December 20 2013 02:55PM
Eddie Lack used to enjoy being in Chicago. This'll be a different experience, you'd imagine.
The title for last night's game recap was "It Gets Easier, Right", and it turns out that the answer is a definitive "no". The score from that game is actually misleading, seeing as the Canucks completely and utterly dominated the entire 2nd period of a game in which they were only down 2-1. But a soft back-breaking goal by Cole late in the 2nd really did them in.
Less than 24 hours following the loss they're back at it, this time against the Chicago Blackhawks and their usual gimmicks; Jim Cornelison's extravagant anthem, Chelsea Dagger, Vince Vaughn, and some very good hockey players. It's far from an ideal situation for the Canucks given all of the circumstances, but there's a reason they play the games. Remember that time they were supposed to get slaughtered by the Blues at the end of their 7-game road trip? Yeah..
Puck Drop: 5:00 PM PST
Just like in yesterday's preview, there's two big discussion points worth covering in an attempt to preview this game from a Canucks perspective. The first, surprise surprise, is goaltending:
Roberto Luongo was pulled last night early in the 3rd period after surrending his 4th goal against on only 19 shots. While the first two were a direct result of poor defensive zone coverage, the 3rd one was totally on him. After seeing the guys in front of him dominate the first 15-16 minutes of the 2nd period, he let in a McSofty to Erik Cole. Listen, it's difficult to blame him given how good he has been in December, but the reason they lost on Thursday was because Kari Lehtonen was significantly better. It's that simple, really.
I think some people thought that he was getting the early hook so that he could go again tonight in Chicago, but it looks as if that's not the case. And remember, we saw a similar situation back on November 9th/10th when he was pulled vs. the Kings, and then Lack still wound up getting the start the following night in Anaheim.
Speaking of Lack, he has done everything you could've hoped to see him do this year. The team has won 4 of his 6 starts, and he has a 2.00 GAA, .928 save percentage on the season. But this is unquestionably the most difficult test of his career, and I'm fascinated to see how he responds. I expect that if the Canucks are going to win on Friday night, it'll be because Lack stops something like 40 of 42 shots he sees and steals it for them.
Meanwhile, the 2nd big storyline is on defense, as it appears the Canucks will be going into the Madhouse on Madison with Andrew Alberts and Yannick Weber both dressed in their top-6. Scary, I know. I expect we'll see very, very little of either of them tonight, which means that it'll be The Dan Hamhuis Show again. In his past two games Hamhuis has logged 58:41, played mostly against the likes of Koivu/Parise + Benn/Seguin, and has still enjoyed a 65-36 shot attempt differential. Let's get #HamhuisforSochi trending shall we?
Here are some of the more prevalent underlying numbers through 37 games:
|Corsi Close %||52.8% (7th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.39 (8th)|
|5v5 GA/60||1.99 (10th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.70 (25th)|
|5v4 SF/60||62.5 (2nd)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.24 (1st)|
|4v5 SA/60||40.5 (2nd)|
So that's the lineup for the Hawks. Here are their underlying numbers thus far this season:
|Corsi Close %||57.2% (1st)|
|5v5 GF/60||3.04 (1st)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.14 (16th)|
|5v4 GF/60||8.96 (3rd)|
|5v4 SF/60||56.0 (7th)|
|4v5 GA/60||9.76 (29th)|
|4v5 SA/60||51.7 (16th)|
They're a dangerous, dangerous team, but you already knew that. They're the best possession team, score the most goals per game, and draw lots of penalties. A big change for them this year - that has really put their offensive capabilities up to another level, if possible - has been the power play. They've gone from 15.2% ('11-'12) --> 16.7% ('12-'13) --> 24.6% (this year). It was always perplexing why they weren't nearly as good as you'd think they should be given the talent they have, but they seem to have figured it out this year.
If they have one flaw, it's clearly in net. Remember, Corey Crawford has 6 years and $36 million to go on his contract AFTER this season, which is really one of the only things that people who root against the Hawks have going for them. Crawford has struggled this year, and is now on the shelf, with Antti Raanta manning the net for them. Aside from one massive blow-up against the Leafs this past Saturday he has actually been solid (giving up 2 or fewer goals in all 9 of his other appearances), but still. You'd like to see him get tested and have to actually make some saves.
Would you like another reason to hate Duncan Keith? Well, I'm sorry, but this probably won't do it..
"I have, honestly, nothing at all on Daniel, or Henrik for that matter," Keith told the Vancouver Province. "In fact, I admire those two guys as players. I know just from being in British Columbia how much heat they took early on in their careers, and they could have asked for a trade and gone different places like a lot of young guys do. And they stuck it out and they’ve made quite a career for themselves in Vancouver. How can you not admire them? It’s nothing personal against Daniel."
Two specials via PlayNow.com.. [Don't forget to sign up with the Canucks Army promo code "CANUCKSARMY" to receive $25 worth of free bets!]
- Hanks on the Hawks: 7.00-to-1 that Henrik Sedin scores a goal, and the Canucks win.
- Quieting the Madhouse: 3.00-to-1 the Canucks score the first goal, and hang on for a victory.