Getty

The Sedins are no longer a power-play threat, and that’s a problem for Vancouver

1 Comment

The Vancouver Canucks are an impressive 6-1-1 since the Christmas break. And to the surprise of many, they’re still sticking around in the playoff race.

But there’s something decidedly different about this recent run, compared to the good runs of years past.

This one isn’t being powered by the Sedin twins.

In fact, Daniel and Henrik have combined for just five points in the past eight games. Daniel has been especially quiet, with just one assist.

It’s been two youngsters, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, who’ve been carrying Vancouver’s offense of late. Horvat’s 29 points (13G, 16A) actually lead the team — and that’s worth noting, because the last time a Sedin didn’t finish with the most points on the Canucks was 2005-06 (Markus Naslund).

It’s an interesting development for head coach Willie Desjardins, who still gives the 36-year-old Sedins the lion’s share of the Canucks’ power-play time.

Interesting, because the statistics suggest there are other, more dangerous forwards with the man advantage.

canucks

Mind you, nobody’s been that dangerous.

The Canucks’ power play, a great strength back when the Sedins were in their primes, is now a major weakness. It’s currently languishing at 27th in the NHL, with a success rate of just 13.7 percent. It went 0-for-3 last night in Nashville, where the Preds won it in overtime while shorthanded.

Granted, it was rookie Troy Stecher who made the big mistake that led to the Predators’ 2-on-0 breakaway. But the fact it happened with the Sedins on the ice underscored Vancouver’s inability to punish opponents for taking penalties.

Too often this season the power play has looked predictable, lacking in imagination. Henrik has never been a real shooting threat, and now Daniel isn’t either. That means the PK can focus elsewhere — say, by taking away Stecher’s point shot.

“I thought at the start of the year we were going to win on the power play, but it just hasn’t gone so far,” Desjardins told reporters afterwards. “I think that it’s a tough order for Stecher to come out of college and be running a power play; that’s a big step for him. He’s doing a good job but that’s a big step.”

It’s not just the power play where the Sedins are struggling. Five-on-five hasn’t gone any better. They haven’t produced with free-agent signing Loui Eriksson. They haven’t produced with Brandon Sutter or Jayson Megna either. They’ve been halfway decent with Jannik Hansen, but he’s only played 18 games due to injury.

Interestingly enough, the one linemate the Sedins haven’t had is their old one, Alex Burrows, whom Desjardins has been loath to take away from Horvat and Baertschi.

And that may say something — that the coach doesn’t want to mess with the success of the two youngsters, even with the Sedins in dire straits.

Not too long ago, the success of the twins was the main priority.

But times change, and when it comes to the power play, Desjardins may have to recognize that the Sedins aren’t getting the results they once did. Others might do better with more opportunity.

Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

1 Comment

— Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

— Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

— The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

— Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

— Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

— Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

Enjoy the games!

PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

Getty
1 Comment

George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

Getty
Leave a comment

Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

AP
Leave a comment

Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”