On the one hand, it’s pretty unfortunate for the Vancouver Canucks that they have to go to California to take on the Kings and Ducks twice each within the span of 10 days or so. It’s no secret that the Canucks have had their share of difficulties against the top teams in their own division, going 1-5-3 against the Kings, Sharks, and Ducks. Struggling against that group of teams isn’t exactly something to be ashamed of, but for a team like the Canucks, it’s a worrisome trend that doesn’t bode well for them come playoff time.
As a spectator though, it’s hard to complain about this little quirk in the schedule. While there may be a more storied history against the Blackhawks, and a deeper general hatred for the Bruins, the Los Angeles Kings have as good a case as anyone else in the league for the claim to being the Canucks’ biggest rival. Stuff that we’ll wind up talking about for days and weeks to come generally tends to happen when these two teams play each other, and this time around should be no different.
You’ll recall that it was just 8 days ago that Dustin Brown and his shenanigans put Roberto Luongo on the shelf, and it’s because of that, that there’s some added intrigue to tonight’s matchup. I’d say that there’s at least a decent chance that we see some fisticuffs and rough stuff, but in the end a hockey game might break out in the house that Tom Hanks built!
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM PST
TV: Rogers Sportsnet Pacific
A few lineup notes:
-Hey now, Alexander Edler is expected to make his return after having missed the past 16 games with a knee injury. I went into some detail about this earlier today, but it’s worth pointing out again just how big of a deal this is for the Canucks. Their possession numbers have really been cratering for a few weeks now, and Edler, despite all of his perceived struggles (which aren’t really all that bad when putting his circumstances into context), will certainly help move the needle back in their favour.
-Well would you look at that.. Zac Dalpe is slated to play with the Sedins again, after spending the majority of Friday night’s victory over the Blues on the top line. While this’ll almost assuredly be a short-term type of thing (with Burrows set to return 2 games from now), it’s still nice to see Dalpe put in work after having pleaded for John Tortorella and his staff to give him a shot early in the season.
-Eddie Lack starts again, which doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. He was fantastic on Friday v. St.Louis, bouncing back from 4 straight starts with 3+ goals against. It should be mentioned that Roberto Luongo travelled with the team, and I expect he’d start at least 1 of the 2 games in the upcoming back-to-back (ideally against Anaheim, if he’s ready to go).
For my money November 25th’s overtime loss to the Kings was one of the best games the Canucks have yet to play this season. Sure, they wound up losing after a couple of brutal defensive miscues, but they also managed to give the appearance that they belong on the same ice as the Kings.
Their performance that night really appealed to all parts of the team’s fanbase; they stood up to the Kings physically, but they also handled their business in game action admirably. They controlled 62.8% of all shot attempts that night, dominating the league’s best possession team quite handily. It was an impressive showing all the way around, despite the ultimate result.
I don’t typically buy into the physical aspect changing the momentum of a game, but I watched that particular contest, and there was a definite shift following the Nolan incident. We haven’t seen that too many times this year though.. which is kind of weird, given that John Tortorella’s hiring was supposed to bring some sort of mythical, perceived toughness along with it. For the most part, though, I feel like I’ve been watching the same Canucks team from years past in that regard (not that there’s anything wrong with that really).
Will that change tonight, as the Vancouver Canucks team from that November 25th game shows up? Maybe. When asked about LA’s "crease crashing" yesterday John Tortorella said, "I wouldn’t leave anything in the hands of the officials." Then there’s this:
Ultimately I think the Canucks know that people will be watching to see how they respond, including myself. I just hope they let it happen with the flow of the game, and don’t spend the night chasing Dustin Brown around, trying to force the issue on some sort of retribution and coroporal punishment. That usually leads to no good. The main goal after all is to still win the hockey game, with handling your business on the physical front and sticking up to the Kings being just gravy.
Time for a slight little tangent: readers of this blog know that I’ve been more than just a little critical of Tom Sestito in the past, wondering out loud what the Canucks decision makers were seeing in him. There was little evidence to prove that he was a legitimate NHLer, and I think that burning a spot in the lineup on an enforcer type is one of the dumbest things imaginable that a team can do. With all of that being said, he has actually been a revelation of sorts over the past 3-4 games, providing more value over that time than he had in his entire career as a Canuck combined.
Well, it’s a game like this one that I figure Mike Gillis and Co. envisioned he’d be good for when they inked him to a 2-year extension in the summer. Which brings us to what may very well be the most improbable event of the 2013-14 season.. yours truly picking up Tom Sestito in his pool. I’m basically speculating for penalty minutes in this league, and with a high probability of rough stuff in the forecast, I figured it was a decent roll of the dice. But still, I probably would’ve laughed at you if you had told me that I’d be rostering Top Sixtito in a league back in the preseason. SPORTS!
|Corsi Close %||51.5% (10th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.40 (11th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.11 (10th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.71 (23rd)|
|5v4 SF/60||61.6 (2nd)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.24 (1st)|
|4v5 SA/60||39.9 (1st)|
There’s not much for me to say in this section that you don’t already know, given that these two teams played just 8 days ago. The Kings continue to have two scary lines up front, both of which enjoyed ample success v. the Canucks last time out. While Brown-Richards-Williams had the better underlying numbers, I thought that the Carter/Kopitar combo was an absolute terror, looking dangerous nearly every time they hit the ice.
If that game was any indication, Darryl Sutter prefers to have Anze Kopitar’s line go up against the Sedins, with Mike Richards’ unit lining up against Ryan Kesler. I expect we’ll see more of that tonight, and if the Canucks hope to come out on top they’ll need to win at least one of those matchups.
Meanwhile, Drew Doughty continues to be an obscenely good hockey player. While it’s certainly fun to lob jokes about his weight, I think it’ll be a lot funner cheering for him come February when he dons the white and red in Sochi. As for Jake Muzzin.. well, he’s just enjoying the ride:
Image via Robert P
|Corsi Close %||57.9% (1st)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.05 (22nd)|
|5v5 GA/60||1.57 (1st)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.51 (26th)|
|5v4 SF/60||53.6 (11th)|
|4v5 GA/60||5.62 (9th)|
|4v5 SA/60||50.1 (14th)|
[Stats via extraskater.com]
The team held its annual Canucks For Kids Fund SuperSkills event this past Saturday afternoon, and our friends over at Pass it to Bulis did a fine job of recapping what went down for those of you that either weren’t there, or weren’t following along as the festivities took place. I particularly enjoyed all of the funny little GIFs, which are littered throughout the post. A quick rundown of the highlights:
- Jason Garrison hit the net..
- .. and in doing so he set the franchise record for the hardest shot (105.1 mph, still 3.7 mph behind Zdeno Chara’s league record)
- Joacim Eriksson somehow managed to shoot the puck only 12mph slower than Yannick Weber did.
Mason Raymond wow’d the fans with his skills
- Dale Weise was the fastest skater, with Darren Archibald coming in 2nd
- David Booth wasn’t there, presumably because Saturday is a good hunting day?
- Ryan Kesler’s son scored on Eddie Lack. The Canucks are one injury away from calling him up, my sources tell me.
- Zack Kassian had fun..