The Vancouver Canucks are on pace for their first playoff appearance in four years. Here are three things they need to address if they want to find success.
Barring some miraculous collapse, the Vancouver Canucks are gearing up for their first postseason appearance since 2014-15 The team has exceeded expectations, and they’re certainly entertaining to watch.
The Canucks are in an extremely tight playoff race, and in the postseason, the importance of every game is magnified. Every single contest from here on out is a meaningful one, and if they want to find success, Vancouver will have to clean up their performance in these three areas.
1. Consistent power play
The Canucks entered Saturday with the league’s sixth-best power play with a success rate of 23.6 percent which is a drastic improvement from the 17.1 percent a season ago. That’s quite impressive and all, but Vancouver has struggled with finding consistency on the man advantage throughout the regular season. They would go through stretches where everything seemed to find the back of the net, and then suddenly have troubles setting up.
The Canucks have an impressive 35.7 percent success rate on the power play over their past four games. But in the entire month of January, the power play was a dismal 12.8 percent, which was 28th in the league.
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Whenever their power play starts to struggle, they stop moving the puck while simply lobbing easy ones at the goaltender.
The Canucks need to be tougher mentally when things aren’t going their way, and trust that their skill will kick in. With elite puck-moving players on their power play like Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, there is no excuse for stagnant and predictable plays.
In the playoffs, specialty teams are the difference between good teams and great teams. The ability to get the job done when the call is in your favour is key, and the Canucks really need to make sure that they find more consistency on the man advantage.
Especially with the amount of talent Vancouver is able to showcase on the first unit, they need to be better.
2. Better team defence
Jacob Markstrom can’t do it all on his own, and it’s time for the team in front of him to help out more. The Canucks allow the fourth-most shots per game (33.3). In their last 18 games, the Canucks have been outshot 12 times. That’s just not acceptable.
A lot is made of the Canucks’ poor defence, but it’s not all on the blueliners. The entire team needs to be accountable and play a solid defensive game together. The forwards need to do a better job of winning puck battles along the board,s and the team needs to work on breaking out of the defensive zone as a group.
From blocking shots to cleaning up the defensive miscues and getting in the shooting lanes, the Canucks have to start making Markstrom’s life easier.
Vancouver’s last game was a 3-0 shutout win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, and Markstrom had to turn aside 49 shots. In 11 of their last 18 games, Vancouver has given up 35-plus shots. By lightening up his workload, it will ensure that he will be fresher when the postseason rolls around.
3. Team discipline
The Vancouver penalty kill is 14th in the league with an 81.0 percent success rate. It’s not great which makes the fact that they take so many penalties even worse. The team has taken 231 penalties this season, fifth-most in the NHL. Vancouver can’t be taking careless penalties once the postseason rolls around.
Teams pounce on every mistake you make in the playoffs. If the Canucks are unable to clean up their discipline, it will have devastating results in the postseason. Besides, if Vancouver is constantly on the penalty kill, it will limit the amount of time for head coach Travis Green to get his star players on the ice.
Any situation where Green has to put Jay Beagle out on the ice over Pettersson is a win for the opponent. The Canucks need to do whatever they can to make sure that their star players are dictating the game, and not the other way around.
In the Canucks last five games, they have taken 22 penalties and gave up five goals. That is not good enough, and this kind of play will not get them far in the playoffs. Unless Vancouver can clean up their play, it will be a short road when April rolls around.