October 15 2011 11:16AM
Ballard and his hips are taking their talents into Rexall Place tonight to face the Oilers.
He'll probably get a penalty for that hit, though.
(Photo by by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Game 5 - Canucks @ Oilers
The Canucks haters must love the first couple of weeks of the NHL. It's the same every year. Slow start, mediocre goaltending, squandered chances, lack of chemistry.
Blah blah blah.
Tonight's the perfect night for the Canucks to make their doubters think twice. In case we forgot, the Canucks also started 1-2-1 last season. Game #5 - a very convincing 5-1 win.
Is it in the cards for Game #5 this season?
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
The Canucks haven't exactly impressed people with their lacklustre start to the season, at 1-2-1. Some are claiming its a Cup Final Hangover (as they look at a nearly identical record for Boston, at 1-3-0). Some have noted that this is an identical start to last season, and that the Canucks are just slow out of the gate. Others still are panicking wildly, screaming obscenities, and getting their lighters and Molotov cocktails ready for a trip down to Georgia and Seymour. The fact is that the Canucks faced two strong opponents on back-to-back nights and didn't get a single point. A good test to start the season and the Canucks failed.
The Oilers are a much easier test for the Canucks than the Red Wings or the Flyers, so tonight represents an opportunity for Vancouver to get themselves back on even footing.The Oilers have played only two games, and both went to a shootout. They played Pittsburgh on the Penguins second half of back-to-back games, and managed to rescue the game with a 2-1 win in the shootout. A trip to Minnesota saw the opposite result with the same score, as the Oilers fell 2-1 in a shootout to the Wild.
But the interesting storyline for the Oilers has been the fact that they have 3 points out of four and have done it mostly on the backs of their goaltenders. The Oilers goaltending has faced nearly 70 regulation shots in two games, allowing only two goals, while the young, skilled high-powered Oilers forwards have only scored two goals. That's not exactly the narrative you'd expect out of Edmonton to start the year. Oilers goalies rescued points? Oilers highly touted forwards failing to fill the net?
Burnaby boy Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has already been a bright spot for the Oilers, scoring his first NHL goal in his first game. He has however been miserable in the faceoff circle, winning only 3 draws on 23 attempts. Literally leading the charge offensively for the Oilers has been sophomore Taylor Hall, with 1 assist, +1 and 8 SOG while averaging 18:47 of TOI and 23 shifts in his first two games.
As for the Canucks, their top line has mostly played well, but they were downright terrible against Detroit. Arguably the most consistent forward through their first four games has been Cody Hodgson. (WHAAAAAAAATT?!?!?!?) Yeah, I said it! Hodgson, despite Alain Vigneault's efforts to douse his fire, has been creative offensively, defensively responsible and their straw that stirs the drink of his second line. In fact, it looks like AV may have seen the light as he refit that second line to give Hodgson two teammates playing with pace and effort (Higgins and Hansen) and demoted the two aging wingers who have shown no signs of life (Sturm and Samuelsson).
As for the Canucks defence, they need to pick up their game. Exerting their force against the Oilers forwards would be a great way to get their confidence back. They need to show their man strength against these Oiler boys... Uh... that's probably sounds more like an ad for NAMBLA than I intended.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
- Play a full 60 minutes. They haven't done it yet in four games. It's high time they start.
- Don't let this game get to a shootout. The Oilers have some absolute snipers in the shootout. The Canucks well... DON'T. End this game early, Canucks.
- Luongo has to be on-form. He is off to his typically slow start, so nobody who pays attention to the Canucks should actually be surprised. Tonight, against a young squad still finding its legs, would be a good time for Luongo to stand his ground.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
- Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
Hodgson keeps hammering, Vigneault keeps nitpicking (The Province)
- Canucks looking for that elusive first goal vs. Oilers (Vancouver Sun)
- Well-rested Oilers anxious to get going (Edmonton Journal)
Canucks/Oilers Preview (Yahoo! Sports)