March 18 2011 10:04AM
Kesler better not lurk in the faceoff circle today. They need him to BOMB IT!
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
Game Day Recon #73 - Coyotes @ Canucks
Mike Gillis has done a fantastic job building the depth for the defense. And that work paid off this year, as the Canucks have been decimated on their blueline, with every top 8 defensemen missing time this year due to injury.
Now they face a tough test of their offensive depth, as Manny Malhotra is out indefinitely with an eye injury. Malhotra has some big faceoff-winning shoes to fill. Who will fill those shoes?
We'll find out for the first time tonight, as the Canucks host the Coyotes and play their first game this year without their leading faceoff man.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
The Phoenix Coyotes wrap up a four-game road trip tonight here in Vancouver. They come in to town on quite a roll, winners of four straight and have dropped only 1 point in their last six games. Their only lost point came in their OT home loss to Vancouver on March 8th (Thanks again, Dan Hamhuis!). Most importantly, they're winning by scoring goals, with 23 goals over their past 6 games. While that seems surprising (at least it seemed surprising to me), know that the Coyotes are 8th in the league in goals per game. Why that's strange is that they don't have a 20 goal scorer. Doan, Korpikoski, Vrbata and Pyatt lead the team in goals, each with 17 this season. And they have 11 players with 11 goals or more. Compare that to the Canucks who have only 9 players with 10 goals or more... and the Canucks lead the league in goals. The Coyotes are the embodiment of "scoring by comittee".
What's surprising is that the Dave Tippett-coached team has given up an alarming number of goals. Their 9th in the west with 204 goals-against and are 7th amongst current Western playoff teams (just ahead of Calgary). So for all the goal scoring they seem to have, they're giving up a lot of goals. They have a mere +5 in goal differential, which again ranks them 7th among current Western playoff teams (+3 ahead of Dallas).
This doesn't happen very often, but it's always interesting to me when it does. So far, the Canucks and the Coyotes have played three times this season, and the away team has won all three games. Couple that with the current roll that the Coyotes are on, and that doesn't bode well for the Canucks tonight. However, the Coyotes are at the end of a road trip, are about to play 3 games in four nights, tonight is the second half of back-to-back games, and they had to travel from Edmonton to get here. The Coyotes are only 6-6-2 in the second half of back-to-backs. So all of those actually bode quite well for the Canucks.
Something else that bodes well for the Canucks is the Coyotes terrible special teams record. They're ranked 23rd on the power play and 26th in penalty killing. Normally this would be a good stat on its own. But with the Canucks playing their first game without Manny Malhotra, their best faceoff guy and key penalty killer, tonight should be a bit of a soft intro into playing the PK with Malhotra. The Coyotes should be tired and will likely take more penalties than they draw. Even though the Canucks have won their division and are almost guaranteed to win the conference, they now have a new challenge to play through. Sure, the defense is coming back slowly but surely with Bieksa likely due back next week, and Alberts nearing the end of his recovery period. Now they have to deal with a valuable, depth forward out indefinitely. Tonight will be a good test to see how the Canucks can deal with a new adversity - a great test for a team with little else to play for now.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Skate! The Canucks don't play again until Wednesday so they'll have ample time to rest after tonight. They face a team playing their third game in four nights and back to back games. The Coyotes should be tired, and the Canucks have had a good schedule lately. They need to outskate the Coyotes, which will draw penalties.
2. Doan, Korpikoski, Belanger. Watch this line. They played very well in their last game against the Canucks, looking quite dangerous on many of their shifts.
3. Play safe in your own zone. Without their leading faceoff man, and defensive zone specialist, the Canucks need to be careful in their own zone. 1-2 passes out of the zone and north-to-south passes. Nothing across the goal, and nothing east-to-west. Don't cause your own problems.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Coyotes @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Without Manny Malhotra, Canucks need 'other guys' to step up (The Province)
3. Canucks target 8 straight, franchise points record (CBC Sports)
4. Coyotes/Canucks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Game Day (Five For Howling) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!