Game Day Recon #09 – Avalanche @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks are starting the season by dealing with mounting injury problems, especially on defense. Tonight they face another team with missing bodies on the blueline, as they face Colorado at Rogers Arena. Will the Canucks depth on defense be able to withstand the high-flying Avs forwards? And will the young and inexperienced Avs D be able to contain the Canucks forwards who may have finally found its groove.
Injuries have recently hit the bluelines of both teams. While the Canucks are without Dan Hamhuis (foot) and Keith Ballard (concussion) and are still missing Sami Salo (Achilles tendon), the Avalanche have lost Adam Foote (concussion) and Scott Hannan (head), although it is possible that Hannan will be in the lineup for the Avs tonight.
So the Canucks are facing (with the exception of John-Michael Liles) a young and fairly inexperienced back end. Three of the six defensemen they have listed on their active roster are only 23, and five of the six are 26 or younger. And without Liles, that defense has NOT been good this year. In fact, Liles has easily been the Avs best player this year, with 10 assists and a +5.
A few of the Avs forwards have been very good offensively but have equally hurt their teams on the ice as well. Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and Matt Duchene all have 7 points or better through 8 GP, but all of them are well in the red, as far as plus/minus, with Hejduk currently holding the team’s worst stat at -8, which is also good for 2nd to last in the NHL, behind only Joe Thornton at -9. After the Avs top 4, the offense drops off a bit, but that’s a pretty similar scenario to the Canucks, and we know that the Canucks are due to break out. So the same could be said about Colorado as well.
Hejduk, especially, is a noted Canuck killer. Last year, however, the Canucks held him to only 2 assists and no goals in 6 games. But Hejduk had an off year, to be sure. With his fast start this year, the Canucks have to keep an eye on him and Duchene specifically
The Avs sport the league’s worst defense, as they’ve given up a whopping 3.62 goals per game. Their PK is also struggling mightily, at third from last at 75.7% and they’ve already given up 4 short-handed goals in 8 games.
So the bottom line on the Avs is that their offense has been pretty good so far, especially Stewart, Hejduk, Duchene and Stastny, but defensively they’ve been pretty weak and they’re missing their two most experienced blueliners.
The Three Keys
1. Press the Avs young D. Right now, the Avs D is young and pretty inexperienced. If the Canucks can pressure them throughout the game, they should be able to grab some momentum early.
2. Lots of shots. The Avs give up a lot of shots and, as a result, give up a lot of goals. Neither goalie for the Avs has played very well. Peter Budaj gets the start and has only played one game so far. Vancouver will server itself well by taking a ton of shots.
3. Stay close to the Avs top 4. Stewart, Duchene, Hejduk and Stastny have been great. The Canucks have to get it in their heads that these four guys are going to cause them problems all game long. The Canucks D needs to stick to these guys like flies on honey and choke their speed and their passing.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape (canucks.com)
2. Game 9 Preview (Mile High Hockey)
3. Canucks/Avs Matchup (tale of the tape) (faceoff.com)
4. Preview – Avs/Canucks (SLAM! Sports)
5. Avalanche @ Canucks Game Preview (Nucks Misconduct)