‘We’re going to figure it out and I’m not too worried about it.” — Canucks’ Quinn Hughes on struggling power play

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It was supposed to be the get-out-of-jail card.

It was supposed to be the ticket to the playoffs.

For everything that has troubled the Vancouver Canucks during their crazy compacted schedule, there was always the potential of a potent power play to look as good on the ice as it did on paper. Forget plodding and predictable. The first unit packs speed, creativity and heavy shot finish and should rank much higher in North Division man-advantage efficiency.

J.T. Miller believed the Canucks could build off their fourth-overall rating in 2019-20. The fact that they’re rated 20th this season, and coming off a poor 1-for-7 performance Monday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames, has everybody scratching their heads.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way because the hype was real.

“We’re pretty comfortable,” Miller said in advance of training camp. “In the playoffs, it was becoming pretty seamless. We had our plays and tendencies and it’s good to go into the season knowing what to expect. We know where guys are going to be on the ice. If the other team presents a certain system against us, we’re good at adapting.

“We really want to push ourselves to being the top unit in the league. We have a lot of push and drive and are committed.”

Fast-forward and all that anticipation has turned into some angst. When you fall from a 24.2 percentage last season to 17.4, it grabs your attention.

It has gone beyond the usual retort of getting more shots and bodies to the net. It had Travis Green calling out his first unit Monday because the Canucks’ coach knows how good it can be and how vital it is for team confidence and a daunting playoff push.

The Canucks lead the NHL in power-play opportunities (69) and have also given up the second-most short-handed goals (three). On Monday, they had just five shots on their seven chances, but Tanner Pearson did open the scoring with the second power-play unit just as a penalty expired.


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Elias Pettersson acknowledged Tuesday that the power play was “a bit sloppy” Monday.

“We weren’t making plays and breaking in the puck like we normally do,” he said. “We just have to keep high standards. We know we weren’t good last game, but we’re working on it every chance we get.”

If the power play was one-dimensional and had just one weapon, you could understand the 20th ranking. But when Quinn Hughes, who continues to lead all defencemen in scoring, is your fleet-footed, smart thinking and quick-release quarterback, that should be the catalyst for success.

Add the various looks that have been successful — Bo Horvat in the bumper position for quick releases off feeds from the sideboards or goal-line, Brock Boeser as the down-low presence and Pettersson either shooting one-timers from his sweet spot or running the show off the half wall — and there should be more success.

And when that doesn’t work, assistant coach Newell Brown can alter looks because the talent is there. If it wasn’t, then that would be a bigger story heading into Wednesday’s game in Calgary.

“We’re confident because everybody knows what to do,” said Hughes. “We definitely have the talent to get back to where we were last year. It’s also harder this year playing a team four times in a row — they’re going to make adjustments and we’re going to have to do that too.

“It’s a little bit of everything. We’re definitely getting our chances, but it starts with the breakout and getting into the zone and setting up. We’re going to figure it out and I’m not too worried about it. We’re going to get there. I’m excited about next game and we’ll be good.”


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Last season, Horvat finished tied for sixth overall with a dozen power-play goals, while Miller had nine and Pettersson eight. This season, Horvat has four man-advantage goals while Pettersson and Boeser have three apiece, and Miller just one.

“We’re just a little frustrated and we’ve got to get back to how we know we can play,” said Horvat. “We’re a little shaky right now. We have to sharpen up.”

And when the bench boss pipes up, there should be added incentive to be better than Monday.

“I didn’t think they were very good — I just didn’t think they were sharp,” said Green. “Their passing wasn’t sharp and they were on the outside. We expect a lot from those guys and there have been nights where they haven’t scored and I liked what I saw.

“Even though they got the 5-on-3 goal, it could have been better.”

Maybe Boeser put it best.

“You can’t make excuses,” he stressed. “We can definitely put more pucks to the net and shoot a little bit more. That’s when we’re at our best. We get them scrambling and it’s something we can focus on more.”




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