If it had been the 2008-09 or the 2009-10 Canucks playing the Chicago Blackhawks last Sunday, there would probably have been a different outcome. But ever since they started to focus on their special teams last year, the team has become a major threat to their opposition when they are up a man or two.
Over the past few games, the Canucks have been dominant on the power play, including a scintillating five-for-six against the Blackhawks. Two of those goals marked firsts for the goal-scorers, with Booth registering his first as a Canuck and Rome getting his first non-empty-net goal as a Canuck. The last time the Canucks scored five power play goals in one game was a 6-1 win over Toronto on January 13, 2007.
The power play is one of the areas in which the Sedins thrive, and on Sunday night they combined for seven points, five of which were on the power play. As the first power play unit with Ryan Kesler, they are capable of shutting down any opposition’s penalty kill, with their smart passes and moves.
For a power play to be this successful, however, there has to be a full team effort. Everyone needs to be working together and trying their best to set up and score a goal, and the Canucks have been doing just that.
“We always talk about the importance of winning the specials teams battles,” said Manny Malhotra, “Power plays have done an incredible job…not only scoring goals but maintaining possession and getting a lot of momentum for us.”
The momentum that Malhotra talked about is an important thing for the Canucks. For their latest back-to-back games it was a power play goal that really got them going. The Canucks were blessed with an early power play chance on Thursday, November 10, against the Los Angeles Kings when Trevor Lewis went to the box with a five minute elbowing major. Shortly after, Drew Doughty was punished with a two minute penalty for cross-checking and the Canucks were on a five-on-three. 6:51 into the first period, Sami Salo scored a power play goal which sent the Canucks flying. The game continued with another power play goal from Andrew Ebbett and a goal from Aaron Rome, ending with a 3-2 win for the Canucks.
“It’s been good. It’s been clicking,” said Rome on the Canucks’ power play, “We’ve talked about making the other team pay when they take penalties, so it’s been good for us.”
Although the Canucks did not show up for the first two periods on Friday night against the Anaheim Ducks, they started to get things going in the third period with a power play goal from Kevin Bieksa. It was the only power play goal of the game for the Canucks but it led to a hard-fought period with the Canucks dominating every aspect, scoring two more goals and coming close to tying the game.
“We haven’t been good enough five-on-five to win games,” said Captain Henrik Sedin. “But if we can play good five-on-five, our special teams are going to take care of business most nights.”
They still have many aspects of their game that they need to work on, but the Canucks and their fans do not need to worry about power play situations. They are currently first in power play goals with 22, six more than the second place team, the Colorado Avalanche, who has 16.
“These are tough wins to get and we went in the last couple of games into tough buildings against pretty good teams and we got wins, so obviously it’s not going to be given to us on a silver platter,” said Roberto Luongo. “We’ve got to work for them like we did and we’ve just got to keep plucking away and keep playing the way we have in our system and the wins will come.”
With another game coming up against the Chicago Blackhawks on November 16, it will be important for the Canucks to maintain consistency on the power play, as well as develop their five-on-five play.