I have a feeling that the intensity in this game will go to 11.
The Vancouver Canucks sit atop the Northwest Division standings for the first time this season. Tonight they host their arch rivals, the Calgary Flames, at GM Place, also for the first time this season.
Tonight’s contest sees the Canucks with many firsts. They are first in their division. They host the Flames for the first time this year. They are first in the league in home PP%, home PP goals and total home goals. Henrik Sedin is first in the NHL in total scoring. Christian Ehrhoff is first in the league in +/-. It’s all enough to make a Canucks fan proud.
But then you realize that the Canucks are facing the Calgary Flames tonight. Your blood starts to boil. Your face tightens and your eyes squint. Your fists clench. You’re immediately tense and ready to snap at a moment’s notice.
And I can safely say that I hope that the 23 members of the Vancouver Canucks feel exactly the same way.
The Flames come into Vancouver having lost last night in Calgary to a poor Blue Jackets squad, who were slapped around miserably by the Canucks earlier in the week. The Flames faced a red-eye flight to get here, a late night and then an early morning practice before finally hitting the ice for the game tonight. And that is all good news for the Canucks.
Vancouver has fared well against teams played the second game in back-to-back nights. Indeed, the Canucks seem to feast on the sloppy seconds. As well, the Canucks seem to feast on the Flames at GM Place. In their last 10 meetings in Vancouver, the Canucks are 7-3, and 2 of the 3 losses were by one goal. The only other loss was a 7-1 shellacking, which turned out to be Trevor Linden’s last game. To emphasize the one-sidedness of the games at GM Place… of the 7 wins that the Canucks have over the Flames in their last ten meetings at GM Place, only 1 has been a one-goal victory. The other six wins have been by 2 goals or more. In fact, 4 of their last 10 meetings in Vancouver have seen the Canucks win by 3 goals or more.
That’s all well and good, but the Flames are angry. Their coach is angry. Their leading defencemen are angry for being left off Team Canada.
The main fact the Canucks have to face is that the Flames are a very good road team. And the Flames must know that the Canucks are a league leading home team.
With the way that Vancouver has been lighting the red lamp lately, this game will suit the Canucks better if it becomes a high scoring affair. The Flames do very well to defend on the road, but they really don’t score a lot of goals away from home. With the recent blistering pace of the Canucks top line, it’s clear where the Flames’ defensive focus will be. So it’s up to the second and third lines to contribute today. Secondary scoring… and lots of it.
This game has all the promise to be a real barn burner. Let’s hope the Canucks and Flames have a enough fuel to burn this thing to 11.