Game 7 Preview: Avs @ Canucks

Alex Burrows get a rough ride from his old friend Shane O’Brien.

After the Canucks opened the season with an unspectacular homestand in which they went 1-1-1 over three games, they ventured to the California coast for an unspectacular roadtrip in which they posted a 1-1-1 record over three games. Big fans of symmetry, the Canucks. On Wednesday night they’ll return home to face the short-handed Colorado Avalanche, who have been surprisingly bad to begin the season. 

A year ago the Avalanche looked like a rapidly improving team. They posted auspicious possession numbers while Greg Sherman went about assembling a gritty young core that seemed poised to be really tough to play against for years to come. Now they’re down Gabriel Landeskog – sidelined with a probable concussion following a hit by Brad Stuart over the weekend, Ryan O’Reilly – still unsigned despite being really, really good at hockey, and Steve Downie – lost for the year with an ACL tear. All of a sudden a big physical team with enviable depth down the middle is looking like an also ran in a moribund division.

Which is good news for the similarly short-handed Vancouver Canucks, of course, as they look to get back on track in advance of Friday’s blood rivalry tilt against Duncan Keith and the world beating Chicago Blackhawks. 

Read on past the jump.

Broadcast Info: 

Puck Drop: 7 PM PST

Television: Rogers Sportsnet

Radio: Team 1040


Over the past fifteen seasons, the relationship between the Canucks and the Avalanche has been consistently lopsided, although the position of dominance has shifted over the years. Recently it’s been all Vancouver, all the time:

That said, the Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy Avalanche racked up such a dominant record against the rebuilding Canucks of the late 90s and early aughts that you can spin it pretty much however you want:

I find that contrast highly amusing.

The Avalanche are, as currently composed, a physical team up front with a lot of depth at forward (even with three of their top-nine forward group out of the lineup). In the offseason the Avalanche added play-driving winger P.A. Parentheau to their strong group that is built around speedster Matt Duschene, playmaker Paul Statsny and noted Canucks killer Milan Hejduk. They’ve also got several big wingers who could give Canucks defenders fits in their own end. One of those wingers is David "shooting percentage" Jones and Jamie "official injurer of Canucks players" McGinn.

Also the Avalanche have called up two-way speedster Michael Sgarbossa who was one of my favorite players to watch in the OHL last season (he was teammates in Sudbury with Frank Corrado so I saw him a fair bit). Not sure if he’ll play this evening or not, but if he does, he’s really fun to watch.

On the backend and in goal, however, they’re spotty. Those are the two major areas where the Canucks have a decisive advantage on Wednesday night.

The Canucks should have the special teams edge as well on Wednesday. Vancouver’s penalty-kill has been brutal, but Colorado’s power-play could be the cure for what ails them. Meanwhile Colorado’s penalty-kill is still reeling from the loss of Jay McClement this summer and the up in the air status of Ryan O’Reilly. If Vancouver’s power-play is as feckless tonight as it was against the Sharks and Kings earlier this week, that will be a major cause for concern.

The Avalanche will presumably come correct on Wednesday evening, as it’s something of a homecoming for six different Avalanche players (Greg Zanon, David Jones, Chuck Kobasw, Mark Olver, Ryan O’Byrne and Tyson Barrie) who hail from British Columbia. I’d imagine that those six players bought several fistfulls of tickets to this evening’s game, and will be looking to put on a show. Also returning to Vancouver, the Roxy’s favorite patron Shane O’Brien. Note to Zack Kassian: if you want to keep getting ice-time from Alain Vigneault, tagging O’Brien with your fist a few times couldn’t hurt!

I’d also mention that the Avalanche are shooting, as a team, around 3% at even-strength so far this season – so they’re do for some lucky bounces. Hopefully their regression won’t start until after tonight’s game though…

At practice today the Canucks appear to be "wooding" with the same forward lines they’ve been using since Alain Vigneault shook up the lineup following the team’s shootout loss to the Oilers about ten days ago. It looks like Vancouver will also stick with the Bieksa-Garrison and Hamhuis-Edler pairings for Wednesday night’s game, which makes some sense even if the Hamhuis-Edler pairing makes me nervous. 

Oh also a fun wrinkle, it looks like Roberto Luongo will get his second straight start tonight. So go ahead, put your feet up and cue up the old "goaltending controversy" record (it’s a broken record, by the way).

Vancouver is the midst of an extremely tough stretch (games in quick succession against the Sharks, Blackhawks and the Kings isn’t an easy task) so tonight’s contest represents the most "winnable" game on Vancouver’s docket this week. Let’s hope they can pull it off.

Numbers Game:

  Avalanche Canucks
Record 2-3 -0 2-2 -2
Goal Differential -3 3
PP% 6.7% 18.8%
PK% 71% 69.2%
Fenwick% Close 49.54% 52.56%
PDO 96.7 100

Game Day Links: