April 22 2013 03:20PM
It's amazing how a narrative can be lost in a short season, but perhaps you've forgotten about just where things are betweenthe Chicagos and the Vancouvers...
These teams hate each other. The last time out, Jannik Hansen bashed Marian Hossa in the head. He was jumping to grab the puck but got all noggin instead. Intentional or not, it was reckless. (It also turned the game - Chicago was leading 3-1, Hossa had two goals and five shots.)
Chicago went on to win that game in a shootout, preserving their consecutive-points streak and tying the previous NHL standard of 16 games. They are roaring along again, having won 9 of 11 games.
Hossa and Hansen's encounter was the second meeting. The first game was two weeks before, at the beginning of February, in Vancouver. The Canucks took that tilt 2-1 in a shootout, despite being woefully outclassed in that game too.
Round three goes tonight; the playoffs are just around the corner, will either team go at the other as hard as they did in the previous two encounters?
Puck drop: 7pm PST
Television: Rogers Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TEAM 1040 AM
The narrative we know; endless efforts to wound each other, two coaches that have known each other for a long time, concussions galore, goals galore, taunting galore.
Somewhere in there, there's a pile of fun.
There are also a pile of other stories...
The Canucks clinched their playoff spot on Saturday night in their defeat of Detroit and with just one point tonight can clinch the division title.
The Blackhawks will wrest the President's Trophy away from the Blue and Green if they defeat the Canucks.
Frank Corrado is making his NHL debut. (And is likely to be asked to play crazy minutes.)
Chris Higgins is back in tonight, skating with Derek Roy and Ryan Kesler. It's a line that will be vital in the possession game; Roy has been a fine addition up the middle and Kesler's return from his fractured foot has been stellar.
Max Lapierre will centre Raymond and Hansen; Andrew Ebbett is bewteen monster wingers Sestito and Kassian.
The Canucks' powerplay seems to be rumbling to life, their penalty kill has been decent but their 5-on-5 play has been poor of late.
This last point is probably most important. Until recently, the Canucks Corsi and Fenwick Close numbers had ranked them in the top 5 of the league, but their recent run of middling form - driven by the absence of Chris Tanev and Kevin Bieksa more than anything - is seeing those crucial numbers slide into the middle of the pack. Alain Vigneault keeps shaking up his line combinations in an effort to find the right mix, but the truth remains, as long as Cam Barker and Andrew Alberts are getting regular minutes, this team is in trouble.
Looking back at the first Hawks/Canucks game on the year, we note how much trouble the Canucks had at 5-on-5. The Canucks were so shoddy in that game, they managed just 3 chances at even strength. And they were all in the first period.
The more recent game, in Chicago on February 19th, was possibly worse. The Canucks were out-chanced 30-10 (!!); Cory Schneider was the total story as he stood on his head, making 40 saves in the game. It was a pasting, featuring a team that was at the very height of its game (Chicago) versus another that was mostly playing (they'd just downed the Blues in a shootout, for instance).
The Canucks have been mostly good of late - they have dropped stinkers to Dallas and Colorado - and their power play has truly found its groove. Seven goals in nine games has calmed things, but they are still leaning heavily on their goaltenders.
Chicago, meanwhile, continues to roar along. They've not lost a game in regulation time since the end of March. They are getting outstanding goaltending from both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Patrick Kane comes into the game tonight fifth in the league in both goals (21) and points (51).
Oh and apparently Sophie Tweed-Simmons is singing the anthem tonight.
|PP%||15.0% (23rd)||17.6% (16th)|
|PK%||84.4% (7th)||86.9% (4th)|
|Fenwick Tied%||52.3% (10th)||54.3% (5th)|
|Corsi%||51.6% (11th)||54.1% (4th)|
|PDO||101.2 (9th)||101.8 (4th)|
GAME DAY LINKS:
- Chicago Sun-Times beat reporter Mark Lazerus reports that Schneider is impressed by the leadership across the hall - just look at the results this season.
- Canucks.com's Tale of the Tape
- Jonathan Toews tells The Province's Jim Jamieson that both teams are already in playoff mode
- AV expects Alex Edler to play big brother to Corrado; 'the task isn't about playing against Marin Hossa. The task is "am I going to get the puck out," says younger brother Frank.