to establish outstanding positioning overtop of Pekka Rinne, while the puck movement distracts both Seth Jones and Roman Josi from getting Daniel out of the shooting lane.


You can find the full goal video here:

In particular, Vey seems to understand the complex high slot position, as he’s routinely readjusting his body and stick for improved shooting lanes. Vey creatively operates within passing lanes, and squares himself up for the puck. He’s become a stalwart on the first power play unit, and has allowed the Canucks to find their groove with the man up, something they dearly missed last season. Vancouver currently sits seventh in PP% with 22.7 per cent and sixth with the aforementioned 10 power play goals. This is encouraging as they currently sit 12th in overall 5 on 4 time at 66:40 and it doesn’t appear as if they’re getting puck luck; they sit 21st in 5 on 4 PDO at 1029, a sign luck isn’t driving their scoring, but well structured design and execution.

What made the Canucks so dangerous in Alain Vigneault’s tenure was an absolutely lethal power play. Teams played a different game with this in mind, and it allowed the Canucks more possession at even strength.

A good start is nice, but sustainability is where the Canucks are going to earn their paychecks in a ruthless Western Conference.