Game #8 Preview: Running (over the) Wild

Last time they played, Ryan Kesler capped off a 40-goal regular season.
Is he ready to light the lamp again?
(Photo by Jessica Haydahl/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #8 – Wild @ Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks complete a four-game home stand with an afternoon affair against the Minnesota Wild.

First, the Predators. Now the Wild. It’s a good thing that Vancouver likes its hockey. Otherwise back to back games with two of the most boring teams in the league would have fans feeling in droves.

But Canucks clearly love boring, cost-prohibitive divisional matchups in the middle of the day.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 1:00 PM PT

TV: SN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The last time the Canucks played the Wild at home, it was the final regular season game and the Canucks won 5-0. A lot has happened since then. The Canucks came within a win of the Stanley Cup and the Wild swapped out some big name players for some other big name players. For the time being, it looks like the Wild made some smart moves. With the additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the Minnesota have become considerably less boring. That doesn’t make like them at all, only less likely to change the channel two minutes into the first period. The Wild are a mere OT loss better than the Canucks right now. While the Canucks slow start got on the nerves of Canucks fans, they really aren’t anything more than a win away from 4th in the division and a single point back of the divisional lead.

It sure seemed like the sky was falling after that mid-week loss to the Rangers. Fans were booing their superstar goaltender, the team had been shut out in two of three games, they hadn’t won a game on home-ice yet and their high-price defence looked like it was ready for a complete overhaul.

A single decisive win can change a lot of opinions in a hurry. The Canucks returned to their dominant selves with a thoroughly convincing win against the Predators, and now take on a division foe with a bolstered lineup intent on returning to the playoffs.

Whatever. Dany Heatley is still an ass. No matter where he plays. The fact that he plays for the Wild makes him even more detestable. Oh and Mikko Koivu is hurt. And I have no sympathy for him.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Turn this into a goal fest. The Canucks shouldn’t really have an issue scoring against the Wild. Not with a defence that boasts Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky and Clayton Stoner. Don’t believe me? Their leading defenceman has 1 point. Who’s there leading defenceman? They all are. Five of their defencemen all have a single point. Sure, Nicklas Backstrom is good, but he is a mediocre 11-10-5 lifetime against the Canucks. Plus, the Wild have scored only 6 goals in 3 road games. So they aren’t lighting the lamp while away from Xcel Energy Center. With Kesler back in the lineup and the powerplay getting its feet again, the Canucks offence is off and running.
  2. Have faith in your goalie. This is NOT an indictment on Luongo and the fact that he isn’t playing. Vigneault is clearly playing a numbers game right now, and Cory Schneider’s numbers against the Wild are FANTASTIC. 3-1-0 in 5 GP with a .931 Sv% and 1.62 GAA. Compare that to Luongo’s 14-14-4 record against the Wild, with a .896 Sv% and 2.89 GAA. It’s quite obvious that Luongo has some weird voodoo going on when he plays the Wild, while Schneider plays aces. Don’t overthink this one, kids. Add on top of that the fact that Luongo struggles in October AND he struggles in afternoon starts and it’s a no-brainer to start Schneider.
  3. The third period. The final frame of the game is statistically the worst for the Wild, in terms of GF vs GA. Whereas it’s already the Canucks best period this season and was EASILY their best period last season. As long as the Canucks can hold off the Wild early, once they get to the third period the Canucks should be able to turn the game into a track meet. When it comes to trading chances, the Wild just don’t have the firepower to keep up.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Canucks to start Cory Schneider in goal vs. Wild (Vancouver Sun)
  3. Jannik Hansen admits: “I haven’t been very good” (The Province)
  4. Canucks’ Sami Salo delivers the point on power play, in his own end (Vancouver Sun)
  5. Tough Koivu helping Wild find a new identity (The Province)