After an 0-f0r-8 performance on the powerplay in Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to New York Rangers, it’s fairly clear that the Vancouver Canucks need to make some changes to the way they play with the man-advantage, be they personnel or strategy changes.
The Canucks, you probably remember, were the league’s best team on the PP last season, thanks in no small part to assistant coach Newell Brown – who was brought in specifically to work on special teams – who decided to load up the top unit with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, as well as Ryan Kesler.
He also had Christian Ehrhoff and his powerful and accurate shot working the point, and that didn’t help either.
But now Ehrhoff has shuffled off to Buffalo, and Kesler has played just one game since off-season hip surgery, so there’s certainly been an adjustment period.
So far this season, that adjustment has seen forward Mikael Samuelsson on the point, alongside Alex Edler. The thinking is, of course, is that Samuelsson is a wily veteran as is able to thread passes to the Sedins and Kesler down low, essentially quarterbacking the whole show from a few steps inside the blue line. That was the job of Ehrhoff last season, but the difference between the two is that Ehrhoff also had a cannon of a shot that penalty killers also had to respect – that is something that Samuelsson definitely does not possess.
And though Edler has a booming slapper from the point – and hasn’t been afraid to fire away from up top – the problem for him is accuracy. He simply hasn’t hit the net enough (so far) to make him a viable threat. So what happens then, is penalty killers need not worry much about Samuelsson, who has no shot, nor Edler, who likely won’t hit the net anyway, and they can instead focus even more on the forwards down low.
It’s not been a recipe for success through seven games, as the former No. 1 power-play languishes in 17th, at 17.2 %.
And while the obvious solution would be to try Sami Salo on the top unit in place of the struggling Samuelsson, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has yet to make any switch – Samuelsson was still manning the point at practice Wednesday, so it’s expected he’ll be there tonight when the Canucks battle the Nashville Predators.
Perhaps tonight Samuelsson will prove the doubters wrong, and the Canucks’ power-play will carve up the Preds tonight for two of three goals… doubtful but possible. But if they put up another o-fer, then it’s time to make some changes, lest it cost them too many more points in the standings.