Game #4 Preview: Puncturing the Wheel

After facing a high-powered offense in Philadelphia, the Canucks travel to the Motor City and get to face …
A high-powered offence. Perfect. Have fun with that, guys.
(Photo by None/Getty Images North America

Game Day Recon: Game 4 – Canucks @ Red Wings

The Vancouver Canucks look to rebound from a closer-than-it-should-have-been loss in Philadelphia as the head to the Joe to take on perennial powerhouses, the Detroit Red Wings.

And the first order of business for the Canucks should be to get their defence back on track.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 5:00 PM PT

TV: Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey Radio: Team1040

The Intel

The Vancouver Canucks have looked woefully inept in their own end through the first three games. The fact that they are 1-1-1 speaks to the abilities of their forwards to rescue 3 points out of six. Sure, the goaltending has been iffy (moments of brilliance as well as moments of sheer folly), but the first finger to point must be directed squarely at the defence. The Canucks have allowed 10 goals so far, and Kevin Bieksa has been on the ice for 6 of them. Granted, 3 of those goals were powerplay goals, but he also took a penalty that led to another goal. So Bieksa has been what you would call a high-event player so far, and not in a good way. Now, you would think that there would be a correlation between time-on-ice and goals allowed. And for the most part, there is. Bieksa is second on D in TOI and "leads" in the goals-against. Next, in both categories is Dan Hamhuis. Straight line, right? Nope. Next in TOI is Sami Salo who has been on ice for only one goal against. Next in goals-against is Ballard, followed closely by Tanev. So the real winner? Alexander Edler. He’s leads the team in time-on-ice and yet he has NOT been on-ice for a single goal against. Not even strength. Not power play. Not one.

So here’s the problem, though. Alex Edler has so far played against the second lowest quality of competition, and played with the highest quality of teammates, amongst defencemen (View the stats here, courtesy of Behind the Net). Holy Sheltered Minutes Batman. I know the Canucks coaching staff are probably desperate to replace Christian Ehrhoff, but they’re replacing him with ALEX EDLER!

The Canucks coaches HAVE to start balancing the lines more, if they want their defence to snap out of their horrible funk.

As for tonight, well they don’t exactly get a break after facing the Flyers last night. Instead they get Detroit, who have outscored their opponents 8-3 in their two games thus far, and are +6 in goals at even-strength. Yeah, so they have a few guys that can score…. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen… But don’t be fooled by the big names only. The Red Wings have scored 8 goals by 8 different players, and four different defencemen already have a point. That’s some crazy balance, yo. And the Canucks had better look out whenever Jakub Kindl is on the ice. Through two games, he’s already a +5.

So the Red Wings have high, balanced scoring, solid defence and a good penalty kill. The Canucks absolutely have their work cut out for them. Most specifically, the Canucks defence better get their act together with a quickness.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Balance out their defensive ice-time. And calm the F*CK down in their own zone. They’ve retreated to "panic in the d-zone" mentality, just like they did at the start of last season. This is same players as last season, so it’s not like they need to get used to each other. Why the confusion? Why the disorganization? Rick Bowness… tiem to do your job here.
  2. Get back to basics on the penalty kill. It has looked atrocious in three games so far. This probably goes hand-in-hand with their terrible defensive efforts. But they are letting teams run roughshod over them. Detroit’s power play hasn’t been brilliant yet, but the last thing the Canucks need to do is to give the Red Wings a tonic for what ails their power play. Simple, smart, effective, efficient. That needs to be their mantra. And for god’s sake… STOP TAKING SO MANY PENALTIES!
  3. Keep he HHH line together. Hodgson centering Higgins and Hansen was a VERY effective second line against the Flyers last night. The Canucks are going to need a really good one-two punch of offence to counteract the Red Wings and the "Suck It" line showed some good stuff. Cody Hodgson is proving that he is ready to play full-time at the NHL level, well ahead of some of his teammates (I’m looking at you, Marco Sturm).

The Links

Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Canucks’ season off to bad start yet again (Vancouver Sun)
  3. Restless Red Wings ready for ‘talented’ Canucks (Detroit Free Press)
  4. Canucks, Wings to take the measure of each other (CBC Sports)
  5. Red Wings vs. Canucks Preview (Y! Sports)