March 23 2010 09:53AM
The Vancouver Canucks are on a one-game road trip. And it's close by. Not quite the Olympic travel schedule they had for two months, so I'm sure the Canucks will take it. Vancouver is in Edmonton to take on the draft lottery-leading Oilers tonight at Rexall Place. The Oilers, long out of the playoff race, are on a two-game winning streak and have beat two of the hottest teams in the league.
The Oilers are fresh off an impressive 5-1 home win against the San Jose Sharks and held on for a 3-2 win against Detroit on Friday. Both victories were the first two for rookie Devan Dubnyk, who has struggled all season but finally picked up his first career win.
The Oilers, despite the last two wins, are dealing a whole rash of injuries to key players. Khabibulin, Hemsky, Stone, Souray, Smid, Jacques, Jones and Peckham are all out for tonight's game.
The danger for the Canucks is to look past the Oilers as they face the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night in Vancouver. The Canucks have a terrible history of pandering to lesser opponents, when they know they have a stronger foe on the horizon. The Canucks need to finish off the season series strong, as they need the points to keep pace in the Western Conference.
Tonight's game is the final meeting between the Canucks and the Oilers this season and so far the Canucks have dominated. Vancouver is 4-1 against Edmonton this year, outscoring them 17-8 thus far.
Statistically, the Canucks lead basically every category against the Oilers, so it's hard to use stats to compare the two teams. So let's look at some stats that the Canucks need to improve going into the playoffs.
Two stats that the Canucks on which they need to focus deal with their defensive game. These are arguably their two worst defensive stats, and have been a problem in the last 3 weeks, so they need to improve them quickly.
The first is 1st Period Goals Against, where the Canucks sit 29th with 75 goals against in the starting frame. In the past three weeks, the rough starts for the Canucks have taken them out of games, or have forced them to come back far too many times.
The other key stat is Road Power Play Goals Against, in other words, shorthanded goals against on the road. Currently the Canucks rank 25th with 32 road shorthanded goals. Granted the Canucks have played a few more away games than the rest of the league, but they are still giving up too many shorthanded goals. In order to be a tight playoff team, the Canucks need to ratchet up their road penalty kill (23rd - 78.1%).
The Canucks should use tonight's game as a yard stick on how they can improve these two stats. Can they keep the puck out of the net in the first period? Can they stop the puck on the penalty kill? If they can take care of these two areas, the rest of their game will take care of itself.
Tonight, the fellas from Canucks Army will be enjoying the game at the Vancouver Canucks Official Tweetup, at the Library Square Pub at 5:45pm. Come out, enjoy the game and talk some hockey with some dedicated fans!
More information can be found here: http://canucks.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=40058