January 23 2014 03:55PM
There's only one Weber in the lineup tonight, and he's wearing the wrong jersey :(
I think this particular matchup has a stigma of sorts attached to it, out there amongst the general public. That as soon as you look at the schedule and see that the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators are playing each other, you can safely assume that it'll be a boring, low-scoring game.
Here are the game scores of their meetings since the start of 2011: 3-1 VAN, 5-2 VAN, 7-4 VAN, 1-0 VAN, 3-1 NSH, 4-3 VAN, 6-5 NSH, 5-1 VAN.
I can't really attest to how entertaining all of those games were - speaking of.. what did I eat for breakfast this morning? - but I do distinctly remember a couple of those games being wild back-and-forth games in which anything and everything was making its way to the back of the net. Tonight's game may very well be a clunker, but it won't be because these teams *always* engage in snoozefests.
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM PST
TV: Rogers Sportsnet
a) The big storyline heading into tonight's game:
It has been 15 games since we've seen Stanton, following the injury he suffered back on December 17th in Minnesota. I won't confirm or deny the rumours that he has had this particular game circled on his calendar for weeks now, knowing that it was his one chance to a) solidify his Norris Trophy campaign by showing up Shea Weber, and b) make hockey fans in Vancouver forget about Shea.
I would get that he will be reunited with Kevin Bieksa in short order. The two were making sweet music together prior to Stanton's departure from the lineup; the Canucks controlled 52.6% of all shot attempts at 5v5 when the two were on the ice together, and 61.1% of all goals (though that probably speaks to some percentage-driven luck with bounces).
Bieksa struggled without Stanton beside him. On the one hand, Stanton made out like a bandit, because the pair was way overdue for some regression and he let Bieksa take the hit while he chilled on the IR. I think it's fair to assume that even if Stanton hadn't gotten injured, the duo would've went through some rockier moments than they had in the first few months of the season. PDO is a hell of a drug, and eventually its high runs out, leaving you wondering what the heck just happened.
But I do also subscribe to the idea that Stanton is the perfect partner for Bieksa, in that he's safe, doesn't really make any mistakes, and helps limit the damage when Juice goes for one of his leisurely strolls every so often. I'm personally glad to see Ryan Stanton back because of that more than anything else.
Unfortunately, this means that Yannick Weber will be the odd man out, meaning that there will only be 1 Weber playing at Rogers Arena. It's a shame for him because he had actually been very effective in the past few games, but it's a numbers game, and he'll just have to bide his time in the pressbox waiting for another injury/suspension (which could conceivably happen sooner rather than later).
Weber's most memorable showing as a Canuck came on Saturday night vs. Calgary, as he played 28:22, scored the goal that extended the game (allowing the team to ultimately win it in a shootout), and finished with a team-best 58.3% CF despite starting only 3 shifts in the OZ. It was a performance that was inevitably overshadowed by all of the shenanigans that took place at the same of the game, but it's one that we shouldn't forget. He was great.
b) No Henrik Sedin again tonight, which shouldn't come as any sort of surprise. Now that his ironman streak is over and done with, and some games against inferior competition on the schedule, it makes all the sense in the world to give him some meaningful time to lick his wounds.
c) Will John Tortorella coach tonight?
Let's get to the underlying data for the Canucks heading into tonight's game:
|Corsi Close %||51.6% (10th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.28 (14th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.08 (8th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.52 (26th)|
|5v4 SF/60||60.4 (3rd)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.86 (2nd)|
|4v5 SA/60||39.9 (1st)|
There are quite a few reasons why the Nashville Predators are tied for 11th place in the Western Conference with the Jets. For one, they have a lot of trouble putting the puck into the net. Then there's the fact that their goaltenders can't stop the puck from entering their's on the other end. That's.. not a recipe for success.
They've recently gone ahead and made two trades, both of which I actually thought they pretty handily one. David Poile somehow managed to offload Matt Hendricks' contract on the silly Edmonton Oilers, getting Devan Dubnyk back in return. Dubnyk struggled pretty badly in Edmonton this season, but the defense in front of him was a complete and utter catastrophe, and he had actually been kind of sneakily good in years past. Plus, he couldn't really be any worse than Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton, who combined to have the 3rd worst 5v5 sv% in the entire league.
Then yesterday, they swapped defensemen with the New York Rangers, trading away Kevin Klein for Michael Del Zotto. MDZ managed to find his way into Alain Vigneault's doghouse rather quickly this season (whaaaaat!), and was being shopped for weeks now. He's an offensive defenseman who makes mistakes, but he's also pretty good at moving the puck and doing stuff on the PP, and I'm sure that the Preds will welcome his offensive punch.
An interesting subplot is that with those 2 moves, the Preds now have just north of $24.3 mil of cap space heading into next season. They've got a very nice defense, and if Pekka Rinne is able to make his way back from his hip infection, they'll be set on that front. Combine that with cap space, and the fact that they'll have a very high pick this summer, and that I'm a huge fan of Filip Forsberg, and they'll be an interesting team. So long as David Poile stops handing out 3-4 year deals to 3rd/4th liners..
Here are their underlying numbers on the season:
|Corsi Close %||48.3% (25th)|
|5v5 GF/60||1.97 (24th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.61 (27th)|
|5v4 GF/60||6.91 (9th)|
|5v4 SF/60||50.1 (17th)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.68 (18th)|
|4v5 SA/60||46.5 (5th)|
[Stats via extraskater.com]
I think that if you're not following my man J.R. Lind on Twitter right now, then you're, quite frankly, not doing Twitter right. He runs a fantastic blog called "Conference III"; I find myself frequently checking up on it, sometimes wishing that our little blog thing we do here was as creative and fun as his is.
He does all the game previews for each Central Division team, putting a historical twist of sorts on it. Here's today's (including some historical context for Canucks/Preds).