January 03 2011 01:00PM
Vancouver Canucks Daniel Sedin crosses sticks with San Jose Sharks Dan Boyle in pre-season NHL hockey Tuesday night, September 28, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Photo Credit: Steve Bosch, PNG
Game Day Recon #38 - Canucks @ Sharks
The Vancouver Canucks end their 3 game road trip with the second half of back-to-back game. Tonight, they visit the Bay Area to face the San Jose Sharks.
Can the Canucks go 3-for-3 on their road trip, and take the outright lead for first place overall in the NHL? Or will the Sharks take a bite out of them?
Game Time: 7:30 PM PT
The Sharks have been hot and cold all season. Right now, they're more hot than cold, as they've gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Keep in mind though that the visiting Canucks are absolutely the hottest team in the league right now, going 9-0-1 in their last 10 and 15-1-2 in their last 18. Positively ridonkulous.
For the first time in a while, the Sharks don't have a player in the top 20 in points. Rookie Logan Couture is leading the goal charge with 18, good for a 6-way tie for 7th. Couture has definitely been the biggest surprise for the Sharks this year. While the Sharks may not have a one player in the top 20, they do have 7 core players that score the lion's share of their points, and that's about it. Heatley, Thornton, Clowe, Marleau, Boyle, Couture, and Pavelski all have 27 points or better so far. But then their next leading point getter is Devin Setoguchi with 12 points. So while the Sharks have two solid top lines, their goal scoring drops off. Compare that to the Canucks who have 11 players with points or better. And two of those players (Raymond and Tambellini) have missed at least 8 games.
While one of their biggest disappointments has been free agent acquisition Antti Niemi, who has seen back-up Antero Niittymaki eclipse his numbers this year. Niemi is a very average 9-9-2 in 20 GP with a 2.91 Sv%. Compare that to NIittymaki who, also playing 20 games, is 12-4-3 with a 2.44 Sv%. Why is this important? Because it looks like Niemi will start for the Sharks tonight.
The last time these two teams played, the Canucks laid a whoopin' on the Sharks with Niemi in net. Vancouver prevailed 6-1 at home over San Jose after beating Colorado in their previous game. Let's hope the Canucks have a similar fate tonight.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Win the game at even-strength. Both the Sharks and Canucks have terrific power plays, and the Sharks have a decent PK as well. So the bread-and-butter for the Canucks this year likely won't be their key to success tonight. The Sharks rank 19th in 5-on-5 goals-for, while the Canucks rank 5th. The big key tonight for the Canucks is to win the battles at even-strength.
2. Take the body early. The Sharks, despite being a pretty big team, don't record a lot of hits on home ice.
3. Win Da Turd. The Canucks are the league's most potent team in the third period, while the Sharks are one of the worst defensively. If the Canucks can get to the third period tied (at a minimum), they need to step on the Sharks throat like they have done to so many other teams this year.
BONUS: FACE-OFFS. The Canucks rank 1st in face-off winning percentage. The Sharks rank 2nd. Whichever team wins the battle in the face-off circle will win the game.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Sharks (canucks.com)
2. Sharks try to stop Canucks tonight (The Province)
3. Sharks happy to be home after long but successful road trip (San Jose Mercury News)
4. Canucks-Sharks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Canucks At Sharks Game Preview: A Daunting Task Awaits (Nucks Misconduct)