Game #25 Preview: Crashville

The last time the Preds were in town, Dale Wiese scored. Yeah.
When Wiese’s Pieces scores, you know things are going your way.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #25 – Predators @ Canucks

Tonight’s game is a tale of two teams going in different directions. While the Vancouver Canucks appear to have turned the ship in the right direction with strong even strength play and stellar goaltending, the Nashville Predators are slowly crashing down the Western Conference standings.

The Predators and Canucks are always good for a tight battle and tonight should be no different. The Predators are desperate for wins and goals, but the opposition that the Canucks have faced lately has come up dry on both.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

TV: SN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

For several years, the hallmark of the Predators was their staunch and stingey defensive play. So far this season, their defence has been simply average. They’re ranked 15th in goals-against and 12th in PK%, and they just don’t have the firepower up front to outscore their defensive shortcomings. And this is not to suggest that the Predators defencemen and goaltenders have suddenly become a bunch of patsies. It’s just that they’re not the defensive juggernaut as they’ve been in previous years. And as I said, they don’t have the guns to outscore the opposition. Offensively, they’re ranked 18th in Goals per game, and 28th in shots per game. They just aren’t generating enough opportunity for themselves at the good end of the ice.

Meanwhile, the C-Wall (aka Cory Schneider), has been almost unbeatable in his last 5 games. And in the last two games, his defence wasn’t giving him much help. Amid all the "controversy" and discussion about goaltending in Vancouver, the team is winning. After a lacklustre October, the team posted a 9-4-0 November and got back into a playoff position and close to a division and conference lead. The Canucks have shown for several years now that they play better with a lead – that is true when you’re talking about a game itself or you’re talking about their lead in the standings. Certainly before he got hurt, Luongo was playing much better, going 4-2-0 in November. But you just can’t take out a hot goalie out of his net. And the C-Wall is the hottest thing in Vancouver right now.

And while Cory Schneider is hot, there are several Nashville Predators who are ice-cold. Patric Hornqvist has 0 points in his last 9 GP, Sergei Kostitsyn has 0 points in his last 6 GP, and David Legwand has 0 points in his last 5 GP. Add to that, Pekka Rinne who is 0-4-1 in his last 5 GP with a 3.44 GAA and a .891 Sv%. That’s not so good.

NOTES: Mason Raymond will make his season debut tonight for the Canucks. While it was assumed that he would start last game against the Blue Jackets, he was held out one additional game as Alex Burrows was able to play despite stitches in his hand. While there’s been nothing official yet, it’s likely that Aaron Volpatti will see the press box to allow Raymond to slot back in to the lineup.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Start strong, end strong. The Canucks started strong against Columbus in their last game, but ended poorly, bailed out once again by Cory Schneider. This won’t work against the Predators, who have been very strong in third periods this year. The Canucks will need to give their goalie a break today, and lock this game down in front of him in the final frame.
  2. Get yourself fired up that Mason Raymond has returned! Use ANYTHING to get yourself fired up! We know that the Preds and Canucks played in the playoffs and that playoffs usually breed animosity (just ask the Blackhawks and Sharks). But is there really any hard feelings between these two teams? No. Is there really any reason to get excited about playing the Predators? No. Is it really THAT much worse than playing the Blue Jackets? No. The Canucks need to find a fire and use it to fuel their game. The return of Raymond and playing in front of the hottest goalie in the league has to be their muse tonight.
  3. Get guys back behind the blueline. Play safe. Without Sami Salo in the lineup, the Canucks are missing their most stalwart defenceman this season. The Canucks can’t let themselves get trapped up ice, especially their d-men. They have to commit to playing back and getting help from their centres to get back in the zone. Aaron Rome is playing well defensively this year, but he’s not at the same level as Salo. Has to be a team effort defensively tonight.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Raymond’s return will add speed but not toughness (The Province)
  3. Too Luongo: Canucks tire of debate as Schneider starts again (The Province)
  4. Canucks vs. Nashville Game Day December 1 (Team 1040)
  5. Canucks likely to stick with red-hot Schneider (CBC Sports)