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NHL Kraken at Canucks, The All-Important Discipline Sub-Plot

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Stay out of the box! The Vancouver Canucks know they’ve taken too many penalties in recent games. Too many away from the puck, too many up-ice, too many out of apparent angst. Cue Canucks leading scorer JT Miller.

“Obviously there’s good penalties and bad penalties,” Miller said Monday morning, “I’ve obviously taken a boatload lately with my stick, so I’m gonna try to move my feet a little more.”

Good on ya for coming clean. Whether it’s not moving his feet, or mild frustration, or temper, the time spent in the penalty box is costly whether the opposition scores or not. Too often they have.

“I just addressed that,” Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau responded Monday after the morning skate. “When we take more than two penalties a game the ice times get all screwed up, you have to play more guys defending and then you don’t have enough time for offence. We’re good when we take two penalties or less. When we start taking three, four, five penalties, we’re not that good.”

Neither of course is the Vancouver penalty kill, still worst in the NHL at 69.1%. Playing short-handed is playing with fire. The Seattle Kraken power play isn’t overly dangerous at 16.1-percent, but why take chances?

Miller’s slashing penalty against Jamie Drysdale of the Ducks in the neutral zone at 13:49 of the 1st period on Thursday was not a good one. It appeared to be a combination of his aforementioned ‘not moving my feet’ thing with a simple lack of discipline. Anaheim scored on the ensuing power play to make it a 3-0 game after one period and the wind was out of Vancouver’s sails.

Bo Horvat took a slashing penalty early in the second and the Ducks cashed in again. Moments later Quinn Hughes went off for hooking, and when Anaheim scored just two-seconds after he came out of the penalty box the game was essentially over. At the 4:20 mark of the 2nd-period, 5-0 Ducks with two power play goals and a third one that might as well have been.

Saturday night’s game continued a trend head-to-head for the Canucks against the Ducks. Coming into the game over their three previous meetings Anaheim had 13 power play chances, Vancouver just five. Saturday, the Ducks went two-for-five, the Canucks 1-for-3. That’s 18 chances to 8, not a great idea against the NHL’s 5th best power play.

It should come as no surprise the Ducks have a 3-0-and-1 record against the Canucks this season.

In the two previous Canucks games last week the San Jose Sharks went 2-for-3 on the power play as did the Toronto Maple Leafs. Apparently Boudreau wasn’t kidding when he said keep it to two penalties or less.

The penalty trend is one that has to stop if the Vancouver Canucks plan to continue their playoff chase.

“The discipline is where it starts and it doesn’t take much to go through the lines to see who the culprits are most of the time,” Boudreau said. “I guess the next thing is, if they continue to do it, you take ice time away from them, but then you’re cutting (off) your nose to spite your face because you want to win at the same time, so it’s a tough combination of getting everything mixed in the right way.

“It’s definitely been a problem taking too many not-good penalties.”

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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