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The Puck Stops Here

A Strategic Canuck Mistake

The Vancouver Canucks have played two games against the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs so far and lost them both.  The second game was an overtime loss.  While there are many reasons to explain their losses - luck being a major one - one significant reason that I haven't seen discussed is the lack of faith the Canucks have in their fourth line.  Of all players who have two games played in the playoffs Andrew Ebbett and Dale Weise have the least playing time.  They are Canucks fourth liners.

Ebbett has averaged less than four and a half minutes a game and Weise less than six minutes.  This shortened bench forces the rest of the Canuck forwards to increase their playing time and is hard on their stamina.  A team with stamina issues typically allows more goals at the end of games and that usually causes them to lose those games.  Yesterday they allowed a tying goal in the final minute of regulation and then lost in overtime.  In game one they lost with three unanswered goals in the second half of the game (two in the third period).  These are symptoms of stamina issues brought on by a needlessly shortened bench.  The Vancouver Canucks would be well advised to play their fourth line more - perhaps using players they can trust in more situations then Ebbett and Weise.  It is a simple strategic move that will counteract some of the problems they have seen in the first two games of the series.

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Comments

LiteWork's avatar

How about having the Sedins out defending a 1 goal lead in the final minute? Henrik just passed the puck out into the middle of the ice which was intercepted and led to the tying goal. Bad coaching.

Posted by LiteWork on 05/04/13 at 08:21 PM ET

Avatar

I don’t see how luck is a major reason a team loses consecutive playoff games on home ice.  It’s not as if they dominated both games and had a couple of fluke goals scored against them.  The Sharks controlled game 1 and game 2 was pretty even, with both teams dominating play for stretches.  And the Canucks are hardly the first team to reduce the minutes on their fourth line once the playoffs start.  I’d say a better explanation for the Canucks being down 0-2 is that the Sedins-Burrows line has been a complete non-factor whether it’s at even strength or on the power play. 

Too many minutes might explain why they faded down the stretch but it doesn’t explain why they’ve been absent in the first two periods.  I’d also argue that when it comes to fatigue the fact that they’re basically using 4 defensemen rather than 6 had a bigger impact on holding the lead in game 2 than using 3 lines rather than 4.  The Sharks lost Havlat early in game 1 and had to play that game down a man so it’s not as if fatigue hasn’t been a factor for them in the series.

One more fatigue note: using the third line for about 12 minutes, in a game that went to OT, is more telling than using the fourth line for just about 5 minutes.

Posted by RoneFace on 05/04/13 at 11:19 PM ET

Bossy_Rules's avatar

My own experience playing hockey tells me that stamina matters a great deal.  When you start to tire before the other team they start beating you to loose pucks, you start to cheat back on defense, you’re reluctant to skate hard on plays where skating will only give you a chance at doing something good.  Its brutal and if you’re ahead the end of the game can’t come soon enough.  I agree that its tough.  But maybe their 4th line is terrible.  Which is inexcusable because you can put together an adequate 4th line for NHL minimum.

Posted by Bossy_Rules on 05/12/13 at 11:40 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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