Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/7/13
John Tortorella looked like a New York City traffic cop Wednesday. Standing at centre ice while waving his hands and then pointing in different directions with his stick, the vocal Vancouver Canucks coach was giving a new-look power play some new practice options. With Alex Burrows joining the first unit with Ryan Kesler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin while Dan Hamhuis manned the point, those options should allow the league’s 26th-ranked power play to challenge the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. “We just want to have the foundation of a set-up,” said Tortorella. “I want them to play and I want their creativity to take over — I don’t want to school them too much. Other than a couple of games, I think it’s been good, but it’s puck luck, and 90 per cent of the time we’ve controlled the zone and the entries have been really good. We haven’t had the finish. A little change here will spark us. “Kes has a dangerous shot and just getting the puck to the net with Burr in front, is going to cause some problems, too. I just want to take what they [opposition] give us.” As much as having the option of Kesler shooting from the point or unloading a one-timer from the slot — like he did Tuesday when the unit was formed in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes — is the primary purpose, so is giving Henrik Sedin more setup options off the half-wall. The staple of Burrows getting to the net to set screens and tip pucks is of paramount importance. So is a thinker in the intellectual Hamhuis. Instead of Jason Garrison or Alex Edler unloading predictable and preventable bombs from the blueline, the Canucks are seeking a multi-dimensional attack because they’ve scored just six power-play goals on 55 attempts for a paltry and confusing 10.9-per-cent efficiency rate. The talent is there, but something is missing when you don’t have a power-play goal in 11 of 18 games. In the improving Hamhuis, the Canucks get an underrated quarterback and calming influence who’s adept at picking out the best passing options or letting his own shot fly. “I’ve been trying to work on my offensive game, and when those things come along, your confidence grows the more time you spend in the offensive zone,” said Hamhuis, who scored his third goal of the season Tuesday. “I feel I’ve got a role out there to work the puck and control the top end. It gives us a little bit of a different look, and Kesler is another weapon and a trigger point on the power play.” The fact that Hamhuis is now playing on instinct rather than thinking about adjusting to new rush coverages has made him that much more valuable. It has allowed Tortorella to go with Mike Santorelli between Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian on the second power play with Edler, Garrison and Kevin Bieksa as point options. Hamhuis doesn’t have the hammer from the point, but that’s really a moot point. “As far as quarterbacking and settling it down and getting the middle of the ice — which is very important for a power play — he’s one of our best,” added Tortorella. “He’s really helped us in getting it set up and puck control. He fits the bill. And he adds that dimension as far as composure in the zone and if we have some breakdowns defensively.”
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