Game #62 Preview - GTL: Game's a Total Letdown

Cam Davie
February 24 2012 11:42AM


Honey Badger don't care about future Hall of Fame goaltenders.
(Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #62 - Canucks @ Devils

The Canucks and the Red Wings played last night, and it was arguably the game of the season for both clubs. They put on the type of hockey-playing clinic that you want to show non-hockey fans and say, "See? THIS is how the game should be played. THIS is how good our game is."

Indeed.

And 24 hours later, the Canucks play the New Jersey Devils. /sad trombone.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 4:00 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

Don't get me wrong - the New Jersey Devils are a pretty good team. They sit fourth in the Eastern Conference, and are tied with the Canucks for the second best record in the NHL over the last 10 games at 8-1-1. They are an excellent road team, with the league's third best road record (on win% behind only the Canucks and the Flyers). So they're good, especially lately. The Canucks, playing in the second half of back-to-backs and having travelled approximately 500 miles late last night, have their work cut out for them.

That being said, New Jersey has absolutely feasted on their opponents in the shootout, going 10-3 in the shootout this year. The shootout is a skills competition and is basically a coin flip, so the Devils are a bit of a lucky team (though having Johan Hedberg helps).

Their 25 regulation/overtime victories puts them in 15th out of the 16 teams currently in a playoff position. Their +6 goal differential would have them 7th out of the 8 Western Conference teams. (I'm not even going to compare them to the Eastern Conference teams because the Southeast division is so terrible, that no team there even has a positive goal differential.)

The Devils have only 2 regulation home wins in the last five weeks (since Jan 19), and they're a mere 4-3-2 in that time. In fact their last non-shootout win at home came on February 5th. To be fair, the Devils have played only 5 games at home this month, but it shows us that their recent hot streak has been forged entirely on the road, and their overall home record (16-10-3) puts them 11th in the East, based on points earned. And just in case you forgot, they're playing in New Jersey tonight.

The Vancouver Canucks are absolutely destined for a letdown game. They had a hard fought, tightly contested shootout win against the league best team last night, then they travelled overnight. So Vancouver fans can't expect much out of their team tonight - it's unfortunately, but it's inevitable - this my friends, i a trap game. The Canucks are going to be tired and emotionally spent and the thought of playing in and against New Jersey doesn't exactly inspirea firestorm of emotion.

Frankly, after last night, any points they can scrape and claw out of this game will be a bonus.

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).

  Devils Canucks
Record 35-30-4 39-16-6
Venue Record (Home/Away) 16-10-1 20-10-2
Last 10 8-1-1 8-1-1
PP% 16.7% 21.7%
PK% 88.5% 86.6%
Goal Differential +6 +49
5-on-5 Goals F/A 0.90 1.21
Fenwick Close % 51% 51.3%
Fenwick Tied % 51.5% 50.5%
PDO 992 101.9

 

 

Game Notes

Cory Schneider will take over the reins in net after Luongo played in Detroit last night. With Brodeur rapidly reaching his expiry date, this is definitely one of those: showcase games for Schneider. Byron Bitz is likely to draw back in to the lineup, after missing several game with soreness in his hip flexor.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Economy of energy. After a long game and a long, late-night flight, the Canucks have to understand their limits tonight. Make sure the passes are accurate. Make sure you give each other space. And when in doubt... hang back. If the Canucks keep pinching tonight, they're going to get caught. They just won't have the same legs as they did last night. So tonight, the motto should be "Err on the side of caution.".
     
  2. Byron Bitz may play a larger factor in this game that you would originally figure. Since he didn't play last night, and he's set to come back to the ice tonight, he has fresh legs and a hunger to play. It's clear that the final roster spot (right now) is being fought by Bitz and Weise. Both players are eager to prove that they deserve to stay in the lineup, and Bitz has the added burden of proving that his hip is going to hold up for him. Look for an re-energized Bitz to be a factor tonight.
     
  3. The Canucks powerplay. The New Jersey Devils take more penalties than they earn. They've allowed more shorthanded goals than they've scored on their own powerplay. And the Canucks have a great road power play. The problem for the Canucks tonight will, once again, be their legs. The Devils lead the league by a WIDE margin in shorthanded goals scored. So if the Devils press and the Canucks just can't catch up, the Devils could find their window of opporunity. The Canucks need to be efficient on their powerplay... and maybe let's keep Kevin Bieksa (aka Mr Blueline Turnovers) to limited minutes on the power play tonight.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Devils aim to match season-high win streak vs. surging Canucks (Calgary Herald)
  3. Bernier comfortable in defensive role with Devils (The Province)
  4. Canucks-Devils Preview (USA Today)
  5. Canucks face another tough assignment (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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