December 15 2010 09:51AM
Game Day Recon #29 - Blue Jackets @ Canucks
It's a mid-week game. It's their only game in 5 days. Their next game is against the hated Leafs on Saturday in the coveted headlining Hockey Night in Canada spot. They're playing the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This has all the earmarks of a phoned-in game, doesn't it?. God, I barely even want to watch this game.
Let's hope the Vancouver Canucks have a much better attitude than I do about their game tonight.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
How the hell do the Canucks get excited for this game? Honestly! The BJ's have one main recognizable star in Rick Nash. Then... Nobody. I'm exaggerating a little bit, but it's not far from the truth.
In fact, the real star of this team needs to be the source of the Canucks' inspiration for victory tonight - Scott Arniel.
The former Manitoba Moose head coach has his rag-tag hacked-together team playing some incredibly effective hockey and on the brink of a playoff spot in a very tight Western Conference. In fact, the Blue Jackets, by virtue of these screwy standings, sit 11th but have the same number of wins as the Canucks, who are in 3rd. If the Blue Jackets could have taken a couple of loser points, instead of regulation losses, they'd be in 4th. So they're in 11th but are 2 points away from being in 4th.
That's nuts. I hate the NHL point system with a fiery, undying passion. But that's a whole other article for a whole other day.
Back to Arniel.
The Canucks lost a gem from their system. Actually, I made a case for the Canucks to fire Bowness and bring in Arniel as AV's assistant, with an eye on making Arniel the next Canucks' head coach. Instead, the respective coaches of the NHL's Blue Jackets and the AHL's Moose switched jobs, as Claude Noel went to Manitoba after being let go in Columbus in favour of Arniel. It's a bit of a strange scenario, to be sure. But it's certainly one that has paid dividends for the Ohio club thus far.
So the Canucks have their inspiration: show up their old minor coach. Show him that he made a mistake by leaving the organization. Show him that he should have gone to the Canucks to coach with a real winner. Show him we have a market that truly loves and cares for hockey. The Canucks lead the Blue Jackets (and handily) in every major statistical team category. Apart from being tied in wins, the Canucks have better stats in Losses, OT, Points, Points %, Goals/G, Goals-Against/G, PP, PK, S/G, SA/G, and FO%. So they need to play like they own the rink.
I know. I'm completely grasping at straws here. But honestly... What else is exciting about this game?
It has 'meh' written all over it. The Canucks would be well served to show their fans that they can get up for these types of games. They've had some trouble with that already this year (see St. Louis, Phoenix). It's time to fabricate some energy. Because you know full well that Arniel WANTS to win, and the Canucks are considered an almost-elite team; one that other teams use as a measuring stick and want to beat.
Well the Canucks should beat the Blue Jackets to a pulp with that measuring stick. At least it would show they were excited for this game.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Special teams. The Canucks have the league's best power play. The Blue Jackets have the 29th. The Canucks are the 5th best penalty killing team. The Blue Jackets are xxxth. The Canucks HAVE to win the battle on special teams.
2. Shut down the top line. After the Blue Jackets line of Nash/Brassard/Voracek, they don't have much potency. They may have Kristian Huselius returning, and he's always played strongly against the Canucks, but he's missed significant time this year, so he likely won't be at game speed for a few games. If the Canucks can isolate Nash's line and shut them down, their depth on defense should be able to handle the rest of Columbus' forwards.
3. Treat this like a must-win game. If they are having trouble finding the spirit for winning, much like I am having trouble finding the spirit to watch, treat it like a must-win. Treat it like a playoff. Why not? When you can't find inspiration, you have to fabricate it.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Blue Jackets @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Arniel cautions Blue Jackets to expect the unexpected from Sedins (The Province)
3. Jackets-Canucks preview (Columbus Post-Dispatch)
4. Vancouver vs Columbus Preview (CBS Sports/AP)
5. Blue Jackets at Canucks Preview (SB Nation)