Canucks Army GDT #8: Canucks vs. Capitals

The Vancouver Canucks return to action Sunday evening as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals pay a rare visit to Rogers Arena. Vancouver is looking to bounce back after suffering an embarrassing 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night, while the Caps are looking to build on a strong 4-1-2 start and keep pace with the Metro Division leading New York Islanders.

Of course, the big attraction is Ovi, as it’s pretty infrequent that we get to see him in this neck of the woods. After winning the Rocket Richard last season despite an awful on-ice shooting percentage, the prolific sniper is off to another strong start to the year, with 5 goals and 29 shots in his first seven games.

For a full preview of tonight’s game, read past the jump.

Broadcast Info

Puck Drop: 6:30 PM PST

TV: Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey

Radio: TSN 1040

Lineups

Defensive Pairings
Alexander Edler 
Alexander Edler
Chris Tanev 
Chris Tanev
Dan Hamhuis 
Dan Hamhuis
Kevin Bieksa 
Kevin Bieksa
Luca Sbisa 
Luca Sbisa
Yannick Weber 
Yannick Weber
Defensive Pairings
Brooks Orpik 
Brooks Orpik
John Carlson 
John Carlson
Karl Alzner 
Karl Alzner
Matt Niskanen 
Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt 
Nate Schmidt
Mike Green 
Mike Green

Preview

Once again, there are no changes to report for Vancouver, aside from in goal. Ryan Miller makes his 6th start of the year after Eddie Lack was shelled for 7 goals against Colorado. Though I’m hesitant to say that Vancouver has received some of the worst goaltending in the league this year due to the sheer volume of chances they’re yielding, the fact of the matter is that Miller and Lack have combined to stop only 89% of the shots they’ve faced at 5-on-5, which is among the works marks in the league. It’s a concern for sure, but not close to alarming yet seeing as shot quality factors tend to wash out over larger samples. We can expect Vancouver to yield less chances against simply because they’re competent professionals with zero track record of being uniquely bad.

Ryan Stanton has also resumed skating with the team, and while he hasn’t been good to start the year, his return should help stabilize the blueline. Luca Sbisa was a -5 last game and make it stop please god just make it stop.

On the other side of the ledger, the Caps look to be one of the East’s legitimately good teams again under new head coach Barry Trotz. They’re second in the conference in Corsi% behind only Boston, with Alex Ovechkin leading the way at 61.3%. Rookie centre Andre Burakovsky, taken one pick before Hunter Shinkaruk and 14 after Bo Horvat in the 2013 NHL entry draft, is centering the Caps’ second line, has a 60% Corsi, and has 6 points in 7 games. If not for Jonathan Drouin, the skilled Swede would be one of the clear early season favourites for rookie of the year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a Barry Trotz coached team, the Capitals have managed to cut down on shots against by nearly 10 per 60 minutes so far compared to last season, and are allowing shots against at their lowest rate in the entire Behindthenet era. They are currently the NHL’s stingiest team in terms of letting their opponents have shots at even strength – a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from recent Caps teams – and are also very, very good at preventing shot attempts too.

The scariest part about the Caps is that they look to have maintained their powerplay dominance under Trotz as well. They’re currently 3rd in the NHL in raw PP%, 2nd in PP Goals/60 behind only Pittsburgh, and 2nd in PP FenwickFor/60 behind only Pittsburgh as well. One of Vancouver’s “Keys to the Game” tonight will definitely be to watch Ovechkin in the PP since you know exactly where he’s going to be, but when teams who see the Caps much more frequently than Vancouver does can’t shut him down, it seems silly to expect the Canucks to be able to do so. A more realistic strategy may just be work your ass off and hope he misses his chances.

Regardless, it’s going to be another tough test for Vancouver tonight (they kind of all are once you get out of Alberta), but it’s going to be hard to reach Peak Luca Sbisa again and turn in the kind of awful performance they did against Colorado. But hey, anything’s possible.