Game #22 Preview: Deserted

Alex Burrows scores against the Coyotes last season, and 17 non-Canucks fans were
in the stands to see it for themselves.
(Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #22 – Canucks @ Coyotes

It’s Black Friday. It’s Glendale. It’s a game featuring a Canadian, non-rival team. What is the over/under on the number of non-Canucks fans in attendance at Arena tonight? I’ll say 3000. It’s gonna be EMP-TAY in that rink tonight, but the Canucks fans there will certainly be loud and proud.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 6:00 PM PT

TV: SN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The Canucks have not won more than 2 games in a row all season. It’s one of the glaring reasons why they’re mired in 11th place in the Western Conference right now. That inability to be consistent through several games in a row has dogged them through their first 21 games. They have a chance to win three straight games for the first time and hopefully pull them from the muck in which they’re stuck. And flat-out, they need wins. They need points in the table to start the long, arduous climb back to the top where people expect them to be.

The Phoenix Coyotes may be 4 spots ahead of the Canucks in the standings, but they’re only 2 points ahead (ah, parity!) In fact, their records and high-level stats are pretty similar. Looking at straight wins and losses, Phoenix is 11-9 while the Canucks are 11-10. The difference in points lies in the fact that the Canucks aren’t getting enough games into bonus point area to steal an extra point here and there (they have only 1 OT/SO loss). Vancouver has slightly more GF (61 to 58) while Phoenix has slightly less GA (51 to 57). Where Phoenix has a distinct advantage is at even strength. At 5-on-5 GF/GA, Phoenix has a considerable edge over the Canucks (1.11 to 0.85), and keep in mind that the Canucks’ end of that stat was padded for the good with a 3-0 shutout win on Wednesday, where all three goals where scored at 5-on-5. Of course, that’s what you want out of the Canucks, but it’s not necessarily indicative of how the Canucks have been playing this year. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for the Canucks, who’ve been dreadful defensively at even strength.

As a total non-sequitor, and because I am going to mention the special teams in a sec, here’s your weird stat of the day. The Coyotes have spent 119m34s on the powerplay, and 119m33s on the penalty kill, for a difference of 1 second. How’s that for balanced special teams? They are the most balanced team in the NHL at special team (well, no kidding!). The next-most balanced team? … Your Vancouver Canucks, with a differential of only 14 seconds. (140m42 on PP and 140m56 on PK).

Notes: Cory Schneider gets another start tonight (his 4th straight), as AV keeps the hot goaltender in net. Luongo is likely to get the start in San Jose tomorrow, as the Canucks play yet another set of back-to-back games. New All-Star favourite and probable Norris candidate Aaron Rome is out with an injured thumb.

BREAKING… Keith Ballard has healed and will be back in the lineup. Kevin Bieksa is a game-time decision, so Alexander Sulzer could draw in as well, if Bieksa isn’t ready to go.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Make your powerplay count. Both the Coyotes and Canucks have an excellent PK (ranked 5th and 8th respectively), but the Coyotes PP is brutal. If you can count on the Canucks PK doing it’s job, which is should against a woeful Coyotes PP, the Canucks need to take advantage of their superior PP.  The problem for the Canucks might be the fact that they aren’t going to get many chances with a man-advantage. Like any Dave Tippett-coached team, as always, the Coyotes are VERY disciplined and are the 3rd least penalized team in the league.
  2. RA. RA. That has to be the focus defensively for the Canucks, as in Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney. Both players are having exceptional seasons so far, Vrbata especially. While Phoenix is not loaded with offensive firepower, Radim and Ray (along with Shane Doan) have been provided enough offense for their team to win games.
  3. The second period.. just like they did against Colorado. Phoenix’s scoring through each period is pratically identical (19/19/18), but their defensive game gets eerily bad after the 1st period. They have only allowed a league-low 9 goals in the first period, but have allowed 22 goals in the middle frame. While this is a notoriously bad period for the Canucks, if they can swing the 2nd period in their favour, they can take control of this game to close it out.

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. Turris may have signed a contract, but his future is far from clear (The Province)
  4. Luongo awaits call as Canucks visit Phoenix (CBC Sports)
  • I’m eager to see if the Canucks are able to make their first 3-game win streak of the season tonight. They have certainly had a mediocre start to the season given their best-ever season last year, but they definitely have the skill to climb the boards big time over the next 5 months.