When the Stars were last in Vancouver, Raffi Torres scored on Andrew Raycroft,
and then practiced his on-ice summersaults and tumbling routine. Weeeeeeeeeeeee!
(Photo by Jessica Haydahl/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Game #67 – Stars @ Canucks
The Canucks and Stars will get very familiar with each other over the next few weeks. After going an entire calendar year between confrontations, the Stars and Canucks play all four games of their season series in a 34-day span. Game 1 went 10 days ago, and the Canucks will be eager to get some retribution on the scoreboard, after losing only their second game of the season when leading after 40 minutes.
But the Canucks have quite a challenge in front of them tonight – the Dallas Stars are the hottest team in the West. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The Canucks face another hottest team and try to reclaim top spot in the league. Again.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
The Canucks have made an odd habit lately of playing hot teams. They played in Detroit when the Red Wings had won 8000 home games in a row. They played in Phoenix when the Coyotes hadn’t lost in regulation for the entire month of February. They hosted St. Louis when the Blues had won 8 of 10. And now they face the Stars who have the second-best record in the NHL over the past 10 games (7-1-2). Without much rhyme or reason to their schedule over the past 7 games, it’s hard to say what tonight will look like for the Vancouver Canucks.
One area where the Canucks need to improve is their offensive output. The Canucks haven’t scored more than 3 goals through regulation and overtime since they beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 on February 19th. Vigneault and the coaching staff hope that the addition of young stud Zack Kassian to the second line will inject some offense into the lineup.
The combination of Kesler, Booth and Kassian was the Canucks best line on Saturday when they lost to the Sabres at home, and they’ll hope to keep up the push tonight. Meanwhile, the offence and patience have both dried up for Mason Raymond, set adrift on memory bliss as he flutters and falls and stumbles his way down to the fourth line, and possibly into the press box tonight. With Kassian impressing in his short stint in Canucks blue so far, Raymond finds himself as the odd man out.
The Dallas Stars sit atop the middling Pacific division, thanks to NOT playing last night. The Stars, the Coyotes, Kings and the Sharks are fighting for the top of the division. Before last night’s action, the Stars and Coyotes were tied in points but Phoenix had played one less game, and therefore led the division. The Desert Dogs lost last night in Pittsburgh and relinquished the lead in the Pacific to Dallas, who just sat and watched. If you can take over the top seed in your division by simply NOT playing and picking up points, I would argue that you are NOT in a strong division.
Oh, and when you’re a division leader with a negative goal differential (Stars are -4 in GD), you are not in a good division. It’s even a mystery how the Stars lead the division, frankly. Their high-level stats (GF, GA, PP%, PK%, FO%) all have them ranked in the middle third of the league. But that’s actually pretty fitting, because if you look at the overall league standings, the Stars sit 12th. But over the past few weeks, they have been the benefactors of their decidedly average divisional opponents.
Individually though, there are several Stars that are having great seasons and should be a focus of the Canucks for tonight. The Stars "Big 4" of Eriksson, Benn, Ryder and Ribiero lead the way for Dallas. However, there is also Eric Nystrom and his absolutely ridiculous stat line (61GP; 16G 4A 20Pts; 17.4 S%). Of course, Nystrom’s numbers are totally unsustainable, but for now, he is a threat to score.
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).
|Venue Record (Home/Away)||20-6-4||17-14-2|
|5-on-5 Goals F/A||1.21||1.02|
|Shots Tied %||49.3%||48.3%|
|Fenwick Tied %||51.3%||49.8%|
The Canucks’ Roberto Luongo faces the Stars’ Richard Bachmann in net tonght. It looks like Mason Raymond may be taking a seat tonight, as Dale Weise may draw back in on the fourth line, and Kassian moves to the second line.
Coach Vigneault announces that there will be no line up changes for tonight’s game. So that means that Mason Raymond remains in the lineup, while Dale Weise is still in the press box. Vigneault did not mention any changes to the lines themselves, but the the personnel remains the same from last game.
The Canucks are 9-4-1 in games after two days off. Luongo is 4-3-2 in 9 GP on Tuedays this year, with 19 GA, 2.33 GAA and a .923 Sv%. In other words, Luongo plays well on Tuesdays but doesn’t get enough offensive support to win games. Just food for thought.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
- Get the top 2 lines scoring. With new blood on the second line and some heinously well protected minutes, the Sedin line and the Kesler line should be counted on to score, or at least generate scoring chances, every time they’re on the ice. It’s time for the Sedins and Burrows to get back to producing the way we’ve become accustomed to. It’s hard to say that they are pacing themselves, or uninterested, or hurt, or a comination of all three, but they need to get back to dominating on the ice and on the scoresheet.
- Activated defence. The biggest difference between the Stars and Canucks offensively is the contribution from the defence. The Canucks have a massive edge here, so the Canucks need to exploit this advantage while keeping an eye on Eriksson, Benn, Ribiero and Ryder whenever they are on the ice. Zone coverage is paramount. If one of the Canucks D pinches and moves in deep, a Canucks forward HAS to get back and provide coverage at the point. Otherwise, it is going to be a long night for Luongo facing 2-on-1 rushes.
- Clear, quick shots on net from down low. The Dallas Stars block a TON of shots. The Canucks HAVE to improve their ability to get one-timers on net, so that the Stars don’t have time to block attempts. If the Canucks can’t get the one-timer off, then they’ll have to make space for themselves and get chances down low. Shots on net from the point are going to be difficult, so get the puck in deep and get the puck in front of the net.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
- Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
- Canucks mix lines, promote Kassian, demote Raymond (The Province)
- Canucks’ Kassian could grow into dominant NHLer (Vancouver Sun)
- Canucks struggling to find scoring opportunities as refs let holds and other hits slide (The Province)
- Canucks look to rebound against sizzling Stars (CBC Sports)