Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Game Day Recon #43 – Canucks @ Rangers
Two things always come to mind when the Canucks play the Rangers.
The first is Jim Robson’s beautiful call at the end of Game 6 of the 94 Stanley Cup final. "He’ll play! You KNOW he’ll play! He’ll play on crutches!".
The other is Nathan effin’ Lafayette hitting iron in the final few minutes of Game 7.
We’re many years removed from the 94 final, but meetings between the Canucks and Rangers are always something special.
Game Time: 4:00 PM PT
The New York Rangers are a different team lately. They’ve battled a huge list of injuries all year and continue to do so. They’ve sent an albatross of a contract (Wade Redden) to the minors to free cap space. They’ve brought in younger, inexperienced players.
And yet they’re winning.
You have to credit the most recognizable hockey face they have on their team, and it’s not one of their players. It’s their coach, John Tortarella. It didn’t seem like Torts’ style would be a good fit for this team when he was first brought it. At least I didn’t think so. But they’ve shipped out some players, brought in younger blood, and Torts has the Rangers playing some pretty good hockey.
The key to the Rangers offensive success is that they have very balanced scoring. They have 6 guys with 10 goals or more, but Dubinsky is their leading goal scorer at 17 (on pace for 34).
And they have 7 players, including 2 defensemen with 20 points or more. That’s good balance when you consider the league- leading Canucks have only 3 players with 10 goals or more (granted 3 more have 9). However the Canucks do have 9 payers with 20 or more points, so there’s the Canucks balanced scoring.
So the Canucks need to be worried about a consistent attack and forecheck tonight and must expect offense from everywhere.
The Rangers are not especially good at either special teams’ play. They don’t have a dominating offense. So how are they winning games? Well their team defense is very sound, giving up 2.46 G/gm (good for 6th in the league). And.. they are winning close games, and lots of them. The Rangers are a very impressive 12-3-3 in 1-goal games. Keep in mind that the Canucks are 12-3 in 3-goal games and 6-2 in 2-goal games, so if the Canucks can open up this game, score the first goal and force the Rangers to play from behind as much as possible, the Canucks might be able to go 2-for-2 in the Empire State on this road trip.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Win the puck, own the puck. The Rangers are a bit of a lunch bucket, smash-and-grab team. The Canucks need to win puck battles, especially in faceoffs, and play their puck-possession game as well as possible to force the Rangers to chase them all game.
2. Get out of their own zone. The Rangers like to dump, chase, hit, then force turnovers and muck up their goals. The Canucks need to be first on the puck in their own zone, and make NO MORE than two passes to get out of their own zone. Get the puck up ice quickly and efficiently.
3. Pressure on the D. The Rangers have a pretty young D and they sure don’t have a lot of marquee names. Marc Staal is arguably their biggest name on D, and probably their best as well, along with Dan Girardi. The Canucks need to turn up the heat on this fairly green blueline and force them into making mistakes.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Rangers (canucks.com)
2. Bieksa’s defensive act premieres on Broadway (Vancouver Sun)
3. Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs New York Rangers (Crash the Crease)
4. Canucks/Rangers Preview (CBS Sports)
5. Vancouver Canucks at New York Rangers (SLAM! Sports)