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.
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.