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5 Canucks Off Day Takeaways – Special Teams, Pettersson, Bailey, Hamonic, Poolman

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vancouver canucks, travis hamonic
Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko and D-man Travis Hamonic battling the Maple Leafs last season.

1 – The Vancouver Canucks power play has actually been pretty good. It clicked again against Minnesota in the home opener Tuesday night with a goal from Alex Chiasson in the 2nd period. His only other goal this season also came on the power play in Philadelphia.

First of all, 23.1% on the PP is not a bad number, particularly when the club’s man advantage is on a streak. They’ve tallied one power play goal in each of their last three games, that’s three in a total of 11 chances, a recent percentage of 27.2%. Both units present a threat. The Canucks likely would have had another if goalie Thomas Greiss hadn’t stood on his head in Detroit. You might recall he stole that game.

The first unit’s patience and perseverance paid off against the Wild, scoring after prolonged zone time and puck control with five seconds remaining on a penalty to the Wild’s Nick Bjugstad for hooking in the 2nd period.

2 – It’s the penalty kill that needs work at 77.8%, although if the game against the Wild is any indication, the club may have stumbled across a very effective PK specialist. Justin Bailey, added to the roster before the game against the Wild because of an injury to Justin Dowling, was impressive in his short-handed stints. He stole pucks, sprawled to break-up a play, and won foot races.

2:15 of Bailey’s total ice time of 10:06 was spent shorthanded. He didn’t offer up any offensive stats but he did block three shots. He was a helpless minus-1, a perfect example of why that basic stat’ can be so misleading, as he was on the ice when Canucks defenceman Jack Rathbone “delivered the pizza”  with his turnover pass in his own zone leading to Jonas Brodin’s goal for Minnesota.

3 – Speaking of penalties, through the first 96 games of last season there were 37 cross checks called, while through the first 96 games of this season there have been 66. So yes, the crackdown is real. While the idea was to protect players in vulnerable areas of their bodies like the lower back or neck, it was especially brought into focus to protect them from being hit from behind and dangerously cross checked into the boards.

Last night we were reminded that the crackdown applies to all areas of the ice surface when Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kyle Burroughs was called for a cross check at 4:57 of the first period in open ice. He came across pretty good on the side of Bjugstad in the neutral zone a good ten feet from the penalty box boards and knocked the Wild forward down. Burroughs was guilty of a similar infraction during the preseason.

So far in the regular season there have been five cross checking penalties in games involving the Vancouver Canucks. Besides Burroughs, Edmonton Oiler Kris Russell in the 3rd period of the season opener back on October 13th, Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the second period in Edmonton, Max Willman of the Flyers was popped for knocking over Conor Garland in the neutral zone in Philly, and Jared McCann of the Seattle Kraken was called for it in the first period this past Saturday night. Arguably all but one of them would not have been called last season.

4- Are the Canucks big enough and tough enough? It may be too early to tell just yet but the stronger, bigger, and at least for one night, faster Minnesota Wild made it seem like Vancouver has an issue in the physicality department. And how is physicality affecting Elias Pettersson’s play? From the guts of our in-depth piece on Petey the other day …

I refer to the Colin Miller‘s first period hit in the Vancouver Canucks game against the Buffalo Sabres. Pettersson took a hit to make a play crossing the blueline at the 4:20 mark, got buried, and then wasn’t very much of a factor the rest of the way. This is not to suggest he’s one of those “hit ’em once and he disappears” kind of guys, but the play seemed to be a contributing factor in his lack of engagement. Meanwhile, the Canucks believe this is more of a “finding his game” situation.

Most NHL teams have some level of size and intimidation along the back-end, it’s up front that sets clubs apart. The Wild seem to have some traditional immovable objects with the likes of Jordan Greenway and the old school Marcus Foligno. There is no backing down. The size and mobility combo might be another reason why Bailey is a nice addition to the Canucks line-up in a six-foot-four, 215-pound package. By the way, in five AHL games this season with the Abbotsford Canucks, Bailey has three goals, three assists, and four penalty minutes.

5 – As we explained in the earlier post Wednesday, it was quite an odd coincidence that Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced the return of right shot defenceman Travis Hamonic to the organization following a mysterious absence, on the same night that right-shot defenceman Tucker Poolman left the Wild game in the second period with a mysterious injury. Not that Hamonic will be replacing him in the immediate future. Poolman does have a history of at least one concussion from his days with the Winnipeg Jets.

It will be an upgrade once Hamonic returns to the line-up and finds his legs, regardless of who he bumps from the roster. He’d look pretty good with the sleek Quinn Hughes on his left. Hughes meanwhile, would look pretty darn good with anyone. He’s been one of the Canucks top four players through the first two weeks of the season.

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