Happy New Year, everyone. Hope you all had a good night, stayed safe, have spent this morning hydrating properly, and are ready for some hockey tonight.
There’s only one game left on the slate for the first day of 2014 – with all of the Winter Classic festivites finally coming to an end – and it’s the Canucks taking on their bitter rival in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Okay, fine, it may not seem like the most riveting matchup on paper (especially considering the sole reason people circled this game on their calendars when the schedule came out, Steven Stamkos, isn’t even playing), but the Lightning are actually playing some fine hockey these days and really intrigue me as a fan of the game, personally.
Read on past the jump for a quick preview.
Puck drop: 7:00 PM PST
TV: TSN (*)
*Hey, look, the Canucks are playing on TSN and there’s no concern of the start of the game being missed due to poor scheduling. Maybe this was their resolution? Whatever the case is, I’ll take it, even if Ray Ferraro won’t be calling the game (he’s still in Sweden for the WJC). It seems like it has been a while since we’ve had a reprieve from John & John.
Just a few notes heading into tonight’s game for the Canucks:
a) Eddie Lack gets the start again, for the 3rd time in 4 nights. That’s a tough task no doubt, but I think he’ll be fine. He’s 25 years old, and he actually has played back-to-back-to-backs in the AHL twice before (in ’11). In one of them, he posted a shutout in the 3rd and final game.
He’s coming off of what was probably his worst performance of his young NHL career – 3 goals against on 27 shots, which isn’t terrible, and is just a testament to how awesome he has been thus far – and despite the fact that Luongo is expected to come back this weekend, will continue to see his share of starts as the team has 3 back-to-backs this month.
b) Ryan Kesler’s line got absolutely eviscerated by Claude Giroux’s line last time out, which was legitimately weird to see given how good that unit has been for a long time now.. but it happens. The Lightning have 2 dangerous lines so we’ll have to wait and see how Tortorella and Co. decide to handle the matchups, but I expect Kesler will see a lot of Martin St. Louis tonight.
c) Here are Dan Hamhuis’ minutes over the past 6 games: 30:46, 27:55, 29:15, 25:57, 29:22, 32:30. That’s a lot. While he has handled the extra duty admirably for the most part, he made a handful of really glaring mistakes against the Flyers (getting burned on 2 goals, and nearly getting burned on another after Lecavalier made him look silly).
With defensemen falling like flies, it’s understandable that the team will need to lean on its most reliable blueliner even more, but I think it would really behoove them to do what they can in keeping his minutes from getting out of hand. (.. *cough* take him off of the top PP unit *cough..)
Here are Vancouver’s relevant underlying numbers for the year:
|Corsi Close%||52.7% (7th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.43 (8th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.04 (9th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.38 (27th)|
|5v4 SF/60||63.0 (2nd)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.29 (1st)|
|4v5 SA/60||40.4 (1st)|
I wrote a thing for Sporting News recently about how this team has managed to keep trucking along without its best player, so maybe you’ll give it a read if this sort of thing intrigues you.
Daily Faceoff is down for the moment, so I couldn’t post the usual lineup combinations.. but I’ll tell you that the main things to watch for are the Tyler Johnson/Martin St.Louis combo on the 1st line, the Valtteri Filppula/Alex Killorn duo on the 2nd line, and Victor Hedman/Radko Gudas on the back end. Then there’s Ben Bishop who is 20-5-3 on the year with a 1.89 GAA, .935 save %. Those numbers are quite absurd and while I’ve been waiting for him to come crashing back down to earth for a while now, it just hasn’t happened yet..
I don’t know how to feel about the fact that Sami Salo won’t be playing tonight. On the one hand, I know that I would’ve spent large chunks of the game not paying attention because I would’ve been busy reminiscing about all of the fun times we shared with #6. On the other hand, it still would’ve been nice to see him (and you know I would’ve been rooting for a slapper from the point to go in on the PP).
I have no idea what the team has planned in the way of a tribute, but I hope they do right by him, because he was such an awesome Canuck. I added the video at the top of the page because it was one of the more memorable goals from him for me, but there’s so many others I could’ve included.
Here are Tampa’s underlying numbers:
|Corsi Close %||52.5% (8th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.24 (13th)|
|5v5 GA/60||1.78 (3rd)|
|5v4 GF/60||5.52 (19th)|
|5v4 SF/60||40.9 (28th)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.40 (14th)|
|4v5 SA/60||56.8 (23rd)|
[Stats via extraskater.com]
Friend of the blog Jordan Bowman put together a fake list of New Year’s Resolutions for the Canucks, and I thought it was pretty funny so I figured I’d share it here. Then there’s an actual video via CDC of Kassian, Dalpe, and Weise sharing their own resolutions.
The game recap for this game likely won’t be posted until tomorrow morning, so apologies for that, but don’t you worry because we’ll get it up eventually [I’m aware of the joke I just served up on a silver platter for you..]