Out of context, it might seem odd to refer to the Vancouver Canucks’ special teams as a problem. After all, they’ve scored the same amount of goals (six) on the power play as the San Jose Sharks produced through three games. Yet when you dig a little deeper, it’s an area of serious concern as the two teams prepare for Game 4 (which can be seen today at 3 p.m. ET on NBC).
First and foremost, the Canucks must find an answer for the stout Sharks’ power play. They were lucky San Jose only received one man advantage in Game 1 and two in Game 2 because the Sharks converted on all three of those chances. San Jose continued that stunning trend of efficiency by pushing that mark to 5-for-5 with two goals early in the first period of Game 3. Ryane Clowe scored that fifth goal on the front end of a high-sticking double-minor before the Canucks finally managed to earn their first successful kill of the series. (Although there was still an eventful moment or two.)
The Canucks penalty kill kept the game from getting downright embarrassing in the second period, but Dan Boyle scored what (surprisingly) ended up being the game-winner on a 5-on-3 in the third. The Sharks finished the game 3 for 10 to push their total mark to an outstanding 6 for 13. When you consider the lower level of urgency of some of those power plays, they were probably even better than the stats would indicate.
Vancouver’s power play was disappointing in Game 3, too.
On paper, the Canucks power play isn’t lagging too far behind, with a 6 for 18 overall mark. Yet that stat doesn’t capture how disappointing the team’s man advantage was in Game 3. The Canucks had a chance to cut into what was then a 3-0 lead with two 5-on-3 power plays. It seemed like they were bound to get a goal when Sharks forward David Desjardins took another penalty right as he left the penalty box to put the second 5-on-3 in motion, yet Vancouver failed to score. All the Canucks managed was three combined shots on goal in that span.
“That was our chance to come back in the game, I thought,” Daniel Sedin said in regards to the failed 5-on-3s. “They blocked a lot shots. I thought we played it pretty good, but they blocked a lot of shots so we need to maybe hold on to the puck even more and move it around, but we got the shots we wanted. They just didn’t make it to the net.”
On the bright side, Vancouver created two goals on their last unusual power play opportunity. Jamie McGinn received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a boarding hit on Aaaron Rome in the third period, handing the Canucks five minutes of uninterrupted power play time. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa scored goals on that major advantage to make it 4-3, but the Sharks held on to win the game.
Those two goals helped Vancouver get back into the game, but ultimately all that did was make the contrast between the two teams’ power plays less jarring. When you place the results in the proper context, it’s difficult to shake the notion that the Sharks can stop the Canucks power play when they must while San Jose can score goals on their own opportunities almost at will.
Simply put, the Canucks cannot expect to win this series if the Sharks continue to score on nearly half of their power plays. It’s a small sample so Vancouver shouldn’t go into full-on panic mode, but it remains a genuine concern regardless. Whether it means changing up their strategy or personnel, Alain Vigneault and the Canucks must find a way to clear up this issue or they could be in big trouble.