The Canucks need fewer men on the ice. Hold on, let me explain!
In 82 games last season, the Canucks were caught with too many men on the ice just three times; no other NHL team took fewer too many men penalties. Whatever else you could say about the 2018-19 Vancouver Canucks, they knew how many players were supposed to be on the ice at any one time.
This season, however, the Canucks have already matched that total in just two games. On opening night against the Edmonton Oilers, they were called for one too many men penalty; on Saturday against the Calgary Flames, they were dinged for two more.
It seems unusual for a team to go from that much discipline with their line changes to such sudden sloppiness. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but it is odd. What’s going on? Is this just randomness? Is it a reflection of a disorganized team or just what you might expect from a team with several new players?
Head coach Travis Green suggested the first too many men call was just a smart play by Oilers goaltender Mike Smith, who saw the Canucks were making a change and fired the puck towards their bench. The ones against Calgary, however, had no such excuse. Green said one was a result of a player going to the bench for a change, then going rogue and staying in the play.
Let’s take a closer look at both plays and see if we can figure out what happened.
Neither penalty is easy to swallow, but it’s particularly tough to see a too many men call while on the penalty kill. It’s an embarrassing way to give the other team a 5-on-3 power play.
There are a couple factors involved. One is the long change in the second period. The bench is further from the defensive zone in the middle frame, which makes line changes harder to execute. That’s particularly true on the penalty kill, where it’s harder to get and maintain possession of the puck to give your team more time to change.
The other factor is that Flames goaltender David Rittich got ahold of Jordie Benn’s clearance and played a quick up to the Canucks’ blue line, giving the Canucks even less time to make a change.
The other penalty killers on the ice with Benn when he cleared the puck were Tim Schaller, Jay Beagle, and Tyler Myers. Benn, as the left-side defenceman, didn’t have time to get the bench, so he stayed on. Both forwards went off, replaced by Tanner Pearson and Brandon Sutter.
Myers went for a change and Alex Edler jumped on the ice, but Myers, likely because of Rittich’s quick stretch pass, stayed on.
In this case, it appears to be Myers that went rogue, as it were. Perhaps the Canucks have more of an emphasis on the defenceman completing the change in that situation than his previous teams and was more focussed on defending the Flames’ attack in transition. Perhaps Edler simply jumped on too soon given the goaltender had control of the puck.
The second too many men call also came as a result of a special teams situation, though it was the power play instead of the penalty kill. It also involves a quick up from the goaltender, this time Jacob Markstrom, who moved the puck up to Edler as the Canucks’ power play was expiring.
The oddity of this one is that there’s no line change at all. The first power play unit of Edler, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller and Josh Leivo don’t go off the ice, which is the problem.
Since Edler was the only defenceman on the ice and play was returning to 5-on-5, Green wanted to get another defenceman out there. That defenceman — it appears to be Chris Tanev — just jumps over the boards and no one comes off. It looks rather ludicrous.
Obviously, someone was supposed to come off the ice, but who?
Pettersson was closest to the bench, but ironically, that absolves him of guilt, as he was close enough for the coaches to yell at him and get him onto the bench. He’s just standing there at the blue line, preparing for the zone entry.
The more likely culprit is one of Leivo or Miller, who are swooping across the Flames’ blue line, looking for the pass from Edler. One of them was probably supposed to swoop over to the Canucks’ bench and get off the ice. Perhaps it was Miller, whose unfamiliarity with the Canucks as the new guy could give him an excuse.
If that’s the case, then both of the too many men calls against the Flames were the fault of new players, which makes sense. That hopefully means this won’t be an issue all season and that the Canucks can iron out these line changes in short order.