Center Bo Horvat (#53) of the Vancouver Canucks stops with the puck during the third period

Are the Canucks Starting to Figure Out OT?

The new three-on-three overtime format has not been kind to the Vancouver Canucks. They lead the NHL in overtime losses with 11, a monstrous number when compared to the five overtime losses they had last season. Much of the talk around the Canucks’ overtime disasters has been about the fact that they’ve simply been unlucky in overtime. Overtime goals have been scored against them on odd-man rushes, bad bounces, penalties, and sketchy line changes. But looking at the number of games the Canucks have lost in overtime this season already, it must be more than just bad luck that’s taking away wins.

Is it just that they cannot figure out the three-on-three format? Last season, with the old four-on-four overtime format, the Canucks fared just fine in overtime, winning 12 of their 17 overtime games (five wins were in the shootout). But this season, through 49 games, 18 have gone to extra time and the Canucks have won seven of these. Only three of these wins were actually in overtime (the rest were won in the shootout). Long story short, the Canucks have only scored three overtime goals this season, and it almost took them until 2016 to get their first.

The Canucks’ first overtime goal came on December 26th against Edmonton from Jannik Hansen (assisted on by Matt Bartkowski and Jacob Markstrom). On an Edmonton change, Bartkowski had tons of room to get the puck to Hansen, who scored with a slapshot a few strides into Edmonton’s zone. The Canucks’ other two overtime goals came on January 11th against Florida from Daniel Sedin on the powerplay (assisted on by Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler), and on January 15th against Carolina from Bo Horvat (assisted on by Radim Vrbata and Chris Tanev). Horvat’s goal came on a delayed penalty, so the Canucks had four players on the ice.

If you look at all the names of the players above who scored or assisted on overtime goals, each one is different. No player has been successful in overtime more than once – is it good that the goals are spread out among the team, or concerning that there are no players who can be counted on to contribute in overtime?

(Fun fact: the overtime goals that Hansen, Daniel, and Horvat have scored this season were each their second goal of the game. Hansen had two goals against Edmonton, Daniel had two goals against Florida, and Horvat had two goals against Carolina.)

It does seem like the Canucks are starting to figure out overtime though. In the first nine games to go to extra time this season the Canucks only had one win (a shootout win against Anaheim on October 12th). However, in the last nine games to go to extra time this season, the Canucks have had six wins (three in overtime and three in the shootout).

Ben Kuzma of The Province has pointed out that the Canucks’ new game plan in overtime is to focus on their speed. The Sedins especially have struggled in overtime (despite Daniel’s one overtime goal), and focusing on giving speedy players like Hansen, Horvat, Sven Baertschi, and Jake Virtanen playing time in overtime could greatly help the Canucks.

The Canucks have had some bad luck, not enough shots, some odd man rushes, and a lack of speed in the new three-on-three format, and a high number of their games have gone to overtime. Their lack of success in extra time has Canucks fans often dreading the idea of games going to overtime. But it looks like they may be starting to figure out this three-on-three format. Hopefully the tides will turn and by focusing on speed and playing different players in overtime, the Canucks might see some success in sudden death play.