Game #57 Preview – Set It Up Again, Bartender

Oh, man, I bet Daniel is gonna score that goal.
Sorry, Shane. Must have been a long night at the Roxy the night before.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Image)

Game Day Recon: Game #57 – Avalanche @ Canucks

The last time that the Colorado Avalanche played in Vancouver, it didn’t go well for the Rocky Mountain Men. The Canucks administered a 6-0 walloping, and the Sedins were on fire. That’s probably the last truly dominant game that the Sedins have had this season. Since then, and certainly in the last month, the Sedins have been mired in a slump – at least by their standards, anyway.

In three previous meetings this season, the Canucks are undefeated against the Avalanche, and a game against the Avs at home is exactly what the Sedins need to get back onto their usual dominant track.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The Canucks peckerslapped the Avalanche something awful in their only meeting at Rogers Arena so far this year. A 6-0 drubbing in early December saw almost the entire Canucks team (including BOTH goalies, who shared a shutout and first star honours) dominate the Avs from start to finish. The Sedins and Burrows were particularly awesome in that game, with Daniel scoring a hat trick, and Burrows and Henrik combining for 5 assists.

That was probably the last time the Sedins thoroughly decimated an opponent this season. They’ve been unimpressive and uninspired for the last month, despite continuing to collect points and wins for their team. Efforts to revive them with new linemates proved momentarily fruitful, but were otherwise unsuccessful and unsustained. I’m sure that the Sedins would love to use this home rematch to rekindle their top-line magic. Let’s face it, we’d all like that.

One thing Canucks fans would NOT like to see revisited in this re-match is the spate of injuries that happened in that 6-0 win. David Booth was knocked out of the Canucks lineup for several weeks following an ugly hit to his knee from Kevin Porter, while Luongo made way for Cory Schneider after Lu took a puck to the throat. Luckily for Luongo, he was okay and didn’t miss any time (aside from the rest of that match) as a result. But the loss of David Booth rightfully caused some concern. Since returning from injury, Booth has quelled those concerns with points in 8 of his 11 games (9 points total – 5G 4A). He has been a consistent contributor, something that the Canucks have surely appreciated, given the lack of consistency from the Sedins over that same time.

The Avalanche have been mediocre all season. They’ve been mediocre at home and on the road. They’ve been mediocre in their last 10 games (going 4-4-2). They have mediocre scoring, defence and goaltending. That said, they’re a dangerous possession team… Still, they are currently on the outside of the playoff window, looking in. However they have one player that has surpassed the expectations of many, and has impressed all season. Rookie Gabriel Landeskog is fourth in goals, assists and points for the Avalanche and leads the team in +/- by a country mile despite playing extremely difficult minutes (he’s +15, while Ryan Wilson is next at +4). All the while, Landeskog is averaging over 18 minutes per game and turning the heads of folks around the league. As he should be: he’s a two way force. He should be a serious candidate for Calder consideration in the spring, and serious headache for the Canucks tonight.

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).

  Canucks Avalanche
Record 35-15-6 28-5-4
Venue Record (Home/Away) 16-6-4 12-12-3
Last 10 7-0-3 4-4-2
PP% 22.6% 12.8%
PK% 86.1% 84.2%
Goal Differential +41 -13
5-on-5 Goals F/A 1.18 0.84
Shots % 50.3% 51%
Fenwick % 51.7% 50.5%
Shots Tied % 48.4% 48.5%
Fenwick Tied % 50.5% 49%
PDO 101.5 99.1

Game Notes

The Canucks will start Roberto Luongo in net tonight, and hopes that he does not take another shot to the neck. Chris Higgins is expected to return to the lineup for the Canucks, which will be a welcome sign given his troubles with staph infections throughout the year. Dale Weise is still out with an injured foot, and subsequently injured his nose during practice yesterday, but may play. Keith Ballard remains out with headaches and concussion-like symptoms.

For the Avalanche, Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start tonight, and their only injury is to Matt Duchene, who remains on the IR with an injured knee.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Sedins on the Power Play. The Avalanche’s PK on the road is fairly terrible at 78.5%. That said, the Sedins woes on the power play lately have cause their Home PP% to slip to 20.2%, good for 6th in the league. The Sedins HAVE to assert themselves on the power play tonight, and MUST take advantage of a dreadful Avs PK. So if the Canucks want to get themselves on the powerplay, then they also need to…
  2. Skate and draw penalties. The Avs take plenty of penalties in road games and give up plenty of goals as a result. The Canucks have to use their speed and skill and move the puck quick up the ice to draw the Avs into taking penalties. Mostly, that would show that the Canucks are actually *INTO* this game and are willing to play for 60 minutes.
  3. Win this game in REGULATION. First of all, the Canucks cannot afford to continue to play middling hockey and limp these games into OT/SO. Yes, they’re winning, but they’re giving their opposition points and they’re wasting energy unnecessarily. All these extra minutes played are going to start to catch up with them. The Canucks are SUPPOSED to be taking advantage of a lighter schedule, not extending each and every game. 

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Hodgson’s ice time with Canucks dismal despite hustle (The Province)
  3. Canucks coach Vigneault still seeks fix for bottom six (Vancouver Sun)
  4. Canucks host Avalanche hoping to extend series dominance (TSN)
  5. Canucks/Avalanche Preview (CBC Sports)