Canucks at home and on the road are a tale of two teams
Two weeks into the NHL season and one thing is becoming painfully clear about the Vancouver Canucks: they are a completely different team on home ice than they are on the road. When playing at Rogers Arena, the Canucks have looked confident. They’ve been tight defensively and have scored timely goals. On the road, the Canucks have looked – for the most part – a team of individuals. They look disjointed, sloppy defensively, and haven’t been able to score the timely goals needed to win hockey games.
The stats are staggering eight games into the season and paint the picture of the two teams. The Canucks four home ice games have seen them score 13 goals while giving up only 4. The power play at home is 20% successful, while the penalty kill is 94.7% effective. On the road – where the Canucks own four of their five losses – the stats are opposite almost across the board. The Canucks have managed only 7 road goals, while giving up 15. The power play on the road is consistent – running at 23.5% - however the penalty kill away from home sits at 68.8% which is good for 26th in the league in that category.
Playing well at home and struggling on the road is nothing new for a Canucks team that tied Washington for most home wins last season, but struggled to a game under the .500 mark on the road.
While playing at home, the Canucks play an up-tempo puck possession game built around playing off the rush and overwhelming the opposition with overall team speed. On the road, the focus seems to shift to playing a more mistake free game instead of pushing the pace of the game to the Canucks level. When the team plays this way, they often end up on their heels as it takes away the skating advantage the Canucks boast and gives the opposition more time controlling the puck.
The Canucks also feel their injuries a lot more when playing on the road. The absences of Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Sami Salo, and Alex Burrows are magnified on the road as the Canucks have last change and are often forced to play to their weakest defensemen against the other team’s top players and cannot match their forward lines the way they would like.
For the Canucks to live up to all the preseason hype surrounding the team they’ll need to find the consistency to play their home style on the road. Having eight of the next nine days off should help them get some bodies healthy, but for the team to be successful on the road they need to play the same style of game night after night regardless of the venue. A true measure of an elite team is how well they fare away from the friendly confines of their home arena. Chicago was a top road team last season, and if the Canucks have plans on a deep playoff run this year they’ll almost certainly need to figure out their road play before that can happen.