March 05 2013 03:27PM
The Canucks need to figure out a way to beat Antti Niemi, which has been easier said than done this season.
The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks come into Tuesday night's game bearing some serious similarities, even if their respectives paths in getting there have been different. They have nearly identical records, their underlying numbers are comparable, and come playoff time, I think they've both got a legitimate shot to make a run.
This will mark their first meeting since January 27th - only the 5th contest of the early season for the Canucks - when the Sharks took care of business with a score of 4-1. Yet just like these two teams, that game was close; much closer than the score would indicate. Despite a dreadful start and some terrible shooting luck, the Canucks were in it until some dumb penalties ultimately derailed their efforts.
Read on Past the Jump for More on the Game.
Puckdrop: 7 PM PST
Radio: Team 1040
Television: Rogers Sportsnet Pacific
Before the jump I mentioned the two paths these teams have taken towards getting to where they currently sit. We're all familiar with the rather uneven season the Canucks have had thus far, oscillating between worryingly mediocre and very impressive. The Sharks on the other hand started the year 7-0, outscoring opponents 27-12 along the way. Their lowest goal output over that time was a 3-spot.
Then the calender flipped to February, and the wheels completely fell off. They somehow failed to record a win in the first 7 games of the month, which was quite a precipitous drop-off. What was most surprising about it was the way their offense dried up - they scored just a measly 16 goals in the entire month. Yikes. They still boast a ton of offensive talent, and I think it's just a matter of time before the likes of Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, and Couture go on a tear similar to the one they were on to start the year. There's too much talent present for it not to happen.
For the Canucks to win this game, they'll have to score more goals than their opponent (#HardHittingAnalysis). To accomplish that, they'll need to squeak some pucks past Antti Niemi; stop laughing, because this year, that has been no easy task. Niemi is currently 4th in the league with a .934 save percentage, and has been single-handedly keeping his team in games on many a night lately.
I feel somewhat vindicated by his performance this season, seeing as I was one of (very few) to be singing his praises heading into this season. Ironically enough, he has made the transition from one of the most overrated goalies in the league during his time in Chicago (CHECK THE RINGZZZ!11!) to one of the most underrated goalies over the past two seasons. He still looks like a trainwreck in the net, and you often wonder how on earth he stopped the puck, but guess what? He stops it at a pretty high clip, which last I checked is all that matters. What I'm trying to say is that I enjoy being right.
Finally, you have to wonder what kind of mood Ryane Clowe will be in for this one. If you'll recall, last time these two teams faced off he racked up 35 penalty minutes, with four minor infractions, a fight against Zack Kassian, and a temper tantrum of epic proportions along the way. That game had 84 penalty minutes combined, and was very chippy from the start; I mean the *very start*, with Burrows and Clowe mixing it up before the opening drop of the puck (and Jannik Hansen inexplicably shoving an official). In his two games since returning from a suspension, though, Clowe has yet to record a penalty minute, and he'll probably have to be more cautious with the league keeping their eyes on him.
In lineup notes, Keith Ballard will draw back into the lineup tonight and play on a third pairing alongside Cam Barker. That means we'll see Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis play their fourth contest in a row together, while Chris Tanev skates on the right-side of Alex Edler. Vancouver's forward lines will remain the same.
|PP%||17.9% (12th)||16.9% (16th)|
|PK %||86.7% (4th)||79.3% (20th)|
|FO %||52.9% (4th)||48.8% (22nd)|
|Corsi Close %||52.3% (8th)||54.1% (4th)|
|Fenwick Close %||52.3% (7th)||53.9% (5th)|
|Team PDO||103.8 (2nd)||102.1 (7th)|