Game #34 Preview: Spikebelt!

Manny scores a shorty against Jimmy Howard. Foreshadowing…
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #34 – Red Wings @ Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are playing like a red-hot team right now. The problem with tonight is that they are playing a team that’s red-hot right now. Red Wings/Canucks games are always thoroughly entertaining, highly skilled games. But the Canucks are going to need to throw down a pretty big spike belt to deflate the Winged Wheel as it rolls into Rogers Arena tonight for a clash between two top teams in the West.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

TV: TSN Radio: Team1040

The Setup

Since a 5-1 shellacking at the hands of (who else!) the Chicago Blackhawks on November 16th, the Vancouver Canucks have gone 11-2-1 and launched themselves into a playoff spot. The Minnesota Wild’s seemingly unsurmountable lead atop the Northwest Division has now evaporated. The Canucks are now only 3 points back of the division-leading Wild, and the Canucks have two games in hand. If the Canucks win those two games in hand, they take over the division and likely vault to 2nd place in the Conference.

So the problem is that they have to win the first of those two games in hand. And that game just happens to be against the Detroit Red Wings. Yeah, so the Wings are good. But the Canucks have proven that they get jacked up to play one of the league’s perennial powerhouses. Don’t believe me? The Canucks didn’t lose to the Red Wings in regulation last year, going 2-0-2 against Detroit in 2010-11. Remember last year when the Canucks went on a ridiculous run and won 17 of 20 games, after a whitewashing courtesy of the Blackhawks? Yeah, me too. Remember how the Canucks are have won 11 of their last 14 games this year, and have won two in a row? Yeah me too? Well, last year, during the Canucks insane run, the Canucks played the Red Wings… on December 22 (Today is December 21st – Do you see where I am going with this?!). The Canucks lost 5-4 to the Wings in Detroit in overtime in one of the best games of the season. While I’m not predicting that the Canucks will lose (although it does look like I am), I am ABSOLUTELY predicting that the game will be a) thrilling, b) fast-paced, and c) close. VERY close. In fact, given the way the two teams have been rolling lately, it’s almost inconceivable that this game DOESN’T go to OT or a shootout.

The Canucks are rolling. The Twins and Burrows are rolling. The Honey Badger don’t give a f*ck. And Roberto Luongo, much like Stella, got his groove back. And they’re going to need all of that to beat a VERY, VERY good Red Wings team.

The Red Wings lead the Western Conference in goal differential, even-strength goal ratio, and Regulation/OT wins. However! Detroit is a shockingly average 8-8-0 on the road and ranks 21st on the penalty kill.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Play a tight-checking first period. Why? The Red Wings are +20 in goal differential in first periods this year, while the Canucks are +10. +10 is still pretty good, but a +20 is downright sickening. The Canucks need to be in this game mentally and physically as soon as the opening puck drop. There is no room for the Canucks to ease into this game. Be alert, be ready, be prepared.
  2. Bottom-line centers. The Canucks ranks #3 in faceoffs, the Red Wings rank #5. Both team rely on a puck possession game plan. Manny Malhotra, Cody Hodgson and Max Lapierre will need to be at their best on draws and in defensive matchups against a very deep Wings team. A great game from Manny, Cody and Max could tilt this game noticeably in the Canucks favour.
  3. The Canucks power play vs the Wings’ PK. It appears to be the Wings one Achilles’ heel right now, and the Canucks power play is playing LARGE right now. The Canucks need to take advantage of this. While Vancouver is probably not going to get too many power plays, as the Wings are notoriously well-disicplined, they have to make good on any chances they do get.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Detroit D-power in effect against Canucks tonight (The Province)
  3. Canucks vs Red Wings Gameday (The Province)
  4. Canucks, Red Wings primed for marquee matchup (CBC Sports)