Game #44 Preview – Canucks face Jekyll, not Hyde

In their last visit to Tampa Bay, Antero Niittymaki beat Roberto Luongo for the 3-1 win, and was named 1st star
A lot of Tampa’s roster has changed… most notably in net.
(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #44 – Canucks @ Lightning

The Vancouver Canucks try to rebound from a sticky, syrupy mess of a game against the Panthers, as they travel across Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Luckily, the Lightning’s goaltending and defence are two main ingredients in what will hopefully be a delicious stack of rebound pancakes.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 4:30 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The Canucks won the Trap Game against the Wild, then won the Emotional Game, the "Re-Match", against the Bruins. But they couldn’t win the Letdown Game against the Panthers. And letdown it was. They were as flat as a pancake for more than two periods and were dull and lifeless offensively. The only two forwards with any pop were Cody Hodgson and Dale Weise. While Hodgson has been terrific all year, when your only two offensive weapons are Hodgson and Weise, you know your team has mailed it in. The Canucks offence gets a chance to get back on track right away, with back-to-back games in the Sunshine State, and the Lightning offer up a pretty inviting opportunity to feast on some buttery goals.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a heap of trouble on the ice. Their goaltending is the worst in the league, and without an overhaul and a huge trade… it’s not getting better any time soon. GM Steve Yzerman had his team rolling all the way to the Eastern Conference final last year, mostly on the back of timely goal scoring and stellar goaltending. Well the wheels have finally fallen off the rusty old wagon that is 186-year-old Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon has been deplorable as Roloson’s back-up. While their goaltending has been as soft as fluffy pancake batter, the Lightning defence hasn’t been much better. Their defence has suffered some pretty significant injuries, with both Victor Hedman and former Canucks blueliner Mattias Ohlund out of the line-up for a considerable stretch.

Tampa Bay is a Jekyll-and-Hyde team in terms of home and away. They score plenty of goals at home, but are just absolutely abysmal on the road. They’re 11-5-0 at home while 6-15-3 on the road. You can expect Tampa to come out with their offensive guns a-blazin’. They average 3.50 goals-for per game at home, while 2.125 goals-for per game on the road. That’s a HUMANGAS BIG difference. Defensively, they allow 2.81 goals-against per game at home, yet 3.71 goals-against per game on the road. Again, humangas big. The Lightning’s power play is 5th at home, but 30th on the road. Their biggest weak spot at home is their penalty kill, ranked 26th at only 76.1%. And Tampa takes their fare share of penalties, averaging 6.36 minutes shorthanded at home. The Canucks can expect the good Dr. Jekyll to show up tonight at home, where they are riding a 4-game winning streak. And this is the Lightning’s first game at home in 2012, so Tampa will likely be excited, jacked up and looking to put on a good show for its fans.

Game Notes

As expected on back-to-back games, Cory Schneider gets the start tonight for the Canucks, while Dwayne Roloson mans the net for the Lightning. Recently acquired Brendan Mikkelson will make his debut for the Lightning tonight. And BC Kid and recent Team Canada bronze medalist Brett Connolly faces his "hometown" Canucks for the first time.

Interesting note. The last time the Canucks visited Tampa Bay, it was during the Olympic preparation run. During that time, the Canucks played Boston, then Tampa Bay, then Florida. It’s odd that it is nearly identical almost two years later. During those three games, Vancouver beat Boston 3-2 in a SO, beat Florida with a 3-0 shutout, then lost to Tampa Bay 3-1.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Dial up the enthusiasm for the entire 60 minutes. It should be a bit easier in Tampa, as they actually have fans. Who go to the game. And cheer. So the atmosphere there should be a helluva lot more appealing than it was in Sunrise. The Canucks have short travel and should take advantage of that. Go full out for 60 minutes.
  2. Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots. The goaltending is shaky and terrible. Exploit it. Shoot everything. Shoot from everywhere. Don’t look for the perfect pass in front. Just shoot it. All the time. Shoot. Especially on the power play, where the Lightning will struggle to kill penalties.
  3. Play a sound, safe, responsible game defensively. AND ENOUGH WITH THE BLIND BACK-PASSES IN YOUR OWN ZONE. ENOUGH!!! You’re serving up pucks like a plate of hot, delicious injury-inducing pancakes. Ok, I’ll stop now.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Former Vancouver Giants blueliner Mikkelson to debut for Lightning against Canucks (The Province)
  3. Canucks Game Day: Cory Schneider back between the pipes for Bolts (Vancouver Sun)
  4. Canucks-Lightning Preview (USA Today)
  5. Canucks hit Tampa Bay loaded for bear (CBC Sports)