Game #60 Preview - Clashville of the Titans

Cam Davie
February 21 2012 09:20AM


Super dreamy Alex Edler scores the shootout winner against Pekka Rinne in their last game in Nashville.
It's safe to say that Canucks fans have had enough of the shootout though.
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #60 - Canucks @ Predators

I'm sure the stat-nerds would love to tell you that the Nashville Predators, based on their awful possession numbers, are outstaying their welcome in the hunt for home-ice advantage. But the fact remains that the Preds have already functionally guaranteed themselves a playoff spot, and are a legit powerhouse in the Western Conference. They score goals, they have an enviable defence and one of the best goalies in the league. While it seems like it should be a given to simply write off the Predators, they're a leading team in the West, playing in an insanely tough division.

And the Vancouver Canucks should be worried about tonight's game, because the Preds have proven that they are legit. 

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 5:00 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The Nashville Predators are 9th in total goals scored. Yep. I promise I didn't make up that stat. They have scored more goals than teams that supposedly have mega-watt offensive power, teams like Tampa Bay, San Jose and Washington. When you think about it, it's kind of insane!

The Preds are 12th in GF/game and 10th in GA/game, and that is a great recipe for a playoff team. Nashville is currently in 5th place in the West, 9 points clear of a playoff spot, and are showing no signs of letting up. The only problem for the Predators appears to be the fact that the Central division is completely ridiculous. Columbus is the only Central division team not in a playoff position (and they're REALLY not in a playoff position), creating a massive logjam and a lot of desperation. The Preds look to be free and clear and into the post-season, but that doesn't mean that they're ready to coast.

The Predators like their home cooking, but they're aren't exactly breaking the bank with their home play. They are a mere +12 in GF/GA at home (compared to the Canucks' +28 at home), and they are a mediocre 17th in goals-for at 5-on-5. But they are 5th in goals-for at 5-on-4, and fourth in home-ice powerplay percentage. Yes, THOSE Nashville Predators, with no "all-star" offensive forwards, are stepping on their opponent's necks with the man-advantage. Basically you need to forget about what you think about the Preds: they score goals, and they're a great powerplay team.

That said... the Canucks are 2nd in road powerplay percentage, and first in total goals scored in other team's barns. The thing about the Canucks is that they are just THAT much better than the Predators in pretty much every category. Not by a lot, but enough to notice. For instance, Canucks road penalty kill is second in the league at 88.6%, while the Preds' home PP is ticking along at 22.4%. While the Preds' home power play is great, the Canucks road PK is just that little bit better.

The Canucks have embarked on their last big road trip of the season. They face Nashville tonight and Detroit on Thursday, and both team's are formidable opponents. The Canucks have been floating through several weeks of meandering play, though they've turned it around lately and were rewarded this weekend when they thrashed the Leafs and the Oilers by a combined 11-4. Yes the Canucks are out of their funk, and are ready to play. They'll need that offensive output against a Predators team that can and does score, has rock solid defence and possesses all-universe goaltending.

 

Numbers Game

This table includes what we believe to be the best "predictive" team metrics in hockey. Beyond the self-explanatory stats like record, powerplay percentage and goal differential, the table includes: 5-on-5 Goals For and Against Rate, which measures a team's even-strength goal differential on a per game basis. Today the table is somewhat modified because timeontheice's "mplayershots" scripts have been glitchy over the past week, so we've dropped shot% and shot% tied from the table. However, Fenwick% close is a great indicator of possession, and shows us which team is better at controlling play. We'll also include Fenwick% in a tied game state, which, has been proven to be the gold standard for measuring "real" team quality. We'll also include PDO to qualify a team's record - and try to isolate whether or not a particular opponent (or the Canucks) are actually as good as their record indicates, or whether or not they've just been lucky (or unlucky).

 

  Predators Canucks
Record 34-19-6 38-15-6
Venue Record (Home/Away) 18-7-4 20-9-2
Last 10 5-3-2 8-0-2
PP% 21.5% 22.3%
PK% 81.9% 86.5%
Goal Differential +11 +50
5-on-5 Goals F/A 1.01 1.23
Fenwick Close % 47.4% 51%
Fenwick Tied % 45.1% 50.2%
PDO 101.3 102.1

The Predators fenwick tied number is the league's lowest, yet they continue to pile up the wins thanks to stellar goaltending and dynamite special teams play...

Game Notes

It looks like it will be Luongo vs Rinne between the pipes. Alex Burrows plays his 500th NHL game tonight. Byron Bitz did not join the team on this road trip, so he will likely be out for the next 5 games, at a minimum.

Mike Fisher may still be out of the lineup for the Predators tonight (he's been fighting an illness), while Patrik Hornqvist and Brian McGratton remain on the IR.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. The Canucks road PP vs. the Predators home PK. The Canucks road PP is ranked 2nd, while the Preds home PK is ranked 27th at only 79.0%. So if the Predators start taking penalties against the Canucks, Vancouver will have an edge. The Predators lead the league with the fewest minutes played on the PK at home. That sounds like they don't many penalties, right? You're right. they also lead the league at home with the fewest times shorthanded. So the trick for the Canucks will be to get the Predators. But this Barry Trotz coached team is just too disciplined to let the Canucks simply trick them into taking penalties.
     
  2. Chaos in front of Rinne. The Canucks know full well how good a goalie Rinne is. They need to cause disruption and confusion in front of him tonight. And don't let him see anything. The Canucks need to go hard to the net and stay there.
     
  3. Get the puck out of your own zone. Fast. The Predators will feast on loose pucks and bad passes in the offensive zone, so the Canucks have to make sure they are responsible, but swift with the puck in their own end. Two passes and out. That's it.

The Links

Here are your top 5 links for today's game:

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Burrows to play his 500th NHL game (The Province)
  3. Canucks made right call in Booth (The Province)
  4. Canucks feeling right at home on the road (Vancouver Sun)
  5. Canucks/Predators Preview (CBC Sports)

 

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Cam was born in Greater Vancouver, raised in Greater Vancouver, and lives in Greater Vancouver. So, yes, he's from Vancouver. He attended his first Vancouver Canucks game on Dec 26th, 1980 and has bled orange/black/red/blue+green ever since. You can reach him on Twitter @tinfoiltuque or on e-mail at tinfoiltuque(at)gmail(dot)com.
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