Game #45 Preview: Red Wings @ Canucks

Thomas Drance
April 20 2013 03:51PM


Cory Schneider will try to prevent scene like this one on Saturday night.
Photograph by: Dave Sandford/Getty Images

The Canucks suffered a third period debacle to close off a mostly uninspiring five game road trip on Thursday night in Dallas, and will look to bounce back against the Red Wings. Vancouver's club will clinch a playoff spot with a point, and they could clinch the division with a win and a Minnesota loss. That's a symbolic milestone mostly, this team isn't in any real danger of falling out of a playoff spot, what's more important is that they get their game back on track and do it against a Red Wings team that has positively feasted upon them in two previous meetings this season.

Read past the jump for more!

Broadcast Info:

Puck Drop: 7 PM PST

Television: CBC

Radio: The Team

Setup:

The Detroit Red Wings have deflected more pucks past Vancouver's goalies off of skates this season, and the rest of the league combined. What I mean to say is that, although Vancouver has been completely crushed in the season series so far, I'm not sure the aggregate score really reflects the club's performance in those contests.

The Red Wings remain a quality puck possession team overall, though their special teams play has been pretty shaky all season long and they've been extremely reliant on Jimmy Howard. Still this is a relatively formidable club, the Red Wings play some high-paced hockey and bring an aggressive forecheck. So they'll light the Canucks up if Vancouver isn't careful to maintain possession when exiting the zone...

That whole exiting the zone thing could be tough for the Canucks tonight as the team will be without Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev in the lineup. Looks like Vancouver's two, mobile right-handed defenders are questionable to be back for game one of the playoffs too so, yeah, that's bad news for the Canucks. Cam Barker has played himself off of the second pairing and will be replaced by Andrew Alberts, while Barker plays with Ballard on a third pairing that sounds shaky enough that they could shorten Alain Vigneault's life expectancy by several weeks with their high-event play... Pay close attention to Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis's minutes and don't be surprised if they get up to the 25-26 minute mark.

At forward Chris Higgins remains out of the lineup, though he took line rushes today, which means the Andrew Ebbett as third-line centre experiment cursedly lives on for another game. That line, with Ebbett in the middle of Mason Raymond and Zack Kassian has been a pure liability in the previous three games and we might reasonably expect that to occur again tonight.

So it'll be up to the twins and the Ryan Kesler, Derek Roy, Jannik Hansen lines to try and outscore Vancouver's likely defensive issues. Detroit's blueline is pretty average and their penatly-killing is permissive, so at least Vancouver's scorers should have some space to operate.

The Red Wings should be motivated and well rested - they've had since Wednesday to think about an inexcusable, and potentially costly 3-2 regulation loss in Calgary. The Red Wings currently sit two points out of eighth spot, but they have two games in hand on the Blue Jackets. It would be a huge surprise if Babcock's club didn't bring the urgency on Saturday. For example, against the Flames, Zetterberg played nearly twenty minutes at even-strength on a multitude of different lines. That's the sort of barrage the Canucks will be forced to withstand in a close game tonight...

The Red Wings appear to be using some guys pretty interchangably, which doesn't quite give them set lines. Of late however they've had Justin Abdelkader skating on the top-line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk and that line will probably duel the Kesler line primarily (Datsyuk wasn't used as the matchup for Thornton against the Sharks, or for Toews against the Blackhawks last week). I'd expect the Sedins to do battle mostly against Flipulla's group (which includes Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen), and don't be surprised if Zetterberg sees some serious minutes in Cleary's space on that line. So that will presumably leave the Ebbett line to play against a Brunner, Andersson, Nyquist trio that has a lot of speed and skill. Could be an adventure!

Along the backend the Red Wings have some serious youth in the lineup (in Dan Dekeyser and Brenden Smith), and lean heavily on Jonathan Ericsson and Nicklas Kronwall (who has been obscenely reliable this season). It's not exactly and awe inspiring group and this is where Vancouver needs to take advantage if they hope to come away with a victory on Saturday night.

Numbers Game:

  Canucks Red Wings
Record 24-13-7 20-16-7
GD 10 -2
PP% 14.8% 17.6%
PK% 84.1% 80.6%
Fenwick Tied% 52.8% 52.6%
Corsi% 51.9% 52.8%
PDO 101.5 99.7

Game Day Links:

Programming Note:

I'm going to go out tonight, so we won't have our game recap and scoring chance data posted until Sunday morning. Sorry about that!

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 DCR
April 20 2013, 03:55PM
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They really need to split Kesler and Roy, the sooner the better.

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#2 BrudnySeaby
April 20 2013, 04:53PM
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Can I mention that I'm so so tired of AV!? His 2nd line doesn't make any sense if you end up icing a 3rd line like that.

Also, I just saw him in a quick clip on TSN and the man is just a walking talking cliché machine. No wonder the players tune him out. I would too! Better yet, I already have.

Thomas, can you please let me know your thoughts on the following. In the play-offs (and why not already!?!?), would it not make sense to play Kesler with Higgins and Hansen against the other top lines (so the shutdown role). Roy can then play with Raymond and Booth/Kassian as the "other 2nd line" that could be relied on for secondary scoring.

I know Kesler is a better all-round player than Roy, but I do think Roy's playmaking skills are better than Kesler's. Perhaps this could also take some pressure of Kesler to do it all - all being to keep the other top lines from scoring while still putting numbers up himself - and keep him from getting injured because he plays >20 mins a night.

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#3 Peachy
April 20 2013, 06:07PM
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Ebbett as a 3rd line centre doesn't work. We know this. We know that the team makes decisions based on fancy stats, and fancy stats reflect poorly on the Ebbett line. My general inclination is to believe that experts (AV and MG) know this. And they are smarter about hockey than most of us.

So why does it continue to happen?

A hypothesis:

AV and MG don't care about how the canucks *look* going into the playoffs; they don't care about winning because they already have the division title sewn up.

They're expecting Schroeder to slot in as #3C once the AHL regular season is done; the Wolves aren't likely to make the playoffs, but don't want to screw their "partners". They intend to start the playoffs with Kesler and Roy on the 2nd line. Their priority is to build 2nd line chemistry. Moreover, they're intending to drop Higgins on the 3rd line once he's healthy, so there's no reason to focus on the that line right now.

Does that hypothesis actually make any sense, is there some other hypothesis that does, or has AV really lost his sanity in the last few weeks?

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#4 JI123
April 20 2013, 06:36PM
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Does AV know something we don't? Ebbett, Kassian, and Raymond just don't work as a line. Roy, Kassian, and Raymond sounds so much better, well, because it is. Who gives a **** about Chicago. They won't make the playoffs, so if you want a second line with Roy and Kesler, then call Schroeder up to be the third line center.

Ebbett's only good game as I can call of the top of my head was when he was with Raymond and Hansen in that crazy 7-3 game against the Preds. To be honest, I don't know what Ebbett brings to the team. He is good defensively, but brings little offensively. He is not especially good in the faceoff dot, and is not a big enough body or a good enough hitter to be a hitting-shutdown guy. He doesn't fight so that rules out being an enforcer. It seems the only reason he is in this organization is because he is a depth guy who fills space when injuries/suspensions pile up.

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#5 JI123
April 20 2013, 06:39PM
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Sorry for double posting, but I just realized Ebbett had 32 points in 48 games in the 2008-09 season O_O

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