March 09 2010 10:56AM
The end is nigh. The light is on the horizon.
The Vancouver Canucks play the first game in back-to-back nights against division rival Colorado Avalanche, as they wrap up their record-long road trip. Tonight's game is their penultimate game on this 14 game road trip, as they return home on Saturday for the first time in over 6 weeks.
Tonight's game is certainly an important one, with plenty of playoff implications. The Canucks are looking to continue their upward surge, while the Avalanche are hot on their heels, only two points back of the Canucks in the race for the division crown. The two teams have been neck-and-neck for a good portion of the season, now that the Canucks have overcome a slow start. In their last 10 games, the Avs and the Canucks have an identical record of 6-4-0, keeping pace with all teams in the West.
To the surprise of many, Colorado has not fallen out of the race, or even slowed down. They continue to put up points, with loads of scoring and a solid goaltending. The Avs are in the league's top 10 in total GF, 5-on-5 GF, total GA, and 5-on-5 GA, and sit 12th in total PK. Their main struggles, surprisingly, are on the Power Play where they sit 19th. Even more surprising is that their Home PP is even worse, where they are 25th at only 16.1%.
The two stats that stand out to me about the Avs is that they don't hit and they aren't a good faceoff team. If the Canucks can set a physical tone early and starting hitting the young Avalanche team, they should be able to control the flow of the game. More important in controlling the flow of the game is to control the puck, and the Canucks can do that by winning faceoffs, and owning the puck.
The Canucks can do themselves a huge favour by winning tonight. First, it will provide four points of separation between themselves and the Avs. It will also guarantee that they win the season series against the Avs, giving them the tiebreaker should they be tied in points and wins at the end of the season. The Canucks are already 3-1 against the Avs this season with a couple of lopsided victories, including a 8-2 win in Denver. A win tonight will guarantee a solid end to this epic road trip.
They're coming home soon, kids! Let's hope they come home win two more wins!