Game #37 Preview – Shark Fin Soup

Ol’ One-Eye beat Boyle and Niemi on this play to give his Canucks
a 1-0 lead in their first meeting this season.
He’ll need to be solid tonight, especially in the second period (that’s foreshadowing, kids!)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #37 – Canucks @ Sharks

Looking to escape the cold, wet and miserable weather for a few days, the Vancouver Canucks sweet-talked the NHL schedule makers into giving them a 3-game road trip to Southern California to close out 2011.

First up on the Tanning Tour… the San Jose Sharks and their mediocre rise to the top of their division. Tonight the Canucks look to dine on some Shark Fin Soup!

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***Ed note*** The practice of harvesting shark fins for use in soup and other foodstuffs is highly unethical and, in some countries illegal, and is not condoned in any way by CanucksArmy. Plus, I hear it’s really disgusting.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:30 PM PT

TV: TSN Radio: Team1040

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The Setup

In their first meeting this year, the Canucks won a very close game… a game that they probably didn’t deserve to win. But thanks to some spectacular goaltending from Cory Schneider and a decent penalty kill, the Canucks came away with the victory. They’ll have to improve on their play from their last win against San Jose, and their last win overall (last game vs EDM) if they want to see a positive result tonight.

While San Jose has a decent record of late, and winning games to climb back to the top of the Pacific Division, they’re not exactly doing it in convincing fashion. They’re coming off a 3-2 home loss to Anaheim. Prior to that they won 4 in a row but they weren’t exactly playing the cream of the crop in the NHL. Wins against LA, Tampa Bay, Edmonton and Colorado got them back up to the top of their division. However, they beat LA in a shootout and their wins against the Oilers and Avalanche (currently ranked 12th and 13th respectively in the West) were only by a goal. Sure, they blew out the Lightning. But the Lightning is terrible and its goaltending is flat-out embarrassing. San Jose has only 2 wins against playoff teams this month, and only one of those was in regulation (5-2 over DAL).

While Vancouver hasn’t exactly set the month of December on fire, they’ve been really good of late, winning 4 of their last 5 games and beating the likes of Toronto, Minnesota and Detroit. Some strong play reminiscent of their games against the Wild and Red Wings will put them in a perfect spot to win tonight in the Bay Area. Without Chris Higgins, the Canucks will need to find driving, relentless effort from the rest of the forwards tonight. It’ll be vital for the Canucks to have their power skating legs on at HP Pavillion tonight.

Game Notes

Chris Higgins is out of the lineup with another infection, this time in his hand. He did not make the trip to San Jose and his status for the other two games in California is unknown, and doubtful. As a result the Canucks have called up Mark Mancari from the Chicago Wolves. Roberto Luongo gets the start tonight in net.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. San Jose’s big, key stat is their even strength goal ratio. The Sharks are third in the league at 1.47 5-5 GF vs GA. The Canucks have to be strongly defensively at even strength tonight. Smart, simple responsible passes to clear the zone. Low risk and let your forwards outskate the Sharks defencemen.The Sharks don’t score a TON of goals at even-strength (ranked 14th). Their real strength is defense. they rank 2nd in even-strength goals-against.
  2. Canucks PP vs Sharks PK. The Canucks road PP ranks 2nd at 26.3%, while the Sharks home PK ranks 30th at 72.1%. The Sharks have allowed 17 powerplay goals (ranked 29th) in 20 GP and have been shorthanded 61 times (ranked 13th). If the Canucks want to get out to a lead, they MUST win this battle, because the Sharks have a big edge at even-strength, especially defensively.
  3. The second period. It’s the Canucks worst defensively, and the Sharks best offensively. This could be the killer for the Canucks if they play their typical, road second period, in which they get blown up by allowing 4 goals. The Canucks have to get out of the second period unscathed if they want to take these two points. Even if it’s just icing the puck 80 times, that’ll work. They need to keep the puck OUT of their own zone in the middle frame. OUT. OUT OUT OUT.

The Links

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

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  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Mysterious illness may keep Higgins home (The Province)
  3. Ehrhoff who? Canucks defence powers on (The Province)
  4. Canucks’ Luongo comfortable with changes (Vancouver Sun)
  5. Canucks visit Sharks in battle of first-place teams (TSN)