Game #24 Preview: Take Off Your Pants and Blue Jackets

Will we witness a scene like this tonight? As Raymond returns, does he light the lamp?
Or will he struggle to return to form?
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #24 – Blue Jackets @ Canucks

Winners of four straight games, and coming off a 3-game perfect road trip, the Vancouver Canucks look to keep up their winning ways, as they return home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Winners of only a single road game and a league-worst overall record of 6-14-3, the Blue Jackets are reeling and have been all season. And it’s just these types of games that have been identified for several years amongst Canucks fans as the dreaded “trap game”.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

TV: SN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

Coming off a huge win against the high-flying San Jose Sharks, the Canucks return to Rogers Arena to play an opponent that by every conceivable length and measure they should soundly thrash tonight. But, as we well know in this town, the Canucks find interesting and frustrating and disastrous ways to lose the types of games.

The Canucks will get a serious boost tonight, one that should hopefully shake them from their likely doldrums. Mason Raymond is expected to return tonight, ahead of schedule after several broken vertebrae in his back during the Stanley Cup Final. While the team hasn’t necessarily had trouble scoring, especially lately, any jolt to the top 9 forwards will always help. If Alex Burrows (hand laceration) is indeed out for tonight’s game, then Raymond will likely slot into the first line with the Sedins. What a nice way to come back to the lineup – sheltered minutes with two of the best players in the league. Welcome back, kid.

It also looks like Alex Edler has sufficiently recovered from his sore shoulder to play tonight. That’s good, because the Canucks have made a habit of ending games with 5 defensemen. At some point you have to wonder when Vigneault will roll 7 defencemen, to avoid disaster. But so far, things have worked out for the Canucks so it’s hard to question the tactic now.

And the NHL Second Star of the Week, Cory Schneider, will get his sixth straight start, going 4-1-0 through five straight and allowing only 3 goals in his last four (the first game was the 5-1 loss to the Blackhawks), including back-to-back shutouts. Everyone’s rolling right now, they get a huge boost with the return of Mason Raymond, and the Blue Jackets are a straight-up bad hockey team right now. All signs point to a lop-sided Canucks win. But with this team, you just never can tell.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Don’t let this be a trap game. Just put this team to bed early. Honestly, there is no reason to think that the Canucks shouldn’t be up by 4 goals by the end of the first period. The BJ’s are terrible defensively, and equally through all three periods.
  2. Murder them on the Power Play. The Blue Jackets have a 63.9% Road PK right now. The problem with Columbus is that they are actually a fairly disciplined team – ranked 9th in total shorthanded situations. However, they take penalties. Meaning that the penalties they take are often coincidental or are nullified by opponent penalties. In fact, they Blue Jackets lead the league in major penalties. So a lot of their penalty time is as a result of fighting. They have spent 55 full minutes more on the powerplay than shorthanded. That means that when the Canucks are given an opportunity to score with the man advantage tonight, they have to capitalize. Often.
  3. Given their tendency to fight, the way to keep them out of this game is to disengage physically. Use the much more talented players that you do have, the far more efficient and ruthless powerplay and the MUCH better goaltending to finesse your way to win. Don’t get into the ground-and-pound with the Blue Jackets. That’s probably how they feel they can keep games close. Don’t engage. Just skate. And skate and skate and skate.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Luongo most expensive bench warmer as Schneider starts Tuesday (The Province)
  3. Canucks’ Mason Raymond ‘ready to roll’ (Vancouver Sun)
  4. Canucks road trip a confidence-builder (The Province)
  5. Canucks/Blue Jackets Preview (Yahoo! Sports)