The Vancouver Canucks hit the midway point of their five-game homestand, as they host the New York Islanders tonight at GM Place. The Islanders, an early-season playoff contender, have now faded out of the post-season picture and are in danger of finishing last in the Eastern Conference for the second straight year.
The Islanders, after a brisk start to this year’s campaign, are now only one point ahead of 14th place Carolina, who have a game in hand. What’s more disappointing for Isles fans is that they’re only seven points up on last place Toronto. For a team that showed promise to start the season, they’ve wilted quickly and have returned to bottom of the standings where they’ll likely remain to close out the season.
It is these supposed minnows that have given the Canucks heaps of trouble all season. Couple this with the fact that the Canucks next opponent is the conference-leading San Jose Sharks, and there is double-concern for Vancouver to look past today’s game. And that’s the problem. They did that a LOT at the start of the season. Earlier this year, they lost three consecutive games to teams that were, at the time, last in their respective conferences (Carolina, Anaheim. St. Louis). The Islanders have also won two in a row, so this game has trouble written all over it for the Canucks.
This is a game that the Canucks should not just win, but dominate. They should be imposing their will on the weaker Islanders tonight. New York has been dreadful lately on the road, losing eight in a row away from Nassau Coliseum. And they’ve now had to fly clear across the continent to face the Canucks. For an Eastern team that rarely has to leave its own time zone, this will play a significant factor.
Statistically, the Canucks lead almost every single category over the Islanders. The only area where the Canucks struggle is in the 2nd period, which many Canucks fans have noticed all season. Although they have improved statistically in recent games in the second period, the Canucks are still having trouble carrying momentum from the first to the second period. So if the Canucks can use today’s game to learn how to successfully move from the first to second frame, they can build it that in subsequent games.
The Islanders special teams are also dreadful, specifically their penalty kill. So if the Canucks can get a jump early, get the Isles chasing and taking penalties and the Canucks can capitalize, this game will be over quickly.