Game Day Recon #14 – Canucks @ Canadiens
The Vancouver Canucks embark on their first major road trip of the season, as they play their first of five games away from the friendly confines of Rogers Arena. Tonight, they face the Northeast Division-leading Montreal Canadiens.
The two clubs have been on different rolls of late. While the Canucks come into tonight’s game riding a six-game win streak, the Habs have lost three of their last four and have been average at best at home so far this year.
Game Start: 4:30 pm PST
TV: RSN-Pac Radio: Team1040
The Montreal Canadiens don’t score a lot of goals. Only twice have they scored more than 3 goals in a game this year, and have already been shut out twice. Their top point producer is Tomas Plekanec with a mere 11 points.
That said, their key to success is that they don’t give up a lot of goals either. They’ve only allowed more than 3 goals once, and that was a 4-3 OT loss to the Lightning. They are currently 7th in goals-against per game (2.36), while the Canucks are one spot better (2.31). The problem for the Canadiens is that their road stats are bumping up that number significantly. At home, the Habs give up 3.00 goals per game. The Canucks could be poised to get their road trip off to a flying start if they can exploit the Habs’ weakness for giving up goals at home.
The Canucks get a big boost tonight as Dan Hamhuis returns to the blue line after his bone bruise injury had him in the press box for 8 games. The news is not so good for Keith Ballard, who finds himself a healthy scratch tonight, to make way for Hamhuis. The decision comes with a bit of controversy, seeing as recent acquisition Ballard makes $4.2 m per year, while Aaron Rome, who makes one-sixth that salary, stays in the lineup.
The big stat for the Canucks tonight is on the Power Play. The Canucks are first in the league; the Habs are last. There’s no need to explain anything beyond that.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Run-and-gun. They aren’t going to win this game 2-1 or 3-2. That’s the way the Habs have been winning this year. The Canucks have to turn this into score fest, a la their win over Detroit.
2. Let the Montreal-born players lead. Roberto Luongo and Alex Burrows are always jacked up to play in front of family and friends in their home town. Look for those two to have big games. Remember when Luongo took a puck to the throat in practice, spent the night in hospital then played the next night and shut out the Habs? Yeah. That’s what you should expect.
3. Squish the Smurfs. The Canadiens are small up front. Very small. And the Canucks have been playing a great physical game lately, especially Andrew Alberts, who leads the team in hits. The Canucks D need to be a bruising presence all game long, and make it uncomfortable for the Habs forwards to set up in the offensive zone.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game.
1. Tale of the Tape – Canucks @ Canadiens (canucks.com)
2. It’s not dollars over sense, Ballard sits while Rome plays (The Province)
3. Canadiens face two big tests this week (Montreal Gazette)
4. Power Play 101 – A Coaching Tutorial (All Habs.net)
5. Canucks @ Canadiens: Die… By My Hand! (Nucks Misconduct)