Game #70 Preview – Ashes to Ashes, Funk to Funky

Last time out, it was the Booth Show.
Booth and the Canucks, much like Stella, need to get their groove back.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #70 – Coyotes @ Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are stuck in a funk – a middling, down-tempo ungroovy funk. Coach Vigneault took to his blender again during Tuesday’s practice to mix up the lines, in hopes of shaking the funk out of his star players and getting them back to being funky on the ice. Despite the moderate amount of success the Canucks have had lately, it is clear to everyone around the team that they’ve hit a wall. At this point, they need to try anything to awake from their slumber, which is quickly reaching a coma-like state.

Tonight against Phoenix, the club, its coaches and its fans hope to see the likes of the Sedins, Luongo, Burrows, Hansen, Raymond, Edler and others rise from the smouldering ashes and soar once again.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out on heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low…

Ok, so the loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday wasn’t an ALL-TIME low, but it was certainly the low-point of this season. And after Ryan Kesler put the Canucks on heaven’s high with the game’s first goal, the team looked like they decided en masse to get supremely high and stop playing hockey.

After two full days off, the Vancouver Canucks returned to the ice for practice yesterday readying themselves for today’s game and in need of busting this playing slump. After tonight, the Canucks will have 12 regular season games to go before the playoffs start. Are they conserving energy? Are they bored? Are they hurt? It’s probably a combination of all of that, but there is no doubt that it’s time for the Canucks to get an axe to break the ice. It’s time for the Canucks to start getting into playoff mode. While other teams around them are already driving with the pedal down, in effort to even get into the post-season, the Canucks have long since mentally locked up a playoff spot and the division crown. The real danger for the Canucks is shaking off the doldrums of the regular season which they have long since entered and shifting into "playoff mode" with the rest of the teams in the Western Conference. 

The biggest area of concern for the Canucks has to be their power play, which has officially hit the skids, and is easily the biggest reason for the Canucks offensive malaise of late. Conversion of a couple of power play chances over the last few games and we’re seeing a much different group. Their man-advantage still ranks them 4th in the league, but they’re playing a strong PK team (7th overall, 6th on road) that has given up a mere 12 goals shorthanded on the road all season. Couple that with the fact that the Coyotes are incredibly disciplined on the road (ranked T-2nd for times shorthanded) and this has all the makings of a slump-lengthening night for the Canucks power play.

As always for the Coyotes this season, Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney continue to carry the torch offensively. Whitney is a noted Canuck Killer and scored the lone regulation goal and the shootout winner against the Canucks in their game against Vancouver. It will be imperative for the Canucks to keep a close eye on both Whitney and Vrbata tonight. With the changes on the Canucks defence pairings, this might be a challenge.

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).

  Canucks Coyotes
Record 42-19-8 34-25-11
Venue Record (Home/Away) 20-9-4 16-13-5
Last 10 4-4-2 4-4-2
PP% 20.5% 12.7%
PK% 86.5% 84.7%
Goal Differential +43 +4
5-on-5 Goals F/A 1.17 1.07
Shots % 50.3% 49.9%
Fenwick % 51.5% 49.9%
Shots Tied % 50.1% 48.9%
Fenwick Tied % 52% 49.8%
PDO 101.2 100.6

Game Notes

Roberto Luongo gets the home start in net for the Canucks. We’ll see if the AV Blender holds true for the lines tonight. If so, we’ll see Mason Raymond with the twins, Burrows on the third line with Pahlsson and Hansen and a complete mish-mash on the blue line (3-23 / 5-6 / 2-8). But it doesn’t look like there are any changes to the actual on-ice personnel, just a change to their alignment.

Mike Smith is the likely starting goaltender for the Coyotes. Martin Hanzal is doubtful for tonight, as is Derek Morris.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. The penalty kill. Both teams have excellent penalty killing, so for both teams scoring on the PP tonight is going to be a tall-order. If either team gets a goal on the man-advantage, it’s because the opposing PK broke down, or there was a lucky bounce. So the key for the Canucks here is to keep a tight rein on the PK, which may be a tall order because…
  2. With the new defensive pairings, they HAVE to keep it simple in the D-zone. PLEASE. For just one game, can we NOT have a total firedrill in front of Luongo whenever the opposing forwards pass the puck down low? Keep the pucks outside, and quit clogging up the slot in front of your own goaltender!
  3. Pressure. The Coyotes are not a pressure team. They’re ranked 25th on the road in takeaways, and 29th in giveaways. The Canucks need to pressure the Coyotes in to causing turnovers, especially in their own zone. Cause some panic in front of the Phoenix net and keep up the forecheck. Wreak havoc tonight in the offensive zone.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Gameday: Canucks vs. Coyotes (The Province)
  3. Rested Canucks look lively in practice for showdown with Coyotes (The Province)
  4. Alex Edler knows ‘where my game has to be’ (Vancouver Sun)
  5. Canucks need slumping Sedins to get on track vs. Coyotes (CBC Sports)