December 30 2013 02:44PM
The goal above came during a simpler time, when we could make fun of Steve Mason and all share a good laugh. But a lot has changed since the first meeting between these two teams back in the 2nd week of the season. Especially for the Philadelphia Flyers, who have been playing some really good hockey for a while now thanks to Mason's (very) surprising resurgence to relevancy, and Claude Giroux bouncing back from his early season funk to lead a potent offense.
The story is a little different for the Canucks since then too, though. They're 10-1-1 in their past 12 games, they're relying far less on the Sedins due to the 2nd line's two-way excellence, and the goaltending has been top notch. Back on October 15th Eddie Lack had one career NHL appearance to his name, and now, he two shutouts. Ho hum.
Considering the way both teams are playing heading into this one, it should be a good one. Read on past the jump for the final game preview of 2013.
Puck drop: 7:00 PM PST
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
There are 3 things in particular that I wanted to touch on here:
a) In case you hadn't heard by now, Frank Corrado has been called up by the team following Andrew Alberts' injury last night. He's expected to slot into the lineup right away, though we'll have to wait and see how John Tortorella uses him, and how much he trusts him.
Working in Corrado's favour is that not only did the Canucks play last night, but their top 4 defenseman also all logged a lot of minutes (with Hamhuis leading the way at 29:22, and Garrison approaching 27). A fresh pair of legs certainly wouldn't hurt, I'd imagine.
b) Eddie Lack will be getting the start again, which is of note because something has to give. On one hand, we know that goaltenders generally see a massive dip in their numbers when they start both games in a back-to-back situation. But as Thomas Drance brought up a few days ago, Lack has a pretty sterling record in such circumstances so far in his young career.
The decision here is an easy one, though, due to the fact that Lack had a relatively easy night v. the Flames, and had a handful of days to rest up prior to that game thanks to the holiday break. It also obviously wouldn't be optimal to throw Joacim Eriksson into the fire against a Flyers team that has been generating offense aplenty recently. Were the order of the two games switched - with the Flyers game having been yesterday, and the Flames game tonight - it might be a different story..
c) There's some good news on the injury front. Both Alex Edler and Roberto Luongo skated today, and while Edler will still likely be out for another ~2 weeks or so, it sounds like Luongo should be good to go soon enough. January 4th against the Los Angeles Kings seems like a reasonable enough estimate for his return.
d) The Western Conference is 131-63-27 v. the LEast thus far, and the Canucks are 12-4-2 against such opponents in particular. Just a little nugget to keep in mind.
Here are Vancouver's relevant underlying numbers for the year:
|Corsi Close%||52.5% (8th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.40 (8th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.02 (8th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.55 (26th)|
|5v4 SF/60||62.6 (3rd)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.35 (1st)|
|4v5 SA/60||40.9 (2nd)|
Boy, how things have changed for the Flyers. They scored 22 goals in their first 15 games of the season, went 4-10-1, and fired their coach. I remember there was a point roughly a month into the season where Alex Steen had as many goals at 5v5 as the Flyers had as a team, which was rather remarkable. Since then they have 72 goals in 23, and have gone 14-6-3 to jump all the way to 6th in the East.
Everything begins and ends for them with Claude Giroux, who has been all sorts of hot lately. He has 17 points in 12 December games, including this absolutely filthy one v. Columbus. Speaking of Simmonds, he has 2 goals in each of his past 3 games, and is a guy that I really wish was on the Canucks. If you're going to insist on having players that can drop the gloves then can they at least be dudes that are actually good at hockey, too?
Speaking of guys like that, Scott Hartnell will almost certainly never even come close to the offensive output he had in '11-'12 when he scored 37 goals, but man.. he's still a sweet player. Both him and teammate Jakub Voracek are in the top-10 in Corsi Relative in the entire league, and when they're out on the ice together at 5v5, the Flyers control >57% of all shot attempts.
Their forward group is pretty much as good as there is in the league, which makes their early goal scoring woes even more curious. Their defense, though, is rather suspect at best. Sometimes if I'm feeling kind of down I open up their Cap Geek page and instantly feel a bit better following that good laugh. I think it's safe to say that Paul Holmgren and Co. have mismanaged this part of the game, but it's okay because I'm pretty sure they'll just go out and sign a few more forwards this summer:
Here are Philadelphia's underlying numbers:
|Corsi Close %||50.4% (16th)|
|5v5 GF/60||1.97 (22nd)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.22 (14th)|
|5v4 GF/60||6.55 (13th)|
|5v4 SF/60||53.8 (13th)|
|4v5 GA/60||5.28 (7th)|
|4v5 SA/60||40.1 (1st)|
One final note on the Flyers: they've been shorthanded 156 times in 38 games. As a frame of reference, in two fewer games the Canucks have been on the PK 32 fewer times.
Tonight's game will put a bow on the year of 2013 for the Canucks, whose next game will be on January 1st, 2014 (feels weird typing that, and I'm sure I'll write 2013 by accident at least a handful of times over the next few weeks) against the Lightning. It's at this time of year that we get bombarded with countdowns of all sorts, highlighting the best and worst plays from the year that was.
So I think this is a good time to keep up with that trend, and plug the fine work that the Pass it to Bulis boys did with their list of the top 30 goals the Canucks scored this past year. Here's the top 10. The video I included below didn't come in at #1, but it was included in the top 10 and it might be my favourite one personally: