Game #61 Preview – Down With Streaking

Burrows and the Canucks had a rough go the last time they were in Motown.
Tonight, they have an upgraded lineup. Plus, they won’t face the best player in the league.
(Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #61 – Canucks @ Red Wings

It’s a clash of the top two teams in the Western Conference as the Canucks travel to the Motor City tonight. Detroit and Vancouver go head to head at the Joe, with a streak and bragging rights on the line. There’s more than just bragging rights on the line tonight though. There’s also power and prestige and fame and first round draft picks and an immediate bye to the Stanley Cup Final, and a trip to Disneyland, and $10 million US to each player on the winning team.

So yeah, it’s a big game.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 4:30 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The way the media has been talking about this game coming in, you would think that tonight’s winner will immediately be crowned league champion. Like this is the biggest, most important game that either team will play all season, including the playoffs. The fact is that it is game #61 (62 for the Red Wings) and there are still 21 games to go after this, before the playoffs even begin. Sure, it is two conference powerhouses playing, and sure, the hockey game is bound to be a great one. But it’s one of 82, and the Canucks have proven already that they can beat the best teams in the league… because they ARE one of the best teams in the league.

That said, the Wings are rolling through a seriously amazing streak right now. I just checked the official stat, and the Detroit Red Wings have won 400 million home games in a row. While Detroit’s shiny new NHL record for consecutive home wins is impressive, if there is one team poised to knock them from their perch – it’s the Canucks.

Consider the stats: Vancouver owns the best road record in the NHL (20-10-2), along with the most goals-for on the road (99), the most PPG on the road (29), they’re third in goals-for per road game (3.13), they’ve got the third best road penalty kill (88.1%) and the second best road power play (23.2%).

In their last trip to Detroit, the Canucks were utterly dominated and lost 2-0. The Red Wings should have probably scored 6 or 7 goals, at a minimum, but Cory Schneider was a goddamn Superman. The Red Wings took advantage of a typically flat Canucks second period and outshot Vancouver 24-8, scoring both of the game’s goals in the middle frame. It was arguably the Canucks’ worst game of the season, and the score line is as flattering as it could be, all thanks to a heroic effort from the Amazing Schneiderman.

There’s two things worth noting though… First of all, In the Canucks only other trip to Detroit this year (Oct 13), the Canucks had Marco Sturm, Mikael Samuelsson and Andrew Ebbett on the ice. Tonight, they’ll have Ryan Kesler, David Booth, and Mason Raymond instead. So yeah… there’s that. Also, Detroit’s win on October 13th 2011 marks the only time the Red Wings have beaten the Canucks in regulation in the past 24 months.

Tonight, the Canucks catch a huge break as the league’s best player, Pavel Datsyuk, is out of the Red Wings lineup for a couple of weeks after orthoscopic surgery on his knee. Datsyuk was recently voted the league’s most underrated player, most gentlemanly player, most polite player, most graceful player, most absorbant player, most nutritious player and the player whose head looks most like a guitar pick. Without Datsyuk, the Red Wings still possess a potent lineup, but he is a huge loss and a serious game changer.

The Canucks also have a chance to even up the season series with the Wings. A regulation win tonight for Vancouver will give each team 2 wins and 2 losses, while each team having won one game at home and on the road. That’s pretty much as even as it gets.

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, the table includes: 5-on-5 Goals For and Against Rate, which measures a team’s even-strength goal differential on a per game basis. Today the table is somewhat modified because timeontheice’s "mplayershots" scripts have been glitchy over the past week, so we’ve dropped shot% and shot% tied from the table. However, Fenwick% close is a great indicator of possession, and shows us which team is better at controlling play. We’ll also include Fenwick% in a tied game state, which, has 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 41-18-2 38-16-6
Venue Record (Home/Away) 26-2-1 20-10-2
Last 10 7-2-1 7-1-2
PP% 17.7% 22.1%
PK% 81.6% 86.2%
Goal Differential +50 +48
5-on-5 Goals F/A 1.51 1.23
Fenwick Close % 56.1% 51.2%
Fenwick Tied % 56.6% 50.5%
PDO 101.6 102

Game Notes

Luongo gets the start for the Canucks,  while Jimmy Howard will man the net for the Red Wings, after returning from a broken finger on Tuesday. As previously mentioned, Pavel Datsyuk is out after orthoscopic surgery. Patrick Eaves is also on the IR after jaw surgery.

The Canucks are still without Bitz, Ballard, Ebbett, Volpatti and Pinnizotto… As well as: Sturm, Samuelsson, Eric Weinrich, and Martin Rucinsky.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. A locked-down second period. The Canucks should seriously be aiming for a scoreless second period. If the Canucks can limit chances, shots and odd-man rushes in their usually terrible second period, it could turn the tide of the game in their favour going into the third period. Another bad second period like the last time they were in Detroit and this game will be OVER after 40 minutes.
  2. Win the faceoff battle and control the puck. Without Datsyuk, the Wings have lost their best puck controller and game manager. If the Canucks can keep the puck off the faceoff, they can own the play (again, this is ESPECIALLY important in the second period). Puck control without Datsyuk in the lineup will be critical to the Canucks success.
  3. The Michigan Boys. In a game of this magnitude, the homestown boys will surely need to be ready to come and rock Detroit City. David Booth and Ryan Kesler will absolutely be jacked up and ready to go tonight, and that’s a huge plus for the Canucks, especially since Kesler would likely have been matched up against Datsyuk all night long. Without Datsyuk, Kesler is now more free to play to his strengths. Booth has been fantastic in his last 15 games for the Canucks, while Kesler has been quieter than normal. Kes has 10 points in his last 16 games, and hasn’t registered more than a single point in a game in that time. One area where Kesler HAS been great in his last 16 games has been in the faceoff dot. In 10 of his last 16 games, he’s won 55% or more of his faceoffs. Look for Kesler and Booth to have huge games in their hometown tonight.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Tanev playing "significant role" for Canucks (The Province)
  3. Canucks’ David Booth going home — to play (Vancouver Sun)
  4. Canucks target Red Wings’ home win streak (CBC Sports)