January 26 2011 11:34AM
Former gold-medal Olympic teammates square off again. -- AP Photo.
Game Day Recon #50 - Predators @ Canucks
The Canucks shook off a scoring slump in a big way, as they trounced the Stars 7-1 on Monday. More importantly, the win saw Mikael Samuelsson, Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows and Dan Hamhuis all hit the goal column again.
Can the Canucks keep the momentum going for one more game before entering the All-Star break?
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
I know almost nothing about the Nashville Predators. The three things I know about them are:
1. Barry Trotz has coached there since the Prohibition era.
2. Shea Weber is awesome. And Canucks fans should want him in Vancouver.
3. They always have pretty decent goaltending. And Pekka Rinne is no exception.
I consider myself pretty knowledgeable in terms of keeping current with NHL stats and standings. I honestly had to look at the standings to see where the Preds were. THEY'RE FOURTH in the West! Wha??!
And do you know why I haven't heard much of the Predators? They don't have top scorers. They're aren't flashy. They win with defense. And defensive-minded winning teams aren't sexy, but they sure are effective. Their top point-getter is Shea Weber with 29 points. That would put him 5th on the Canucks, one point ahead of Ehrhoff. Weber is also ranked 113th in the league in points. And he's Nashville TOP point producer. But this is the weirdest stat to me - the Nashville Predators are tied for fourth in wins by 3+ goals.
Where the Canucks need to be wary is the Predators' physical game. The Predators are fourth in hits on the road. That said, the Predators have played more road games than anyone lese, so that stat might be slightly skewed.
But the thing about the Predators is that they don't stand out in any specific category. They're pretty good across the board. The Canucks have to be prepared to win 2-1 tonight. And they have to figure if they are going to lose, it might be the same score. The one category where the Predators lead the lead is teams that have SOB in their lineup! YEAH! SOB IS BACK IN VANCOUVER! Let's face it. The coaching staff and management but fans liked Shane O'Brien because he was a goofy, smart-mouthed party animal. In related news, The Roxy has reported that they have rebounded from a previously poor quarter. They say that they earned enough money in the past 2 days to finish strong in Q1.
The Canucks have had a lot of success over the Predators in recent years, going 7-3-0 against Nashville in their last 10 meetings. However, the teams split the season series at 2-2 last year. Let's hope the Canucks can go into the week-long break with a win, sending Henrik, Daniel, Kesler and Coach V to Raleigh on a high note.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1.You must press offensively for 60 minutes. The Canucks' struggles in the second period are no secret. But the Predators have their own issues in the middle frame. They're 27th in goals-for in the 2nd period (they are 1st in goals-against, though.) And their worst period for goals-against is the third.
2. You must watch out for Martin Erat. Erat loves to play the Canucks, and is quietly becoming a bit of a Canuck killer. He had 5 points in 4 games against the Canucks last year. HE has struggled with injuries this year, but is always a threat against the Canucks.
3. You must win this game at 5-on-5. The Predators are disciplined and have a highly effectively PK. The Canucks are not going to get many chances on the power play, and therefore cannot rely on those opportunities to win the game. In fact, I would be surprised if the Canucks get more than 3 power plays. So the Canucks have to win the battles at even-strength. Faceoffs will be key to victory tonight.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Predators @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Tanev has been a pleasant surprise (The Province)
3. Hamhuis to face former Nashville teammates (Vancouver Sun)
4. Predators/Canucks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Storylines abound for Preds in Vancouver (On The Forecheck) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY