December 22 2013 01:28PM
Dale Weise is in a festive mood, and why shouldn't he be? Christmas is just around the corner!
If there were ever a "trap game" (or "look-ahead game", as some of you may know it) it would be this one. Sunday evening's tilt against the Winnipeg Jets has the perfect medley of things going for it to ensure that a bad performance would be followed up with talk that their heads weren't in it, and that they weren't in the right frame of mind.
The Vancouver Canucks are coming off of an impressive victory against a bitter rival. They then had the weekend off (spending Friday night in Chicago, and almost assuredly keeping the good times going Saturday night on Granville Street). Now they play against a team that's well below them in the standings, and as soon as they're done, they have 6 days off for the Holidays.
But hold on a second. While all of that is true they're still all professional athletes, and they're facing a squad in the Winnipeg Jets that quite frankly is not very good at hockey. Given how tight the Western Conference playoff picture is, using that as an excuse surely wouldn't fly with John Tortorella..
Puck Drop: 5:00 PM PST
TV: Rogers Sportsnet Pacific
There really isn't very much to say on this front in terms of adjustments, or anything like that. It's expected that we'll see the same lineup from Friday night's win in Chicago, with the only exception being Roberto Luongo taking back his spot between the pipes.
I'm only half-kidding in saying that I would've considered giving him another night off on Sunday, for two reasons:
a) On one hand he has started a league-high 31 games. I think that heading into the year the plan was to have him start somewhere around 60 games, with 65 being the high water mark. With 44 games left in the year, he's well over that pace, and it would behoove the Canucks to tone his workload down as the season goes along. And considering how well Eddie Lack has played this year, it would serve as a nice treat of sorts to give him a home start against an inferior opponent (like they did against Carolina recently, when he posted a shutout).
b) Somewhat more importantly, though, the 2013 edition of the Shapys - which we'll be covering on this platform, so look out for that - will be kicking off sometime around the start of the 2nd period, and you know they'll be on Luongo's mind. After all, he's considered to be a heavy favourite in the Celebrity Shapper of the Year category (which is an award he's looking to take home for the 2nd straight year).
But you know goaltenders are all about their rhythm and staying sharp, and if he were to sit this one out that would make nearly 10 days off for him leading up to the game against the Flames on the 29th. Anyways, here are some of the more prevalent underlying numbers through 38 games:
|Corsi Close %||52.4% (8th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.43 (8th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.14 (12th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.50 (26th)|
|5v4 SF/60||64.0 (2nd)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.11 (1st)|
|4v5 SA/60||40.7 (2nd)|
So that's the lineup for the Jets. Here are their underlying numbers thus far this season:
|Corsi Close %||48.3% (22nd)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.26 (12th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.47 (23rd)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.32 (28th)|
|5v4 SF/60||49.7 (21st)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.44 (18th)|
|4v5 SA/60||51.5 (15th)|
That Ladd-Little-Wheeler top unit is probably one of the more underrated lines in the league. They play against the other team's best players on a nightly basis, and drive play. Beyond that they have Evander Kane's line, which is for some reason listed as Line #3 in the image above, even though it's pretty clearly 2nd on the pecking order. Let's get one thing straight: Kane is a special, special talent.
He's a 22-year old power winger who will routinely be somewhere between a 30-40 goal scorer for years to come. He also shoots the puck like a mad man, being on pace for 350 shots on goal this year. And to top all of that off, he is a 54% corsi player despite not being sheltered in the slightest. He can more than hadle himself on the two-way front, and he's a total stud on the offensive end.
Guys like that are hot commodities. As a general, widespread comment let me assure you that your random trade offer of spare parts for Evander Kane will not work. But by all means, keep trying because there's certainly no harm in dreaming. Plus, if Gary Lawless keeps his Anti-Evander Kane crusade going, maybe he'll brainwash the team's front office into making a rash, miscalculated decision.
As you'll read about in the link section below, one of the main problems with this team is the lack of depth. I genuinely have never heard of either Eric O'Dell or John Albert, as both sound like dudes generated by the EA machine. Also, Chris Thorburn should not be that high up on anyone's depth chart..
But there are two issues with the Winnipeg Jets that trump the depth concerns, and they're the goaltending + coaching. Ondrej Pavelec is under contract for three more years following this one at a $3.9 mil cap hit; which I forget about sometimes, then remember, and laugh to myself. He makes flashy saves on occasion, and sometimes puts together very high save total performances, but for the most part, he's not good at his job. He has a .908 save%, and has given up at least 4 goals in 9 of his 29 appearances. It'll be interesting to see how much longer the Jets try to convince themselves that he's the answer.
And then there's Claude Noel. In doing some quick research for this preview I quickly came to the realization that everyone in the Winnipeg Jets blogosphere absolutely despises him, and would give up their first-born for him to be replaced. They've come up with the #noelogic hashtag on Twitter, which is awesome. I personally enjoy him, though. He often makes goofy faces, he gives hilariously weird interviews, and he looks a lot like Jeff Goldblum. What's not to like?
Our friends over at Jets Nation do a fine job with their analysis on the Jets. They track chances, and zone entries, and all that jazz. If you're even remotely interested in what's going on over in Winnipeg I strongly recommend bookmarking that site and using it as a reference.
A few days ago they wrote about the way the coaching staff has been using the forwards, or maybe more appropriately, misusing them. This final paragraph says it all:
It's clear at this point that the Jets have limited ability in their bottom six forward group. It's not just a lack of raw scoring skill, it's the fact that a rookie centre is expected to play defensive minutes, and Nashville's castaway Matt Halischuk is slotted as a defensive player with no evidence he's ever done such a thing in his career. It's that James Wright, Jim Slater, and Anthony Peluso are extoled for their defensive acumen, but spend all their time in their own zone against the dregs of the NHL. It's not an ideal cast of characters, but the coach is deploying them in a sub-optimal arrangement, and we're left with the question of how much a better coach could get out of this group.
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!]
- Jumping on the Jets: 3.50-to-1 that the Canucks score the 1st goal, and then win by 2 goals or more.
- Early Gift from the Grinders: 2.30-to-1 that either Zack Kassian or Chris Higgins score in a win.