Game #32 Preview: Canucks @ Avalanche


*Movie about the hapless Cleveland Indians

In order to assemble a losing team, the owner distributes a list of players to be invited to spring training. The baseball executives say that most of these players are way past their prime. Fans see the list in the paper and remark, “I’ve never even heard of half these guys.”

Our situation closely resembles the movie.

I can’t go a post on Canucks Army, even a game preview, without quoting Moneyball in some form, but that explanation is as good as any for how the Canucks have managed a three-game win streak with a skeleton squad. Even worse, they’re doing it with several players who have two first names.


Puck Drop: 5 PM PDT

Television: Rogers Sportsnet Pacific

Radio: The Team 1040


Andrew Gordon has two first names, Mason Raymond has two first names, and if you’re a Peanuts enthusiast, Jordan Schroeder has two first names. Can’t trust ’em. You also can’t trust the Canuck’s record in one-goal regulation games, which went up to 6-1 with yesterday’s win in Los Angeles. I’m not sure if I’d say that winning by a goal is something the team is trying to do, but their offensive handicap is so obvious when they need to count on the tertiary scoring guys to mount any offensive threat at all.

I use the term “tertiary scoring threat” in that sense because coming into the season, who would have expected Raymond to be fourth in team scoring, behind Jannik Hansen?

A cure for the offensive woes in most cases is a game against the Colorado Avalanche, a team that has allowed 3.20 goals per game. Last night they allowed five against Dallas. In the last five games before that, they’d given up 3, 5, 6, 5 and 4. That stretch of futility coincides with the day they sent a real good young defenceman to the minors. Hmm…

The Avalanche win a bunch of faceoffs, but they aren’t a good possession team. The Avalanche give up way more shots than they take, have a goal differential of minus-20 without notably lower team shooting or save percentages. Backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere ripped into his team last night for their practice habits:

We had a big meeting two or three days ago, a players-only meeting. We talked about some stuff and I thought we had a good response against Dallas at home (Wednesday). Then we have a day off, then come back and practice, and I thought our practice was just awful,” Giguere said. “The effort wasn’t there. We practiced defensive zone coverage, and guys weren’t taking the body and swirling and stuff like that. This is the stuff we have to work on every day. I told a couple of the guys that ‘I don’t think we’ll have a good game today.’ It’s unacceptable. It’s an everyday job. You’ve got to work hard every day. You’ve got to be a lot more desperate than that.”

The Canucks lately have been a working bicycle that doesn’t go very fast. The Avalanche are a collection of gears moving at very high speeds but not connected in any way to a machine. Their group of young forwards—Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly in particular—are good enough to put the team in playoff contention. So why not? They have three good centremen with O’Reilly back in the lineup. Matt Duchene’s on-ice shooting percentage of 5.79% last season is a thing of the past, and Paul Stastny is third in team scoring despite seeing the heavy minutes at his own end of the rink.

Defence, depth and goaltending seem to be the big issues.

For the Canucks, as of noon, we don’t seem to know who will start. Schneider went yesterday. As for Colorado, it was Semyon Varlamov in net last night, and JS Giguere will start for the Avs.

By The Numbers:

via Hockey Analysis and the NHL

  Canucks Avalanche
Record -16-9-6 11-15-4
Goal Differential +1 -20
PP % 12.9% (29th) 14.9% (24th)
PK % 81.2% (16th) 80.2% (20th)
FO % 47.2% (28th) 50.7% (14th)
Corsi % 53.2% (5th) 47.8% (22nd)
Fenwick Close % 53.8% (5th) 47.5% (21st)
Team PDO 100.8 (9th) 99.2 (20th)

Game Day Notes: