Canucks Offense Doused In Series Against Flames
The Vancouver Canucks amassed a respectable 101 points during the regular season, and their 48 wins marks the fifth most in team history, and second most ever for a team with a rookie NHL coach in Willie Desjardins. But since their Stanley Cup Finals series in 2011, there’s one glaring number: 13 losses in their last 15 playoff games.
The Canucks have won six division titles in the last nine seasons, including two President’s Trophies, and have only missed the playoffs twice in that span. It’s hard to explain how a team that has accomplished so much in the regular season over recent years has had so much failure in the playoffs.
One thing that is clear, however, is that the team needs a spark in their offense and they need it now, down 3-1 in their series against the Calgary Flames. Otherwise it may be another early playoff exit after a successful regular season for Vancouver.
Struggling to Score Goals in Playoffs
With 32 goals in their last 20 playoff games, an average of 1.6 goals per game, it’s easy to point at the overall production of the Canucks forwards as a key factor in their playoff woes.
Bo Horvat leads all Canucks with only a goal and two assists in these playoffs, and much of their offense has made little to no impact points-wise. Through four games, Vancouver has totaled eight goals, four of which came in their game 2 victory.
Despite the lack of production, the Canucks have controlled the play at 5-0n-5, with over 55% of even strength shot attempts. And while the Sedin’s have only a goal and an assist apiece, the Canucks have 24 more shots than the Flames when they are on the ice, and no other players have a larger shot differential in these playoffs.
Although Vancouver has had the advantage at even strength in this series, they have been average at best with special teams.
The Canucks have gone 2/12 on the man advantage while the Flames are 4/11 in the series. Calgary took the life out of Vancouver’s game fast when they scored two powerplay goals in the opening 10 minutes of game 4 and Vancouver never recovered.
Core of Players Still Crucial To Winning Series
The obvious reason so many Canucks fan still talk about their Stanley Cup Finals run from 4 years ago is because it’s the last time they had any real playoff success.
The last series Vancouver won, the 2011 Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver scored 20 goals and sent the Sharks packing in 5 games. Daniel had 2 goals and 4 assists in this series while Henrik had 1 goal and 11 assists. Not to mention Alex Burrows, who has been ruled out for the rest of the current series against Calgary with a rib injury, had 3 goals and 3 assists and a +5 rating.
Their top D pairing at the time of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa combined for a +7 rating – Hamhuis had a goal and three assists, Bieksa had an impressive 4 goals and an assist, including the game winning goal in second overtime of game 5 which secured Vancouver’s last playoff series win. To say the production of the Canucks core is crucial to the team having playoff success would be an understatement.
Glimmers of Hope for Vancouver
Being on the brink of elimination isn’t where the Canucks expected to be heading into game 5, but there are some factors that can give them added hope.
Ryan Miller was sharp in game 4 in relief of Eddie Lack, stopping all 15 shots he faced in two periods. There certainly isn’t much time to hope on goalies to perform at this point in their season, so starting Miller with the hope he continues his success is probably the best bet for Willie Desjardins’ squad.
Sven Baertschi, who was recalled from the minors before game 4 and was a healthy scratch, will make his playoff debut in game 5 and his skill could give the Canucks sluggish offense some new life. Baertschi was acquired on the trade deadline this season from none other than the Calgary Flames. Though his lack of experience isn’t ideal, Baertschi has lots of offensive potential based on his skill, which is something the Canucks could use more of if they’re going to crack Flames goalie Jonas Hiller and his 1.76 GAA/ .938 SV% in the series. The Canucks can only hope for more goals from Baertschi like this one in Utica:
Finally if there’s anything the Canucks showed in the regular season (that we’re yet to see in the playoffs) is the heart to fight and claw back and not be out of games when they’re trailing. They had the second best record after giving up the first goal and the only team in the NHL with more come from behind victories was, of course, the Calgary Flames. Vancouver squandered a third period lead to Calgary in game 1 and gave up the first goal in both games 3 and 4, which they went to on to lose.
One thing for certain is there isn’t room for error left for Vancouver, and the only time is now to ignite their offense in this series against the Flames.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.