Get excited! Andrew Alberts is coming to a lineup near you! [Image via Vancity Buzz]
The positives: Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Stars can only be an upgrade in entertainment value from the last time we saw the Canucks, in their shootout loss to the Wild. Also, while the Stars are probably at least a smidgen better than their record would indicate, they’re not the Chicago Blackhawks.. so you can breathe easy for another night. Plus Andrew Alberts looks very dapper in his Ugly Christmas Sweater.
The negatives: The news on recently injured defenseman Ryan Stanton isn’t exactly great, and the reason a picture of Andrew Alberts is being used is because he’s coming to a lineup near you! Also, Aaron Rome still isn’t healthy enough to play for the Stars which I know will upset at least 1 person out there.
Puck Drop: 5:30 PM PST
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
I believe that there are two big storylines worth discussing from the Canucks perspective in previewing this game:
Nothing new from #canucks on Ryan Stanton excpet for Tortorella saying he would be out "for weeks".
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) December 19, 2013
Stanton has been placed on IR officially, which is obviously a big blow to the Canucks. He had been playing so well next to Bieksa, and had really proven to be a reliable 3rd pairing defenseman. Now with him on the shelf – and no return for Alex Edler in sight – the team is in more than just a little bit of a pickle.
They’ll dress both Alberts and Weber against the Stars, but I’d be surprised if either of them played anything resembling meaningful minutes. That means we’ll see a whole lot of the top-4 once again, which could present problems with fatigue down the line.
I had a terrible nightmare two nights ago where Andrew Alberts was out on the ice against the Chicago Blackhawks and Chelsea Dagger was playing on loop. To my dismay, that may become a reality..
Where art thou, Frankie Corrado?
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) December 19, 2013
Interesting. I personally actually agree with this strategy, even though some others out there may not. The Canucks will be hard-pressed to win in Chicago given all of the circumstances at play regardless of who is in net, so why not try to do everything in your power to secure the 2 points when you can? With the standings as tight as they are and every point being as important as it is, I think it’s a savvy play.
Here are some of the more prevalent underlying numbers through 36 games:
|Corsi Close %||52.8% (7th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.46 (8th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.04 (11th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.87 (24th)|
|5v4 SF/60||64.7 (2nd)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.39 (1st)|
|4v5 SA/60||42.4 (3rd)|
I like a lot of the pieces the Dallas Stars have up-front, but there’s obviously no question that everything for them starts and ends with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Those two have combined for 61 points on the year, and at this point Tyler Seguin has 7 more goals than anyone on the Boston Bruins roster. He’s a 21-year old who occasionally likes to have a good time, though, so that’s clearly more important than his ability to put the puck in the net.
There’s a couple other forwards I really like on the Stars roster, and one is Valeri Nichushkin, who will undoubtedly haunt me for the rest of my life (even long after his playing days are done). I tweeted something along those lines out recently and people chose to interpret that as me taking a shot at Bo Horvat, which had nothing to do with it quite frankly. My point is that Nichushkin – who has heated up with 9 points in 9 December games – would certainly look great in a top-6 RW role, perhaps beside, oh I don’t know, the Sedins?
There’s also Antoine Roussel, whose name I’m sure you’ll hear at least a handful of times on tonight’s broadcast. He used to be in Vancouver’s system, and he’s actually from France, which is pretty cool. He also has a perfect combination of talent + annoying traits, which seem to drive opponents crazy. I figure he would’ve been a great Canuck..
Your eyes are not deceiving you. That is, in fact, THE Kevin Connauton in the Dallas Stars lineup. The former Vancouver Giant and 3rd round pick of the draft pick – who was moved for a rental of Derek Roy’s ghost last Spring – scored his 1st career goal just a few nights ago. Still, his star (pun fully intended) had lost its luster, and even though Roy didn’t ultimately work out in Vancouver, I’m 100% okay with that trade in hindsight.
Connaunton – and Cameron Gaunce, who is actually dressed as the 6th defenseman instead of Oleksiak – are both in the lineup because of injuries suffered to blueline mainstays Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley. As that 6-man unit is currently constructed, Dillon and Goligoski are doing almost all of the heavy lifting, but they can only do so much.. (though I’d believe Brenden Dillon was capable of doing anything he wanted to because he’s the greatest hockey player ever).
There’s no denying that the Stars have plenty of talent and ability, as is evidenced by their impressive possession and goals scored rates at 5v5. It has been their ability to stop the puck from entering their own net, to go along with their dreadful special teams play, that currently has them on the outside looking in:
|Corsi Close %||51.6% (10th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.63 (6th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.44 (20th)|
|5v4 GF/60||3.93 (29th)|
|5v4 SF/60||55.0 (12th)|
|4v5 GA/60||8.03 (27th)|
|4v5 SA/60||67.7 (30th)|
Kari Lehtonen’s numbers have really dipped in the past few weeks since these two teams last played. On November 17th Lehtonen stopped 42 of 43 shots he faced to beat the Canucks, despite the fact that they thoroughly dominated play throughout. He has surrendered at least 3 goals against in each of his last 6 starts, though, letting in a combined total of 23.
As a comparison, Roberto Luongo has allowed just 8 to get by him over that same span, so, yes.. the Stars will certainly need their goaltending to be better if they hope to legitimately stay in the playoff hunt. It’s not the first time that the phrase "needs to be better" has been uttered about an operation affiliated with Dan Ellis.
As for Lehtonen, I think I’ve found a slight alteration to his technique that could go a long way in improving his fortunes:
.. is something which I’ve decided we won’t do here anymore. Just open up your search bar of choice and go check out the work that people have done at The Province, The Vancouver Sun, and all of your other favourite Canucks blogs. The internet is a fun and useful place. Explore it.
I will instead pass along one interesting post from the opposition’s perspective, which this time comes from the SB Nation Dallas Stars blog, Defending Big D. They had a very interesting post up today looking at how the Stars have built the team we’ll see on the ice tonight by using their AHL affiliate to develop all of their young talent. It’s true, and it’s something that Canucks fans are surely hoping will happen one day with their franchise, after all of the recent turmoil on that front.
Two specials via PlayNow.com.. [Don’t forget to sign up with the Canucks Army promo code "CANUCKSARMY" to receive $25 worth of free bets!]
- Big ‘O’ in Texas: 6.50-to-1 that the Canucks score in all 3 periods en route to getting the W.
- Santorelli the Star: 5.00-to-1 that Mike Santorelli scores a goal in a Canucks win.