Game #9 Preview: Stranglehold

I like to imagine that Henrik Sedin just chopped off Ryan Smyth’s legs with a scythe.
But Smitty just fell. And that’s probably more funny.
(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #9 – Canucks @ Oilers

The Vancouver Canucks play at Rexall Place for the second time in 10 days, where they’ll face Ryan Nugent-Hopkins… and some other guys in copper and blue with whom Mark Lee is completely unfamiliar. Just kidding, Mark Lee knows who all the Oilers are. He just straight-up doesn’t care. All Nuge, all the time, right Mark?

Luckily for Canucks fans, tonight we are spared the indecency of a Mark Lee broadcast. Instead, we get the terrific insight and in-depth analysis of John "I like hot wings and smooth peanut butter" Garrett.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 6:30 PM PT

TV: SN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The Canucks welcome David Booth into the lineup for the first time tonight, likely joining American-born teammates Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins on the second line. Whether you’re a fan of the moniker "The American Express Line" or "The America: F*ck Yeah! Line" (personally I like both, but the Amex line will probably win out, given it’s more G-rated), this line has boatloads of potential. All three players are legitimate 20 goal scorers, so the Canucks could be looking at 60-80 goals out of this line this year. Of course, that assumes that Alain Vigneault doesn’t get squirrelly with his lines and put Kesler with Dale Wiese and one of the ushers.

As for the Oilers, they aren’t scoring a lot of goals (more on that in the Three Keys), but they’re winning because they’re aren’t letting IN a lot of goals. The Oilers are second in the NHL (WHAT!??!) in goals-against (1.43 GA/game). Nik Khabibulin has been outstanding this year and has saved them games. And they’re doing it right off the bat – they’ve only allowed 2 goals total in the first period, and one of those goals was against the Canucks 10 days ago. Compared that to the Canucks. The Canucks goal scoring by period is very even (8,6,7) but their goals against by period (10,7,5) clearly indicates where, and specifically when, the Canucks woes exist.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Stop the bleeding in the first period. The Canucks have allowed twice as many first period goals (10) as they have third period goals (5). They are killing themselves with multiple penalties then shaky penalty killing. If the Canucks need to slow the game down and be boring just to get out of the opening frame 0-0, then I’d be really okay with that. But if the Canucks just skate and put themselves on the attack, they’ll stop taking lazy defensive penalties. A perfect example of how their first period antics could have killed them was their last game against the Oilers. The Canucks were short-handed 3 times, were behind in shots 12-8 and gave up a late goal to go down 2-1. The Canucks need to watch the game tape from that period, and do the opposite.
  2. Stop the players named Ryan. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Smyth and Ryan Jones have scored 9 goals combined. The rest of the Oilers team has scored 3 combined. Taylor Hall is the only other Oilers forward who’s scored a goal. They just aren’t scoring a lot of goals. They’re DFL in league scoring with only 1.71 GF/game, and they are scoring less than 1 goal per game at 5-on-5. So stop the Ryans and the play going at even-strength.
  3. Get the new guy as much ice-time as possible. Tonight might be a night where the Canucks roll only 3 lines, and the third line will only be out for defensive zone draws. The Canucks need to get the offence rolling, and they need to get the Kesler line with Booth and Higgins skating, and skating often. The Canucks have more ready-to-go talent and skill than the Oilers, The Canucks have to exploit their own speed and skill and step on the gas to get the Oilers chasing them. Kesler, Booth and Higgins have some serious speed. So let them open it up, early and often.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Long-sought Booth hoping to cash in on Am/Ex line with Kesler, Higgins (The Province)
  3. Canucks bounce Hodgson again (The Province)
  4. Daniel gets the point (The Province)
  5. Canucks/Oilers Preview (Yahoo! Sports)