Game #78 Preview – Enough Already

Seriously Ribeiro? Get that weak garbage out of here.

Game Day Recon: Game #78 – Stars @ Canucks

OMG! Enough of the Dallas Stars already!! After going over a year without playing one another, the Canucks and Stars face off for the fourth time in less than five weeks.

And with the Stars and Canucks playing fairly uninspired hockey against one another, we’re pretty much done with the two teams playing each other. Which only means only thing…. it’s therefore inevitable that they meet again in this year’s playoffs. Sigh.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: Team 1040

The Setup

The Canucks and Stars are playing a similar style of hockey these days. They have nearly identical records over their last 10 respective games (Dallas: 6-4-0; Vancouver: 6-3-1). The Stars goal differential over those 10 games is even (24GF; 24GA) while the Canucks’ goal differential is a mere -1 (20 GF; 21 GA). Both teams have scored 4+ goals only twice in the last 10 games and both teams have two shutouts in their last 10 games. The bottom line is that both Vancouver and Dallas have relied on goaltending and defence to win games down the stretch and outbursts of offense are few and far between.

That’s not to suggest that each team doesn’t have its share of goal scorers and point getters. The Canucks, with Henrik, Kesler, Burrows, Booth and Higgins, are being vilified by press and fans for their lack of offence lately. But the Stars, even with the likes of Ribiero, Ryder, Benn, and Eriksson up front are just as unable to find any consistency lately. One game they score 4 goals and win handily, then next game they score 4 and lose. One game, they score 1 goal and get a 1-0 shutout, then next they score two goals and get shelled for 5. There is only one big difference between the Stars and Canucks over the past 10 games. The Canucks have played in 7 1-goal games; the Stars have played 4 and two of those were shootouts.

What does this mean? What should we expect tonight?

Well, we shouldn’t expect a lot of goals, that’s for sure. Given the Canucks’ sudden and drastic shift to lock-down play, and given the Stars inconsistency with goal scoring from game-to-game, it’s easy to suggest that this will be another low scoring affair. Could the Canucks be in for their third straight 1-0 game?

The first game that the Canucks played with Daniel Sedin was against the Stars on March 22nd. They found a way to win that game without Daniel, and it was the first of four wins in a row for the Canucks. All that being said, it seems that, with all of the games that these two teams have played against one another lately, it’s just a foregone conclusion that they’ll meet in the first round of the playoffs. Yep. And, man – I can’t WAIT for that! As of today, there is a 25.0% chance that the Canucks and Stars will be first round opponents. There is also a 30.4% chance that the Canucks will open the playoffs against the Coyotes. I honestly can’t decide which match-up would be more exciting! I’ll figure it out while I take a nap during tonight’s game.

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 Stars
Record 47-21-9 42-30-5
Venue Record (Home/Away) 23-10-4 20-16-2
Last 10 6-3-1 6-4-0
PP% 20.4% 14.4%
PK% 86.1% 83.4%
Goal Differential +44 +1
5-on-5 Goals F/A 1.17 1.02
Shots % 50% 49.4%
Fenwick % 51.3% 49.9%
Shots Tied % 50.3% 48.8%
Fenwick Tied % 52.1% 49.9%
PDO 101.3 100.3

Game Notes

Roberto Luongo will likely get the start tonight, while Cory Schneider will get the start tomorrow against Calgary as the Canucks play back-to-back home games.

Kevin Bieksa is now taking a "maintenance week", which at this point seems like the sane thing to do, to ensure that Juice is ready and healthy for the playoffs.

Kari Lehtonen will man the net for the Stars, who are without Nystrom, Dvorak and Fistric with injuries.

An OT/SO victory for the Canucks tonight would leave the season series identical for both teams at 2-1-1.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Canucks have not allowed more than 2 goals since their 4-3 win against Columbus two weeks ago. Since then, they’re 4-1-1 and have won 4 straight. I know it’s boring but it works. And apart from Dallas’ aforementioned "Big 4" up front, they don’t have a ton of scoring depth. Sorry Canucks fans, but it’s working and the team is getting ready for the playoffs. You know what’s coming.

The Links

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

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Stars’ Ryder the real deal (The Province)
  3. Mark Recchi thinks Canucks can grow from Stanley Cup loss – GWAH?!?!?!?!  (Vancouver Sun)
  4. Vancouver Canucks vs. Dallas Stars Gameday (The Province)
  5. Canucks look to shoot down Stars (CBC Sports)