Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sky Isn't Falling

Yikes. The Canucks are playing absolutely horrendous hockey right now and many, many people are hitting the panic button. Honestly I don't really blame them. The Canucks are playing as bad as they possibly can, quite frankly their play with the puck is bizarre. The giveaways are unbelievably bad... often stunning. They've been so awful that I've found myself laughing rather than getting angry and yelling.

The Canucks are in a very dangerous place right now. The Canucks are perilously close to falling over the cliff and entering that zone which consumes teams like the Senators and Lightning, once great teams now floundering as bottom dwellers.

That said, the sky isn't falling. There is plenty of time to reign this in and get back on the right track. This is the same team that was dominant in November. Right now their confidence is shattered. They need to find a way to put that confidence back together. They can turn this around. Here's what they have to do...

1. Confidence With the Puck
Right now the Canucks are handling the puck like a live grenade. They need to calm down and start playing like the NHL players they are. Instead of trying to get the puck to the guy standing behind the net they need to move the puck quickly up the ice to a forward because right now teams are being extremely aggressive attacking on the forecheck. This aggressiveness is compounding the puck handling problems, more pressure = less time = more mistakes. By moving the puck crisply and quickly they will force the forecheck to back off a little and the defensemen will have more time to make decisions and will gain their confidence back. But you can't do that without...
2. Puck Support
Every time a Canuck has the puck he needs at least one option on where to go with it. That seems obvious, but it takes focus and hard work. There was a play last night that exemplifies this: Bieksa had the puck in the corner and was pressured, he decided on a bank pass up the boards to the point. While it wasn't the greatest of plays it shouldn't have been a problem. Darcy Hordichuk wasn't in position to properly support Bieksa and he was outmuscled/outworked by the Phoenix defender resulting in a turnover (and I think a goal, but can't remember exactly).
You're not going to gain confidence with the puck when bad results occur every time you make the slightest of mistakes. The Canucks need better puck support so that these little mistakes don't turn into big ones. And puck support doesn't mean just standing in the right spot. You need to own your space of ice, you have to work to make sure you don't give up that space to your opponent. Right now the Canucks haven't been winning the battles for that space of ice. Without that space, you are not supporting your teammate with the puck, you're not an option for your teammate.
3. Forecheck\Getting Through Neutral Zone\No Odd Man Rushes
This one is obvious, you have to find a way to get through the neutral zone and establish a forecheck without giving up odd man rushes. It starts with the previously listed confidence with the puck and puck support. If you're doing that you're going to be able to get through the neutral zone and establish a forecheck.
Of course once your there you can't give up odd man rushes. There needs to be focus and most importantly effort in making sure there is always a forward supporting the defensemen at the points.
4. Specific Individuals Must Step Up Their Game/Effort/Focus
To a man every player needs to step up mentally and physically, but there are specific individuals who need to step up their game...
Alex Edler. Edler has been atrocious. He isn't doing anything right and should be sent to Manitoba to work on his game. Unfortunately Vancouver doesn't have enough options on defense to make such a move, so Edler is going to have to work through his problems at the NHL level.
Mattias Ohlund. Ohlund has been inexcusably bad of late. Poor decisions with the puck and a lack of general effort. Ohlund barely moved his feet against Phoenix. He needs to start leading this defense group. Right now his leadership resembles Naslund's (ie: non-existant).
Kevin Bieksa. Bieksa needs to start playing like he was a few weeks ago. Take that puck and move it like you mean it. Start being mean again. If Bieksa looks confident, plays mean and starts handling the puck the way he can, the confidence of the entire defensive core will rise.
If three of your top four defensemen are struggling you're going to be in trouble. These guys need to get it together.

The Canucks need to focus on these 4 things and build their game shift by shift. Forget about wins and losses, forget about goals for and against. Focus on making good passes and working to give your teammate some help/options.

The Canucks aren't going to get through this by acting emotionally as fans tend to do. No coaching change, player benching, or player addition/subtraction is going to flip the switch. The Canucks need their confidence back and the only way to do that is to get back to basics.


Markus said...

hey man, I love the Vancouver Canucks and i just recently started my own blog. I ran across yout blog and i somewhat look up to it. It is very good. I was wondering how you get he next game thing on your page and stuff like that, if you dont mind i would like using like that on my blog. My blog is Hopefully i will here from you! GO CANUCKS GO!

Thanks, Mark

TheCanuckFan said...

The next game thing is a script I wrote myself which took a lot of time, so I'm not into sharing it, sorry.

Good luck with your blog.