Canuck power play needs 'more men in motion'

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks centre Brad Richardson (15) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63).
 

Vancouver Canucks centre Brad Richardson (15) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63).

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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VANCOUVER - The Canuck power play entered the playoffs on a pretty little 11-for-33 run but, in Game 1 against the Calgary Flames, it went 0-for-3 in what turned out to be a one-goal loss.

So what happened?

“We didn’t have enough motion,” Canuck point man Yannick Weber explained Thursday following practice at UBC. “We kind of kept it on the same side for a bit too long and it’s tough to open up those shooting lanes in the middle. I think if we rotate to the other side, it will open up a little bit more.”

Weber’s one-timer has been a gigantic weapon of late but, as he noted, the Flames took it away and dared the Canucks to find another way. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series goes Friday night at Rogers Arena.

“It was pretty clear that they really committed two guys to my shooting lane,” Weber continued. “If they are going to take the one-timer away, maybe we have to look for some low plays, or some other options. We’ve had a first look at their P.K. and they certainly did their job. Now it’s up to us to look for different things.”

HURT, WHO ME? Flames first-line centre Sean Monahan insisted Thursday he is not injured. Monahan barely skated for five days before the series began, he didn’t skate Thursday and was only 3-for-12 on faceoffs during Wednesday’s 2-1 Flames’ victory. He was also minus-1.

“I’ve heard a lot of things lately about what’s wrong with me,” Monahan said, chuckling. “I’m perfectly fine. I was sick for a little there but I’m good to go. I got a lot of texts before the game Wednesday asking me if my shoulder is okay and stuff like that and I wasn’t really sure what they were talking about. A lot of people, I guess, can speculate things. I’m 100 per cent.

“Obviously I don’t think I played my best game (Wednesday). I know I can be better and that’s what I’m going to be.”

Just in case there was any doubt about Monahan’s health, Flames coach Bob Hartley set the prying media straight.

“Sean Monahan has no shoulder injury,” declared Hartley. “He is not injured.”

RICHIE ITCHY: Canuck centre Brad Richardson (ankle) played just his third game in three months Wednesday but survived it and was on the ice for Thursday’s full team practice. He assessed his performance as “all right” and hopes to be a lot better for Game 2.

“I thought I did okay,” said Richardson, who had three shots on goal and was 6-for-10 on faceoffs. “Obviously, in the ideal situation, I would have been playing all along and up to speed. I was just trying to keep it simple and keep my shifts short. There was definitely some rust there. I haven’t skated a whole lot in the last little while so it was tough. But I knew what to expect and how to approach it.

“I think I was fine with the pace of the game but the puck handling was not quite there and the timing was a little bit off.”

Richardson played 12:46, which was below his season average of 14:28.

QUOTABLE: “I thought for just his second NHL game, he played really well. He took pucks to the net and made some stuff happen. He’s a special player but, hopefully, he doesn’t turn it on next game.” – Canuck rookie Bo Horvat on Flames counterpart Sam Bennett, an old foe from the Ontario Hockey League.

THE STARTING FIVE: GAME 2

TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE

The Canucks had a full practice Thursday with defenceman Kevin Bieksa the lone absentee. His spot alongside Luca Sbisa was filled by seventh man Ryan Stanton but coach Willie Desjardins said he expects Bieksa to play in Game 2. “I think he’ll be ready,” said Desjardins without offering further explanation. Desjardins, by the way, did not shake up any of his forward lines at practice. The Flames held an optional.

NO TIME FOR SLUMPING

Radim Vrbata led the Canucks in goals with 31 during the regular season and his longest drought was five games. But now he has gone cold at the worst possible time and hasn’t scored in seven. “It’s not about me, it’s about us getting wins,” said Vrbata. “It would be nice to help out with the goals and get those wins but we just started playoffs. It’s only Game 1.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Chris Higgins has gone 15 playoff games without a point, dating back to Game 2 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final when he assisted on Alex Burrows’s first-period power-play goal… In their last three home games against the Flames, the Canucks have scored just four times and one of those was an own goal when Dennis Wideman’s errant pass to the point during a delayed penalty to Luca Sbisa wound up in the Flames’ net.

EYE OF THE TIGER

The Flames’ Game 1 scoring hero Kris Russell is well known to Desjardins, who coached Russell for four years when both were members of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. Desjardins said Russell, 27, hasn’t changed much. “Probably the one thing he does now is maybe defend better and block more shots,” explained Desjardins. “He always had a great heart and was such a great skater.”

QUOTABLE

“You kind of have to put it behind you quickly. You obviously think about it and it’s something you don’t want to happen but that kind of stuff is going to happen. It’s a seven-game series for a reason, right? You can’t dwell on the past.” – Canuck rookie Bo Horvat on the emotional aftermath of his line being on the ice for Kris Russell’s Game 1 winning goal.

epap@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks centre Brad Richardson (15) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63).
 

Vancouver Canucks centre Brad Richardson (15) fights for control of the puck with Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett (63).

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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