March 10 2011 12:06PM
GINGER BRICKS!! PUT UP THAT WALL! (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
Game Day Recon #69 - Canucks @ Sharks
The Vancouver Canucks have been rolling through their road trip on a winning streak, going 3-for-3. Tonight, they will face their toughest test on this 5 game road trip as they travel to San Jose to take on the red-hot Sharks.
Game Time: 6:00 PM PT
Two months ago, the San Jose Sharks were in a tail spin. They were in 11th place in the Western Conference and falling. But they are on an absolute tear lately, going 14-3-0 since February 1st, including a stretch of 8 straight wins. They've only allowed a mere 31 goals in those 17 games. They are winning games in a way that the San Jose Sharks don't typically do --- with defense. In these past 17 games, despite their amazing run of winning, they've won 9 games by scoring 3 goals or less. And 9 of those 14 wins have been by 1 goal. And all three of their losses have been by 1 goal. Gone are the days of Sharks play wide-open end-to-end hockey and winning games by bombarding the other team. They are winning close, average-scoring (if not, low-scoring) affairs.
The Sharks' one glaring weakness is their penalty kill. They've allowed at least one PPG against in three of the last 4 games, and are ranked 20th overall. At home, the Sharks penalty kill is positively awful, ranked 28th operating at only 77.8%. The Canucks will need to get their power play working against a team that has recently started locking down their defense. One good stat in the Canucks favour is Antti Niemi's career regular season stat line against Vancouver. In 6 career regular season starts against the Canucks, he is 2-4-0 with a 3.17 GAA and a .910 Sv%. Not great stats and the Canucks need to exploit that, despite Niemi's terrific play of late.
One foe with whom the Canucks always have trouble is Joe Thorton. The Canucks need to do their best to keep the puck away from Jumbo Joe. Thornton leads the league in takeaways with 97. He's also 4th in giveaways. So it means the puck is on his stick A LOT. So keep it away from him. Oh, and Thornton, in 33 GP against the Canucks, he has10G 29A for 39 Pts. Controlling the puck with quick movement up-ice needs to be the Canucks primary game plan tonight. And again, keep it away from Thornton. Have I said that? Yeah, do that.
The Canucks will have Cory Schneider in the net tonight, and he's got a great stat line for tonight. Schneider is 3-1-0 on Thursdays with a 1.76 GAA and a .944 Sv% this season. He's also 7-2-1 on the road this season, with a 1.83 GAA and .942 Sv%. Schneider has been a road warrior this season and is arguably the Canucks unsung hero, next to Jannik Hansen this season. In the 17 games that Schneider has started this year, he has let in a measly 5 goals in the first period. He keeps his team in the game early and allows them the opportunity the get the lead, with which they play so well. More of that recipe will serve the Canucks incredibly well tonight against the surging Sharks.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Get your PP mojo working. It's a clear advantage for the Canucks, and against a team that is doing a great job keeping teams from scoring, they need to capitalize on any opportunity the Sharks give them.
2. Control the puck, starting with the faceoff. This will be a real test for the Canucks (who are 1st in the league in FO%) as the Sharks are second in the league in FO%. If the Canucks can control the puck, they can force the Sharks to chase which should lead nicely into ...
3. Win this game at even-strength. The Sharks are 28th in ES goals with 112. The Canucks are fifth with 141. However, the Sharks are 4th in ES goals-against with 108, but the Canucks are 5th at 110. So the edge here is clearly that the Canucks know how to score at even strength. They have to flex their muscle here. Controlling the puck (see #2) will allow the Canucks an easier path to getting the puck in the Sharks zone, and hopefully keeping it there, again provided they keep it away from Mr. Takeaway Joe Thornton.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Sharks (canucks.com)
2. Canucks Game day (The Province)
3. Canucks visit San Jose unbeaten on road trip (CBC Sports)
4. Canucks/Sharks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Sharks Gameday: Western Conference Goaltending (Fear The Fin) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!