Game Day Recon #11 – Canucks @ Oilers
The Vancouver Canucks head out on a quick two-game road trip, and play on back-to-back nights, as they head to Alberta’s capital to face the Edmonton Oilers. Joining them on the ice for the first time this season is Alex Burrows, fully recovered and finally eligible to play after his LTIR stint to start the year.
Canucks fans can expect Burrows to come out flying and agitating, which is exactly what the Canucks need, playing back-to-back games. But the bigger story here is that the Canucks come into tonight’s game still looking for their first road win of the season.
It’s safe to say that the Oilers are a pretty exciting team. With Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi, along with Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule, the Oilers have their youth movement in full effect now. They are fast, they have skill, and they have youthful exuberance. But they were unpolished diamonds at this point, especially Eberle, Hall and Paajarvi. They are still rough around the edges, still learning the pro game and will likely take most of the season to start playing a man’s game at the NHL level.
There is no doubt that the Oilers can score. They are ranked sixth in goals-for per game (3.11). And they’re scoring more goals at 5-on-5 than they’re letting in (1.20 GF/GA ratio). All this while taking very few shots, as they sit 28th in shots-for (26.8).
So why are they losing games? Because defensively, they are wretched. They rank 28th in GA/game, and 29th in PK% and dead last in short-handed (4-on-5) goals-against. More specifically, the Oilers are giving up a lot of 1st period goals (1.33 goals-against every 1st period), so the Canucks need to start quickly and pop a goal or two in the first period. After playing last night, the Canucks can do themselves a favour by coming out skating early and then lock down the game.
The Canucks also welcome back Alex Burrows after spending his 10 games and 24 days on Long Term Injured Reserve to start the year. He is raring to go, feeling healthy and energized and will be a welcome addition to the Canucks lineup. Remember that Burrows was the team’s leading goal scorer last year, with 35 goals. The Canucks could certainly use his gritty, agitating presence around the goal, especially on the road where Vancouver has struggled to score, with only 7 goals on 4 road games. With the Canucks full complement of players on the top 2 lines, they should be expected to score with more regularly, especially against a team with such suspect defense.
The Three Keys
1. Keep the Oilers from shooting. The Canucks do give up a lot of shots, but the Oilers don’t get too many shots successfully at the net. With Keith Ballard back, the Canucks shot blocking prowess got a big bolster.
2. Faceoffs. The Oilers are flat-out terrible in the faceoff dot, sitting 29th in FOW%, whereas the Canucks are the NHL’s best faceoff team at 56.5%. The Canucks can control the play and possession by owning faceoffs.
3. Skate and draw penalties. Since the Oilers PK is so dreadful, the Canucks will want to put them shorthanded as often as possible. Edmonton also ranks 25th in PK mins per game. With Burrows back, he needs to get back to his agitating best quickly. If the Canucks can chirp and piss off the young Oilers, and keep their feet moving, they should get a few PP opportunities and hopefully they can capitalize.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape – Canucks @ Oilers (canucks.com)
2. Trio acing all exams (Edmonton Journal)
3. Canucks look for first road win in Edmonton (CBC Sports)
4. Edmonton vs. Vancouver Preview (CBS Sports)
5. GDB 10.0: OFFENCE STARTING TO ROLL? (Oilers Nation) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!