Mitchell’s last game as a Canuck, thanks to Evgeni Malkin and that nasty concussion. Revenge, I say!
Game Day Recon #18 – Canucks @ Penguins
The Vancouver Canucks pay their first visit to the new Consol Energy Center, as they wrap up their five-game road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Canucks have not lost to the Penguins in regulation in over 10 years. The goalies that night? Bob Essensa and Garth Snow. Yeah, that’s a long time ago.
The Canucks look to wrap up a reasonably successful road trip with a final victory. Even a regulation loss puts the Canucks at .500 for the trip. But a win will put the Canucks at 3-1-1 for 7 points out of a possible ten. Not bad for their first proper road trip of the year. Luckily for the Canucks they have feasted on the East in recent seasons. In fact, their record against the Penguins of late is shockingly good. The Canucks are 7-0-1 in their last 8 games against the Penguins.
Vancouver sees Keith Ballard return to the lineup. It’s not surprising given how awful the Canucks defense was against the Sabres, a limited offensive team that still managed to score 4 goals. Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome were particularly horrible against Buffalo, and Alberts was probably the worse of the two. Coach Alain Vigneault did not speak to the media this morning, so there has been no announcement as of yet regarding who will come out of the lineup to make way for Ballard. I would suspect that it would be Rome, as I think that Alberts steady play so far this season (prior to Buffalo) should earn him a spot as 6th D. We won’t know for sure until the pre-game skate when the lineup is announced.
Now on to tonight’s enemy.
Pittsburgh on the whole is a pretty good team. Not great. They’re not lighting up the standings. In fact, if you look at their total wins and total losses (grouping L and OT/SO together), they’re actually 9-10 on the year so far. What’s more – the Pens are an average 3-3-1 in November. Pretty meh. And the Canucks have the edge on the Penguins in pretty much every major team stat (W, L, GF, GA, PP%, FO%). The Pens do have a slight edge in PK% (87.5% vs the Canucks at 86.2%), but the Canucks as been exceptional of late.
One area of concern against the Penguins for the Canucks is the 2nd period. Granted, the second period is a problem for the Canucks no matter who they face, but it’s especially concerning against the Pens, who are great offensively in the middle frame. The silver lining for the Canucks is that the Pens are pretty shaky defensively in that second period. So the stats would indicate that the second period for Pittsburgh tends to be very wide-open. With the Canucks speed and depth through three lines, that may be a problem for the Penguins. The Canucks just need to play both sides of the puck and both ends of the ice.
Speaking of which, Pittsburgh has someone named Sidney Crosby, who seems to be quite good.
Ok who am I kidding? He’s amaze-balls. I actually have a framed picture of Sid the Kid in my office from him scoring the gold-medal winning goal for Canada at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. As the saying goes, you can’t stop him. You can only hope to contain him. As for the other Pitt star, Evgeni Malkin, he’s not having an especially good year compared to previous years. He’s only potted seven goals so far, as is sitting with a disappointing -4.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. You’ve heard of Crosby. Watch that guy. That is all. Hamhuis, you know what to do. Same with Malkin. Ballard, that’s your job. After Kris Letang, the Pens scoring table goes pretty quiet. So the Canucks need to focus on the big two in Crosby and Malkin, and then…
2. Stay disciplined. The Pens have a few guys like Matt Cooke and Arron Asham who like to mix it up pretty good. And that draws penalties. The Canucks need to disengage from that type of play. That said, I’m a big proponent of giving Matt Cooke a healthy dose of his own headshot medicine. I’m just sayin’. And what I’m sayin’ is that Matt Cooke is a colossal douchebag.
3. Go for the jugular. The Canucks need to quickly reverse a trend of giving up the first TWO goals in a game. Vancouver is .800 when scoring first, while Pittsburgh is 0.333 when trailing first. The Canucks need to finally bump their slump and score first.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game.
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Penguins (canucks.com)
2. Canucks Game Day: Hart to Hart, as Sedin takes on Crosby (Vancouver Sun)
3. Penguins’ penalty killing provides big boost (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
4. About the Canucks: 11-17-10 (Empty Netters)
5. Canucks At Penguins: Where I Lay My Head Is Home (MNucks Misconduct)