"Ooooow! That goal hurt my foot! But it was sooooo worth it."
"Look, we are really twins. We raise our hands and sticks in the SAME WAY. Isn’t that weird?"
(Photo by Jessica Haydahl/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Semifinal Game 1 – Predators @ Canucks
There is no rest for the wicked. The Vancouver Canucks get right into Round 2 with their opening game tonight against the Nashville Predators.
Can they dial it up again with such a quick turnaround, or will they be so gassed after their series with the Blackhawks that they let this game get away from them?
Game Time: 6:00 PM PT
Both teams closed out the first round by slaying a dragon of sorts. Vancouver finally beats Chicago and Nashville finally gets out of the first round. But neither team had much time to bask in that glow. The Canucks have less than 48 hours to enjoy their victory, while the Predators had to get on a plane yesterday and didn’t even get a practice in.
While the Canucks are done with Dave Bolland and the Blackhawks for the year, they’ll have a new pest on their hands. Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo has been resurrected and is playing some fantastic hockey of late. He was one of the key reasons why the Predators were able to dispatch the Ducks in the opening round, with 1G 4A for 5 Pts in their six-game series. He was a bit of a non-factor against the Canucks this season but look for him to play gritty hockey and some big minutes against the Sedins.
Offensively for the Preds, the Canucks big concern has to be Martin Erat, who returns from injury tonight to start the series against Vancouver. Erat has 4 points in 4 games against the Canucks this season and was their top point man on the year. He’s a swift skater with good skill and really goofy-sounding name. What’s an ERAT anyway? Stupid name. (Sorry I am trying to manufacture some hate for this team.). The Predators also have a resurgent Mike Fisher scoring some clutch goals for them. But let’s face it, his wife is a better singer than he is a hockey player. (Again, manufacturing hate… Plus Carrie Underwood is hoooooooooooooooooooot.)
That said, Daniel Sedin had the same stat line against the Preds as Erat had against the Canucks. This is a series and a game where the Sedins must break out. Sure, they’ll have to contend with Weber and Suter for most of the night. But with last change, Vigneault and the Canucks can get the Sedins away from that matchup from time to time. The Sedins have to be ready to pounce on those opportunities. They have to be especially voracious on the powerplay. Nashville is pretty reasonably disciplined and has a great PK, so whatever chances the Sedins have on the man advantage, they must be ruthless. That said, the Nashville PK was absolutely horrible against the Ducks, going only 63.6%. Sure, the Ducks have Selanne, Perry and Getzlaf. But the Canucks have the Sedins and Kesler and had the #1 PP through the regular season.
The Canucks and Predators really don’t have much of a history with each other, but they do have players with history. The ever-likeable, ever-frustrating, every-partying Shane O’Brien famously spent as much time on ice with the Canucks as he did as the Roxy. Meanwhile, Dan Hamhuis started his career in Nashville then went on to cure polio, end poverty and negotiate a peaceful treaty between the Israelis and Palestinians. Ok, so yeah. I’ll take Hamhuis over Shane O’Brien on my team any day.
So this series might be as much about manufacturing emotion than anything else. But after playing a series that was almost entirely about emotion, maybe the Canucks could do with playing a series in a cold, distant, calculated manner. They could start by winning a game with precision tonight.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Forgot Tuesday. It’s done, it happened. The Canucks beat the Blackhawks, but it’s done. It’s in the books. Time for the second round. No more looking back. There is no team history with Predators, there is no reason to focus on past playoffs now.
2. Take the leading role. The Canucks have to make the Predators defend against THEM. The Preds don’t have the horses up front to make the Canucks match lines. This is about the Canucks playing their game and taking charge of the momentum of the game. The Canucks are more potent through both their forwards and defensemen. It’s time to show it.
3. Game 1. Period 1. They have only reason to look back at the first round. And that’s how they played in the opening 20 minutes of the series. It was brilliant. It was energizing. It was a relief that they proved that they could play that way. If they set the tone early, just as they did in the first period of the first game in the first round, they’re going to be a fast moving train on the right track.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Predators @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Former Predator Dan Hamhuis lists Nashville’s strengths (The Province)
3. Only one trophy on Ryan Kesler’s mind (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks/Predators Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Predators @ Canucks Game 1 Preview (On The Forecheck) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!