Game #21 Preview: Snowball Effect

Most of these guys won’t be playing in tonight’s game.
I’m not sure why I chose this picture. Hm. Strange.
(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #21 – Canucks @ Avalanche

The Canucks travel to the Mile High City for their first meeting with the Avalanche this season.

The Avs are reeling a bit right now, having lost 3 of their last 4, while the Canucks struggle to find some consistency, as they’ve alternated wins and losses for the past four games.

All the while, the Canucks have to deal with a potential shakeup in the roster.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 6:30 PM PT

TV: SN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

He may not be fully ready to play, but the re-introduction of Mason Raymond into the Canucks lineup is going to have a major snowball effect on the roster. It seems simple enough – get Raymond back on the ice. But there are a lot of implications, as Thom Drance pointed out yesterday.

The Canucks have already had to deal with roster changes this year, with defensive injuries and the loss of #1 goaltender Roberto Luongo for a few games. Luongo’s injury was minor and his absence from the lineup was likely more precautionary than anything else, but the Canucks have had mixed results with Cory Schneider in net. But it’s really quite indicative of the Canucks season thus far — inconsisent.

But for all the inconsistency the Canucks have shown, the Avs have been flat-out bizarre. The Avs are only 1 point behind the Canucks in the standings… they’re 4th in the league on the road (6-4-1), but 30th at home (3-7-0). After an opening night home loss, they went on a five-game road trip and went 5-0-0. But they’ve been 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. While no one was expecting the Avalanche to win the division or the conference, I don’t think anyone predicted such a wild swing in the standings and wholly unpredictable outcomes in their games.

And wouldn’t you just know it… the Avs’ problems have been very similar to the Canucks, only a little more magnified. The Avs are having massive problems keeping the puck out of their own net at even strength. Granted, the Avs are also having problems just generally keeping the puck out of their own net – 23rd in GA/game (3.10), and 26th in PK (77.5%). While the Canucks are well-known amongst their own fans and media to have bad 2nd periods defensively (27 GA, 29th in NHL), the Avs have had brutal 2nd AND 3rd periods, allowing 26 and 24 GA respectively.

For specifically what ails the Canucks, the Avs could be a decent tonic, provided they play a responsible game tonight.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Use the Avs shaky 5-on-5 play to get your own even-strength play back on track. Tonight is all about depth of roster. The Canucks are a far deeper team, through both offence and defence. With both teams struggling at even strength, the Canucks depth has to out-muscle the Avs lack of depth and use that advantage to make this a possession game.
  2. Just please, for the love of God, watch Duchene and Hejduk. Sure, the Avs have a couple of other players who are lighting the lamp (Landeskog, Jones, Stastny), but you know damn well that Duchene and noted Canuck Killer Hejduk just LOVE playing the Canucks and dialing it up an extra level.
  3. Give your goaltender some help. Cory Schneider has been as inconsistent as the team in front of him. Losing 5-1 and looking iffy against the Blackhawks, then stifling the Senators and frankly robbing that game for his Canucks. The Canucks have to give their goalie a better chance to succeed

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Canucks’ chances centre on two big comebacks (The Province)
  3. Schneider to start against Avalanche (The Province)
  4. Canucks’ Mason Raymond ‘excited’ about impending return from Cup final-ending back injury (Vancouver Sun)
  5. Canucks look to establish momentum on trip (CBC Sports)