March 03 2011 10:36AM
Canucks take on former teammate and Roxy Hall-of-Famer Shane O'Brien
Game Day Recon #65 - Predators @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have hit a pretty big lull in their play. They've alternated wins and losses in 11 straight games. They've looked disinterested in many of those games, even those that they've won. They're having difficulties scoring. Luckily for the Canucks, they built up a cushion at the top of the conference such that they can weather this storm.
The Canucks face the Nashville Predators tonight, a team facing a similar swoon and scoring problems of late.
The difference? The Preds are picking the wrong time to falter, as they begin the fight for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
The Nashville Predators are not playing well lately and it could cost them dearly. Losers of 5 of their last 6 games, the Preds have scored a measly 7 goals in that time, and have been shut out twice. Their leading scorer remains defenceman Shea Weber. Their leading goal scorer is Patric Hornqvist with only 17. Goals are a bit of a rare commodity in Music City right now.
The Canucks and Preds have their two meetings so far this year. Both games were understandably low-scoring affairs, given both teams top-level defensive ability. However the Preds victory came when the Canucks D was at its high point in injuries. That night, Chris Tanev, Yann Suave and Evan Oberg were the Canucks bottom 3 defensemen, and Sami Salo had just returned for his lengthy injury spell. Since then Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard have both returned from injury, Sauve has been returned to the AHL and Oberg was traded to Florida in the deal that brought Chris Higgins to Vancouver. So the Canucks should ice a much stronger lineup than their last meeting. Regardless, don't expect many goals tonight.
The two people who need to be a focus offensively for the Canucks are Martin Erat and Shea Weber. Erat has 8G 15A for 23 Pts in 30 GP, and has 1G 2A for 3Pts in 2 GP this year vs Vancouver. Weber (born and raised in Sicamous, BC) has 3G 4A for 7 Pts in 19 GP and 1G 1A for 2 Pts in 2 GP this season. Plus Weber is the Preds' leading scorer with 39 points. That would put him 5th on the Canucks, just one point ahead of both Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Burrows.
Meanwhile, the Canucks have to do something to get under Pekka Rinne's skin. Rinne is having a great year with 2.13 GAA and 0.928 Sv%, and those numbers are pretty much on par with his career numbers against the Canucks (3-3-0, 2.19 GAA .933 Sv%, 32.2 Sh/G). The Canucks are getting plenty of shots against Rinne but they need to make it hard for him to play in his own net tonight.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Move the puck swiftly out of your own zone. This is mostly a reaction to the Canucks last game (vs. CBJ), where the Canucks were god-awful clearing their own end. With a team like the Preds, who is struggling to score, you can't give them any free chances to score. Get the puck out and move it up ice quickly.
2. Rattle Rinne's cage. This is a game where I fully expect newcomer Maxim Lapierre needs to show why the Canucks brought him in. He needs to be in Rinne's business as often as possible. And chirping him and the Preds D all the while. The Canucks didn't bring Lapierre in to score 25 goals. They acquired him to be a shit disturber. Against a solid defensive team with great goaltending, it's a great opportunity for Lapierre to disturb some shit.
3. Stop playing Aaron Rome more than Keith Ballard. This is baffling, confusing, frustrating and maddening all at the same time. Aaron Rome should be the 6th defenseman right now. He cannot be out there on the PP. He cannot be out there with 30 seconds left in a tie game (see: last game vs CBJ). Get Ballard out there far more. And stop giving me a goddamn heart attack by playing Rome in vital situations.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Predators @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. No 'dog days' for first-place Canucks (Vancouver Sun)
3. Canucks in a funk - and first place (The Province)
4. Predators-Canucks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Load 'em up or spread 'em out? (On The Forecheck) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!