Penalty Killing is Killing the Canucks

With all the controversy around the Canucks too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in game two, and the disallowed goal which was “kicked in” by Daniel Sedin, a lot of people are crying conspiracy and losing sight of the real fact, the Canucks penalty killing has been atrocious. We can look at numbers and everyone already knows just how many goals have been allowed while down a man but everyone’s missing the other red flags raised by all of this. I’ve been saying that the Canucks PK could really benefit from the likes of having Willie Mitchell and his long stick back in the lineup, or Ryan Johnson who’s out with his third broken foot of the season, but we can’t keep looking off the ice for excuses to our on ice woes.

For context, here are the powerplay numbers from the first 3 games of the series:

PP StatsGame 1Game 2Game 3
VAN1/4 (6:33 PP time)1/3 (5:40)0/4 (6:57)
LA2/3 (5:33 PP time)2/6 (10:59)3/3 (1:50)

With a total of 18:22 minutes of powerplay time, the Kings converted on 7/12 of their opportunities; the Canucks, with 19:10 minutes of total powerplay time, converted on only 2/11 of their opportunities. This is probably pretty obvious at this point but prorated over 60 minutes, the Kings have the best PPG/60 minutes of all playoff teams (22.9) and the Canucks (6.3) have one of the worst. (Only Colorado, San Jose and Nashville are worst.)

They say on the penalty kill your best player has to be the goaltender, and through the first three games I have no grounds to fault Luongo. Even after the soft goal he let in he’s still been playing substantially better than he was post-Olympics and through the end of the regular season. The question is: where is Boy Wonder and his Sidekick? What on earth has happened to Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows? That dynamic duo have been the Canucks two best penalty killers all season. They’ve been absolute machines on the PK, and between them, have six shorthanded goals.

Now I’m not expecting Burrows and Kesler to score a shorthanded goal every game, but I’m at least expecting our best penalty killers to show up. Last night Burrows was on the ice for all three of the Kings PP markers and Kesler was on for two of them. It’d be one thing throwing these guys under the bus after one game, but when the penalty kill has been nonexistent for three of the most important games of the season, and in consecutive games no less, you need to find a solution quickly before this is all over.

The Canucks PK lacks a lot of confidence and as a default they’re collapsing to the net. Ryan Johnson was instrumental in pressuring the opposing team’s point shot but this Canucks PK is giving the Kings blue line way too much respect. All their PP goals are coming off rebounds from shots at the blue line, or well outside the hash marks. Kesler and Burrows seem to have lost their aggressive PK edge, the very same one that pressured the point, created turnovers, and in Burrows’ case lead to five shorthanded goals this season. The Kings are taking the point shots to create the chances and if the Canucks want to have any chance of killing a full two minutes in game four they’re going to have to get more aggressive.

Luongo’s proved he’s brought his game to this series, they don’t need to worry about him (maybe just his knob). If the Canucks are aggressive on the point, if they pressure the Kings blue line they’re going to at the very least clear the puck, and otherwise could get the short handed break or at least cause them to take a penalty trying to prevent one. The Canucks have a wealth of speed and they need to use that to their advantage. This series is far from over, but if they’re going to make it to the second round they need the PK to shine.

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