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Shot in the Dark

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
"Shoot the puck!" It's safe to assume that's a common phrase among members of the Canucks coaching staff by now, because the team has a big problem: They don't shoot enough.

Before facing Detroit, Alain Vigneault and his colleagues compiled video examples of squandered offensive chances where the Canucks should have shot, but didn't. Perhaps there was some miscommunication between the coaching staff and the players. Maybe Vigneault didn't stress that the video examples were bad examples, not good ones.

In Detroit, the Canucks just couldn't put the puck at the net often enough. The visitor's side of the shot clock at the Joe Louis Arena practically got a night off, marking only 15 Canuck shots - four in the first, seven in the second, and four in the third. It was Vancouver's lowest shot total of the year.

"I don't think we were generating enough shots," said Markus Naslund. "When you're getting less than 15 shots, it's not good enough... Again, I think it was the offense that let us down."

The Canucks even had 7:45 or power play time - a rare game in which that number was more than the opponent's power play time (5:15 for Detroit). But they couldn't capitalize on it because they just didn't shoot the puck.

"I wish I knew," replied Naslund, when asked about the weak man advantage. "We had three power plays there in the first too where it's key to get a goal, especially on the road, and I didn't think we generated any quality chances on the power play. I wish I knew, but I don't."

Sami Salo's season debut didn't even help the team in that department. High hopes had been placed on the return of the hard-shooting defender - maybe with him in the lineup, some thought, the Canucks, and particularly their power play unit, could get some pucks through to the net.

It didn't happen. Salo couldn't muster a shot on goal.

"I didn't feel like we were dominated, but it's a concern for us when the other team gets over 30 shots," said Salo. "I don't know what the total was for us, but it was 12 for a long time. It's an area we've been talking about a lot, but sooner or later we have to get more aggressive."

Not that Salo is to blame. The Finnish defender just didn't have many opportunities. Even on the power play, the Canucks just couldn't move the puck around well enough to load up his big cannon.

And as for the rest of the team, only Daniel Sedin had more than two shots. Compare that to the top line of the Wings, who combined for 16 shots (Zetterberg 6, Datsyuk 7, Holmstrom 3) - more than the entire Vancouver team.

The low shot count wasn't because of exemplary shot-blocking by Detroit, either. The Canucks had just seven shots blocked. Detroit had 14 shots blocked by Vancouver players, and they still managed to pepper Luongo with 39 shots.

Was it because Vancouver just missed the net a few too many times? That doesn't explain the shooting deficiency either. They missed the net nine times, meaning that even if they hit the net with every shot, and the Wings didn't block a single one, they'd still only end up with 31 shots. Not the type of stat a team is looking for when they just watched a movie of themselves doing the exact same thing, and getting the Vigneault "wag of the finger" for it.

It might be somewhat reassuring if this lack of shooting weren't a recurring trend. But the Canucks are dead last in the league in shots, with an average of 23 per game after their game against Detroit.

They've only broken the 30-shot mark once this season, and that was against Calgary when they shot 31. That includes an overtime period in which Vancouver got five shots though, so through ten games this season they haven?t once put 30 or more shots on goal within 60 minutes.

They've played 30 periods of 20 minutes each, and have broken the 10-shot mark just eight times. And all of these shooting stats were at their worst against Detroit Wednesday night, and it's likely to serve as a wake-up call to the team.

"Our top guys have to do more five-on-five," said Alain Vigneault. "There wasn't much going on and there hasn't been much going on here for awhile and they need to find their game if we're going to get on a winning streak."

"Those are the guys that have been able to do it for us in the past. I firmly believe they want to do well, but for some reason [they're not]. "Just look at Daniel and Henrik tonight, they weren't skating well at all, and Mo and Nazzy weren't much better. We need those guys to pick their game up."

There's no doubt that before Friday's game in Washington, Vigneault and his coaching staff will be shooting the breeze with the players about shooting the puck, because if they don't get more shots on goal, they can forget about shooting up in the NHL standings.

15 - Shots for the Canucks on the night

16 - Combined shots from the Wings top line of Zetterberg, Holmstrom, and Datsyuk

8 - Swedish gold medal winners from the 2006 Olympics on the ice Wednesday night

0 - games Zetterberg?s been held pointless this season

22:17 - minutes played by Sami Salo in his first game this season

Just not getting the shots through.

They had some good pressure in the Wings zone, but that won?t matter when there?s an average of five pucks per period finding their way to Hasek.

Looked quite strong for the most part, especially against a team that has scored three or more goals in all but one game this season.

Unfortunately, a major defensive miscue gave the Wings a gimme, which turned out to be the game winner.

The Canucks power play gave up just about as many short-handed chances as it had chances itself.

The penalty kill finished 3-for-4, but those three kills were all Luongo.
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