(March 31, 2008 – Photo by Kim Stallknecht/Getty Images North America)
Game Day Recon #39 – Flames @ Canucks
The Canucks went 3-for-3 on their recent road trip, beating Dallas, Colorado and San Jose. Those teams are 3rd, 5th and 4th respectively in the Western Conference. The Flames are 14th. And not good. And this is the first game back after a very successful road trip.
Does anyone else smell a trap game?
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
These are the types of games that the Canucks would historically lose in head-scratching fashion. After beating the upper echelon teams in the league, the Canucks would, in the past, find themselves playing down to the level of lesser opponents, would lose their focus, play out of their system, and find ways to lose these types of games.
There is no denying that the Canucks are statistically the better team. A quick look at the Head-to-Head stats for tonight’s matchup on MSN Fox Sports demonstrates that pretty clearly. So, in order to set aside their previous problems of lagging against teams down the standings, the Canucks need to dig deep and continue the pace with which they’ve played for the last 18 games.
One guy for the Flames who you know will be jacked up to play well tonight is former long-time Canuck Brendan Morrison. Morrison is playing at Rogers Arena for the first time in this enemy sweater. He did play here when he was with the Capitals, but we all know it’s a lot different when you’re playing Washington than it is when you’re playing your biggest historial rival in the Calgary Flames.
And here’s the thing with the Flames… their players get points. They have 3 forwards with 10 goals or more… same as the Canucks. They have 5 forwards with 20 or more points… same as the Canucks. The big difference lies in the defense. The Canucks blueline are constantly involved in offensive rushes, generating plenty of offense. The Flames D are not nearly as active on offensive plays and proves to be a big difference in the success of their teams.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Play up to your game, not down to theirs. If the Canucks can control the tempo and rhythm of this game, they will dominate the play. If they fall into a lull and let the Flames grind it out, win faceoffs and control the puck, they’ll find themselves in that same old spot: playing down to a lesser team.
2. Don’t physically engage Iginla. It’s been a long time since Iginla had a ridiculous game against the Canucks, because the Canucks have figured him out – play him at arm’s length. When Iginla is physically engaged in the game, he gets mean and jacked up and pissed off… then he plays great. When the Canucks play off him and leave him alone after the whistle, he doesn’t get quite as dialed in to the game.
3. Lots of offense from the defense. Get the blueline going early with lots of pressure. Smother the Flames (see what I did there?) with a constant 5-player attack.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Flames @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Brendan Morrison in familiar territory (The Province)
3. Look who’s back? Flames recall Backlund, revamp lines for Canucks tonight (Calgary Herald)
5. Gameday Preview – It’s All About the Kesler (Flames Nation) >> SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!