March 29 2011 09:46AM
Too bad for the Canucks that they can't cause #DanEllisProblems tonight.
Instead they have to try to give Pekka Rinne fits.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images North America)
Game Day Recon #77 - Canucks @ Predators
With the Northwest Division long since under their belt and the Western title essentially theirs, they have little for which to play tonight. If they need a little inspiration, here's something for them: a single point guarantees them the Western Conference. And Nashville is the only rink in the West where the Canucks haven't won this year.
Game Time: 5:00 PM PT
Unfortunately for Dan Hamhuis, he'll miss both games this year in his former home arena. That's the less serious part of the story, of course, as Hamhuis is out with his second concussion this season and already the fourth of his career. While the play that caused his injury looked innocent enough, it's his reaction after his previous concussion that has people talking. Hamhuis stated that, if he suffered more concussions, he would possibly consider retirement in order to avoid the long term consequences of head injuries. Dan Hamhuis is taking his health seriously, as well he should. He is thinking about his family and himself well before his love for hockey. The good news for Hamhuis and the Canucks is that he flew with the team to Nashville, watched the team practice and made dinner plans. All good news, as it means he's not squirreled away in a dark room, and he's not nauseous - both signs that his concussion would have been serious. That said, if he and the Canucks are being smart and extra cautious, Hamhuis shouldn't play again in the regular season. They have very little on the line now and, apart from Nashville tonight, they have a pretty easy schedule. Why risk anything when there's nothing at stake?
As for the game tonight, it has to be all about offense. The Canucks have proved all year that they can hold teams defensively. And Nashville scores, but they don't score a ton of goals. The M.O. for the Canucks tonight has to be "Put Pucks Past Pekka". The Canucks have had trouble this season when teams lock down against them defensively. Today is a good test for them to prove that they can exert their force offensively and overcome an opposition's game plan, especially against a strong defensive opponent in Nashville.
Tonight cannot just be about the Sedins, either. Actually tonight should have nothing to do with the Sedins, really. While the Preds defense keys on the twins, it's up to the rest of the Canucks forwards to generate points. The other 10 forwards need to put on their hardhats and WORK. They need to get every puck in every little dirty area. They need to get completely under Rinne's skin. They need to be in his space, causing mayhem for a full 60 minutes.
Nashville wins close, low-scoring games. They score just enough to win. The Canucks have proved they can hold the Preds to 3 goals or less, and that's usually a key to victory. But the Canucks have to score. Don't worry about holding the Preds to 3 goals. Worry about scoring 5 or 6 goals.
The Canucks need to be thorny, tenacious and relentless tonight. If they do that, they could set a new franchise record for consecutive victories on the road with their ninth straight tonight. In a year where this team is setting all sorts of franchise firsts, it would be yet another feather in their collective cap.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:1. Secondary offense. The Preds will focus on the Sedins. Tonight, players like Kesler, Higgins, Lapierre, Hansen and Torres have to get into every dark crevice, separate Preds D from the puck and go straight at the net.
2. Forecheck. Hem the Predators in their own zone as much as possible and force turnovers. The Canucks can't let the agile Preds D to set up and control the puck. The Canucks forecheckers have to take the control away from them.
3. Go for a full 60. Nobody will blame the Canucks for coasting through the last 5 games after tonight. But tonight provides an actual challenge. They need to come out skating hard from the opening faceoff right to the final horn. They need to prove that they can beat a team like Nashville, on the eve of the playoffs. Prove to the league that they'll go balls-out to score 6 goals. Go extra-hard tonight, boys.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Predators (Canucks.com)
2. Canucks go for record road streak (CBC Sports)
3. Pekka Rinne has gone from backup to Vezina prospect (The Province)
4. Predators/Canucks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Canucks @ Predators Preview: Playoff Preview? (On the Forecheck) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!