Game #74 Preview – Brother Down

Comraderie. Hugs. Togetherness.
Canucks will need some community spirit to get some goals without their leading goal scorer.
(Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #74 – Canucks @ Stars

The Vancouver Canucks don’t get much time to dwell on the big battle with the Blackhawks last night, or the likely concussion to Daniel Sedin. They immediately boarded a flight to Big D to face the Stars in the second half of back-to-back road games. The scene at the American Airlines Center tonight will surely demonstrate the exact opposite atmosphere as last night. While the United Center was filled to the rafters with screaming fans (some of whom had heard of the team before 2009), Dallas’ arena promises to be a nearly desolate wasteland of fandom.

Is this total shift in emotion a good thing for the Canucks tonight, or will the obvious emotional letdown signal guaranteed-loss night?

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 5:30 PM PT

TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: Team 1040

The Setup

Remember last year, when the Canucks won all four games against the Dallas Stars, by a combined score of 21-5? Yeah. I do. This year, the Canucks are 0-1-1 against the Stars (so far being outscored 8-4) and have only scored 2 goals in each game. This year’s edition of the Dallas Stars is substantially improved over last years, and their games against the Canucks are just another example of that. Better defensively, better goaltending, better scoring. They are currently in the driver’s seat in the race for the Pacific division title, now in control of their own destiny. Big change from last year, when they lost on the last day of the season to knock themselves out of the playoffs and give the 8th seed to the Chicago Blackhawks. Damn you Marc Crawford!

As for the Canucks… well there were certainly signs that they flipped the proverbial switch last night, getting into that playoff-ready mode for which fans and media have been pining harder than a Norwegian Blue pines for the fjords. But they now have a MUCH bigger problem. Now they have to deal with the likely loss of their leading goal scorer, Daniel Sedin.

After taking an elbow to the jaw, courtesy Duncan Keith, Sedin is out indefinitely after likely suffering a concussion. It’s potentially a huge blow to the Canucks if Sedin’s injury is serious enough to keep him out of the roster once the playoffs start. With only 9 games remaining in the Canucks’ regular season, it’s not inconceivable to think that the Canucks could be without the defending Art Ross Trophy winner for the start of the post-season…

That’s damn scary for a team that has had trouble scoring lately. Since back-to-back games against Toronto and Edmonton on Feb 18th and 19th respectively, where they scored a combined 11 goals, the Canucks have scored more than 3 goals only twice – and they only won one of those games… and that was against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Without Daniel, the Canucks will be in tough to keep the lineup balanced enough to squeeze goal-scoring blood from a pretty dry stone.

As for the flip of the switch, there were certainly some very encouraging signs last night. Roberto Luongo was ON. He was dynamite against the Stars, back to the level of play that fans have been waiting to see for a few weeks. The defence was, for the most part, solid last night. That is, until overtime started and their lost their collective mind. Tanev was a force last night and gave this blog yet more reasons to continue its reign as "Chris Tanev Fan Club" hotspot.  The physical response by the Canucks to the Keith hit was certainly noticable and a sign to fans that the Canucks CAN and SHOULD play like that once the post-season officially begins – well except for the parade to the penalty box…

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).

  Stars Canucks
Record 40-28-5 43-21-9
Venue Record (Home/Away) 21-13-3 22-11-5
Last 10 7-2-1 3-5-2
PP% 14.9% 21.3%
PK% 83.4% 86%
Goal Differential -2 +40
5-on-5 Goals F/A 1.00 1.14
Shots % 49.4% 50.3%
Fenwick % 50.1% 51.5%
Shots Tied % 48.4% 50.4%
Fenwick Tied % 49.7% 52.2%
PDO 100.1 101.1



Game Notes

On back-to-back nights, and with the long travel from Chicago to Dallas, the Canucks are expected to start Cory Schneider in goal tonight. Daniel Sedin will not play tonight. In fact, according to Bob McKenzie, Daniel will fly back to Vancouver today to undergo further tests. So that obviously rules him out of tonight and likely for Saturday’s game in Denver against the Avalanche. Manny Malhotra will come back in and coach Vigneault will certainly enact the AV Line Blender tonight to compensate. You ready for some Mason Raymond first line minutes?

Kari Lehtonen will man the net for the Stars tonight. Their only injured player is for Vancouver Giants defenceman Marc Fistric, who is out with an abdominal strain.

Per Dan Rosen – The Canucks can clinched the Northwest division tonight. If the Canucks win, and both the Avalanche and Flames lose in regulation, the Canucks will capture the division crown yet again.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. The offense has to flip the switch now. I know it’ll be tough with the team’s leading goal scorer out indefinitely, but it’s not as though the Canucks are bereft of offensive talent or output. In fact, the loss of Daniel could and should act as a galvanizing moment for the team’s forwards and get them relying or focusing less on the top line and moreso on the balanced scoring that they do indeed possess.
  2. For crying out loud, someone watch Eriksson, Ryder, Been and Ribiero. The Stars’ offense is pretty top-heavy, so it should be easy to focus on those four. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to completely shut them down, but the Canucks should be focused squarely on those four. Defensive line matching as much as possible whenever those four are on the ice.
  3. Faceoffs and puck possession. The Stars are a pretty brutal faceoff team, and with Malhotra drawing back into the lineup tonight, the Canucks need to use this advantage to essentially play keep-away – especially in the defensive zone when Eriksson, Ryder, Been and Ribiero are on the ice. It’s hard to score when you don’t have the puck.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Canucks star Daniel Sedin flies home (Vancouver Sun)
  3. Canucks try to avoid three-game slide (TSN)
  4. Canucks/Stars Preview (USA Today)
  5. Daniel Sedin uncertain for Canucks in Dallas (CBC Sports)