March 24 2012 09:43AM
In the wake of Duncan Keith's five game "punishment" I expect we'll see a fired up Vancouver squad this evening, which should help the team match the intensity level a bubble team like the Avalanche should bring tonight. The Avalanche are a sneaky good team, they have a legitimate "shut-down" pair in O'Byrne and Hejda, and Erik Johnson has gone from being an over-rated underachiever last season, to being an under-rated game-changer this season.
Up front the Avalanche forwards are quality, Landeskog is a two-way beast and so is O'Riley. Stasny brings some elite passing skill, and the likes of Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie have made the Avalanche appreciably more imposing to play against.
That said, they don't boast the overall depth and team quality that the Canucks do. If we're lucky, we'll get some vintage fall of 2009 Henrik Sedin. I'm hoping he'll play angry, become a big green Hulk-like playmaking machine and carry the Canucks to victory tonight.
I'm busy today so the game preview will just include underlying numbers and the three keys to the game, so click past the jump for more.
7 PM PST
TV: CBC (Hockey Night in Canada). Radio: The Team.
|Venue Record (Home/Away)||22-15-1||23-11-5|
|5-on-5 Goals F/A||0.97||1.15|
|Shots Tied %||48.2%||50.3%|
|Fenwick Tied %||48.1%||52.1%|
The Three Keys
- Beat the Hejda. Jan Hejda has done a pretty good job all season of turning play the other way in tough circumstances. I'm assuming that the Avalanche's top defensive pairing will match up, not against Henrik-Kassian and Raymond, but against Booth and Kesler. If Booth, Burrows and Kesler can outshoot the Avs when their top-pairing is on the ice - they'll increase their chances of winning tonight.
- Alex Edler needs to continue to step up. Derided as "stupid" on the radio by the incendiary Tony Gallagher on Thursday night, Edler responded with easily his best game of the season defensively. When Edler plays like that he's a top-10 NHL defenseman, so if he can keep it going, the Avs (and much of the rest of the league) is dead in the water.
- Win the special teams battle. The Avalanche are a good team, and are a pretty solid special teams outfit as well. With the Canucks likely still agitated by the dirty hit Duncan Keith put on Daniel Sedin, and the lenient sentence he got from the NHL; and the Avalanche fond of playing a physical style of game, I expect there'll be a lot of special teams ice-time tonight. Coming out ahead in 5-on-4 situations and 4-on-5 situations may be the difference, which, usually suits the Canucks just fine.