Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/7/13
Dan Hamhuis won the lottery. But it’s the Vancouver Canucks’ power play that needs to cash in. With a rare man-advantage goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Canucks will stick for now with coach John Tortorella’s new power-play formation. It looks a lot like one of old coach Alain Vigneault’s power-play formations: four forwards and a lone defenceman, set up in middle of the blue-line, who tries to load one-timers for Ryan Kesler. The key difference — in fact, the only one — from last season’s version of this formation is that the blueliner is Hamhuis. Best known in the National Hockey League for his shutdown role as a reliable defender, Hamhuis possesses, arguably, only the third- or fourth-hardest slapshot among Canuck defencemen. Alex Edler, last season’s power-play ace, shoots it harder than Hamhuis. So does Jason Garrison, whose spectacular debut on the first unit a month ago was believed by some to be the sure-fire launch of a dominant season for the Canucks’ 5-on-4 unit. Garrison’s opening-night blast in San Jose, where the Canucks play Thursday night (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet Vancouver, Team 1040) was also supposed to be evidence of Vigneault’s doltishness for stubbornly refusing to use Garrison on the top unit last season when the Vancouver power play was 22nd in the league at 15.8 per cent efficiency. The Canucks’ power play on Wednesday is still a dismal 10.9 per cent, 26th among 30 teams. We’re not suggesting for a second that this is Garrison’s fault. His point shot is heavy and accurate and tends to hurt opponents brave enough to stand in front of it. Garrison also leads Canuck defencemen with nine points in 17 games. But, clearly, his presence on the power play was no magical elixir. For now, Garrison is on the second unit, opposite Edler. And defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who is having a strong season, is off the power play entirely. “This isn’t the first time in my career I’ve been taken off the power play,” Bieksa said after Wednesday’s practice in Arizona, shortly before the Canucks flew to San Jose for their second of four road games against formidable Pacific Division rivals. “I’m OK with it. I’ll sit and wait for my turn and hopefully the power play can get going. They’re going to try new things for sure.” Tortorella is going to try new things for sure.
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