The Vancouver Canucks have lost all but one of their last eight games; several of the losses were close, having gone to overtime or a shootout. Throughout the losses there have been two things the Canucks have been doing right: generating shots and effectively killing penalties. However, as coach John Tortorella told the Vancouver Sun, “It’s a crazy game when it comes to results.”
In the last eight games, the Canucks have out-shot their opponents six times. In a loss against Dallas on November 17th, the Canucks out-shot the Stars 43 to 23, but fell 2-1. They are averaging 35 shots a game, Ryan Kesler leads the team with 98 shots (fifth in the league) and Alex Burrows has 42 shots in just 14 games. While statistics are certainly not everything, there is no doubt the Canucks are sending a lot of rubber towards opponent’s nets. However, at the same time, the Canucks have struggled to score. Burrows, for example, has zero goals despite his 42 shots.
“I’m still stuck at zero but I’ve got to stay positive,” Burrows told the Vancouver Sun after the frustrating game against Dallas in which he hit the post. “I’ve been through this before. It’s not the best shot, they just find a way to trickle in.”
When it comes to the penalty kill, the Canucks seem to have mastered preventing the other team from getting shots on their net. Throughout the month of November they killed 33 of 35 penalties and currently have the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill percentage with 89.5%.
The secret to their success? A more aggressive set-up on the penalty kill. During the penalty kill, their forecheck in the other team’s end has been more aggressive and they have been more aggressively checking the opponent’s players stationed on the Canucks’ blue line. Chris Tanev told the Globe and Mail that they have also been focusing particularly on players from other teams who might be dangerous on the powerplay and how to hold them back. Tanev, along with Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Brad Richardson, and even the Sedins have been getting time on the penalty kill.
“It’s a willingness to do whatever it takes to kill the penalty,” Ryan Kesler told the Globe and Mail. “It’s about will.”
The month of November, which still has two games left in it for the Canucks, has been full of bad games, tight games, bad luck and a waved off goal – it is good to know that they are doing at least some things right.