Game #51 Preview – Will Somebody Hate The Wings?

Aw, Kes and Higs. You so cutesy together. You just love playing the Wings, don’t you.
Expect these two American BFF’s to have large games tonight.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #51 – Red Wings @ Canucks

As Iain McIntyre wrote in a column late yesterday, "Nobody hates the Wings and it’s making me sick." He says, if winning breeds hatred for other NHL teams, as Ken Hitchcock suggested when asked why everyone hates the Canucks, then why doesn’t everyone (well, everyone but Ryan Lambert) hate the perennial Cup contending Red Wings? All they’ve done is win for 15 years. Yet, they’re considered the model organization, from ownership on down.

Well… Yeah. They are. Because they’re good! And they’ve won for 15 years. But let’s starting hating the Red Wings too.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

Detroit’s hockey club is once again at the top of the Western Conference standings. They lead the league in wins. They’ve won a BILLION games in a row on home ice (not hyperbole).They’re at or near the top of the league in every relevant even-strength statistical category. Basically, the Detroit Red Wings are dictating the pace of games at both ends of the ice. They’re getting balanced scoring (only Pavel Datsyuk ranks in the top 30 in points) and have 8 players with 10 or more goals this, and two of them are defensemen (Lidstrom and Kronwall)! They’re balanced, they have depth and they’re getting exceptional goaltending. Boy, that sounds like a recipe for another deep Cup run, doesn’t it?

If the Red Wings do have an Achilles Heel, it appears to be their special teams – specifically their PK. Despite their offensive output, they’re only ranked 12th on the powerplay. But it’s their PK that has been causing them problems. Ranked 23rd overall, 18th on the road, 18th in PPGA, and have scored only 1 SHG. On a team as tight offensively and defensively as the Red Wings are, it is a glaring weakness in their otherwise solid armour.

The other area of concern for the Red Wings is their defense away from the Joe. They rank 21st in GA/G and have given up more goals than they’ve scored (70 GF – 79 GA). While they are are a staggering 20-2-1 at home, they are a mediocre 14-14-0 on the road. It’s hard to fathom how a team this good can be so average on the road, but the number don’t lie. 

While the Canucks are also a balanced team with a deep lineup, their big story this year is the rise of Cody Hodgson. Until his Rookie of the Month win, he was flying under the radar in terms of Calder consideration. Not anymore though. Just in case you weren’t aware, Hodgson is tied for third in team goal scoring, with Ryan Kesler. And he’s 6th on the team in points. Among rookies, he’s second in goals and fourth in points. All this while averaging a piddly 12:42 per game. As Cam Charron pointed out, Hodgson is proving his clutchiness. Tonight, against the conference leader and a team he grew up watching, Cody Hodgson has a chance to further amplify that nascent Calder buzz.

Numbers Game

This table includes what we believe to be the best "predictive" team metrics in hockey. Beyond the self-explanatory stats like record, powerplay percentage and goal differential, this table includes: 5-on-5 Goals For and Against Rate, which measures a team’s even-strength goal differential on a per game basis. Shot% and Fenwick% are indicators of possession and show us which team is better at controlling play. Shot% and Fenwick% in a tied game state have been proven to be the gold standard for measuring "real" team quality. We’ll also include PDO to qualify a team’s record – and try to isolate whether or not a particular opponent (or the Canucks) are actually as good as their record indicates, or whether or not they’ve just been lucky (or unlucky).

  Red Wings Canucks
Record 34-16-1 31-15-4
Record Home/Away 14-14-0 15-6-3
Last 10 8 – 2 – 0 7- 2- 1
PP% 18.2% 23%
PK% 80.8% 85.6%
Goal Differential +45 +37
5-on-5 Goals F/A 1.55 1.18
Shots % 55.2% 50.5%
Fenwick % 55.3% 51.2%
Shots Tied % 56.4% 49.6%
Fenwick Tied % 55.2% 51.6%
PDO 102 101.6

Man the Red Wings are good.

Game Notes

Roberto Luongo returns to the net for the Canucks. Meanwhile, NHL Wins leader Jimmy Howard is expected to start for the Red Wings. The Canucks are icing their healthiest lineup all season, as they did on Tuesday against the Blackhawks. The Red Wings are only missing one key player in veteran forward and garbage-goal specialist Tomas Holmstrom.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Hack Datsyuk’s ankles until they’re bloody stumps. OK, ok. I kid, I kid. Calm the hell down, Red Wings fans. And Blackhawks fans too. Although, I don’t suspect any Blackhawks fans are reading this today.
    The REAL first key is to exploit the Red Wings penalty kill. They do take penalties. They aren’t like Red Wings teams of the past. And they take way more penalties in the 2nd and 3rd periods (61 each) than they do in the 1st  period (48). So, given how strong the Wings are at ES, the Canucks have to take advantage of their own strength on the power-play, which just happens to be ranked #1 overall in the NHL.
  2. Get your head on a swivel for the second period. The Wings are deadly in the second period with their offense (ranked 4th), while the Canucks have been (for several seasons now) stinkerific defensively in the middle frame (ranked 26th). The Canucks and their weak second period defense is really strange. They are SO GREAT in the first and third periods defensively. But that long change is killing them. The funny thing about the Wings though is that the second period is also (statistically) their worst period defensively. So, expect a barn-burning second period.
  3. Faceoffs. Huge. Detroit is revered as a puck-possession team, as are the Canucks. If the Canucks expect to win the puck possession battle, they have to win the faceoff battle. Winning face-off is a lot easier than trying to get the puck away from a wizard like Datyuk. Detroit is great in the dot, as are the Canucks, but Henrik Sedin is going to need to have a HUGE game with faceoffs if he expects to keep possession. We already know that Malhotra, Kesler and Lapierre are superior faceoff performers. Hanky and Hodgson… not so much. Henrik especially will need to be GREAT if he wants his line to dominate tonight.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Why the Red Wings love-fest? (Vancouver Sun)
  3. Canucks look to outsmart puck-possessing Red Wings (The Province)
  4. Ballard’s hip check here to stay despite penalty (The Province)
  5. Canucks wary of Red Wings’ improved road record (CBC Sports)