January 11 2010 11:27AM
Ryan Kesler and the Green Guys will try to psych out the Nashville Predators tonight. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Vancouver Canucks look to get back in the win column as they face the suddenly cooled-off Nashville Predators at GM Place tonight. Nashville comes into Vancouver with only one win in their last three games, while Vancouver tries to rebound from their setback on Saturday.
Despite the shootout loss, Vancouver has been one of the league's hottest teams, at 7-0-2 in their last 9 games. Their only losses were shootout losses, but more important was the number of goals scored in those two losses. Those two games represent the only two games in the last 9 where the Canucks were held under 3 goals. In fact, in their last 9 games, they've only been held to under 4 goals three times.
So the key to playing against the Canucks right now is to shut down their high-powered offense. Their two losses came against teams playing some very stalwart defence this year (Phoenix and Calgary). Nashville is not an overly strong team defensively, ranking 17th on goals against per game, and a penalty kill near the bottom of the league at 27th (77.4%). Nashville's road PK is even worse at only 75.7%. Conversely, Vancouver's PK has improved dramatically, and now has them in the top 10 at home at 85.3%.
Continuing with special teams, the Predators' power play is equally as bad on the road as their penalty kill. The Preds have scored only 9 goals on the PP away from Nashville, one goal higher than the league cellar dwellers. Their power play on the road is currently operating at 12.3%. Compare that to the Canucks' home power play which sits first in the league at 26.0%.
This game will come down to special teams. The Canucks hold a MASSIVE advantage on both sides of the special teams' coin. It will also depend on how well the Canucks' offense can rebound after being snuffed out in Saturday's loss to Calgary. Vancouver's success lately has been thanks to a high-flying offense, with lots of forechecking pressure and puck possession. Furthermore, the Canucks need to set this tone early. The Predators have a fantastic record when they score first or lead after the first period. The Canucks need to take that advantage away from the Predators and push early.
A win tonight for the Canucks would see them as the hottest team in the NHL over the last 10 games, and could put them back on top of the Western Conference (if COL beats CGY tonight) Turn the pressure up, boys. Let's see you back at the top of the table!