Canucks Army GDT #30 – Canucks vs. Rangers

The Canucks play their first home game since returning from a 3-3-1 road trip tonight as Alain Vigneault brings his New York Rangers to town. AV’s club isn’t as dangerous as the squad that won the East just earlier this calendar year, but the lights-out play of Rick Nash has helped mask their deficiencies somewhat.

What’s more is that the rest of the Pacific division has quietly begun to reel in the Canucks, so tonight’s two points are crucial for getting back on track. Read past the jump for a preview.

Broadcast Info

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM

TV: CBC

Radio: TSN 1040

Lineups

Courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

Defensive Pairings
Alexander Edler 
Alexander Edler
Chris Tanev 
Chris Tanev
Luca Sbisa 
Luca Sbisa
Kevin Bieksa 
Kevin Bieksa
Ryan Stanton 
Ryan Stanton
Yannick Weber 
Yannick Weber

Vancouver’s lines will see a big shakeup tonight. Jannik Hansen will start with the Sedins, bumping Radim Vrbata to line two with Alex Burrows and Nick Bonino. Shawn Matthias returns to the lineup and will re-claim his spot on the third line. Chris Higgins will play with Bo Horvat and Derek Dorsett (who welcomed his first child to the world yesterday!).

Alex Biega was also recalled from Utica, but will not play. Ryan Miller will start in goal.

Defensive Pairings
Ryan McDonagh 
Ryan McDonagh
Dan Girardi 
Dan Girardi
Marc Staal 
Marc Staal
Dan Boyle 
Dan Boyle
John Moore 
John Moore
Kevin Klein 
Kevin Klein

Rookie Anthony Duclair has been loaned to team Canada’s World Junior squad. Chris Krieder returns to the lineup from a neck ailment, and he will skate on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and ex-Canuck Tanner Glass. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to get the start.

Preview

Coming off their longest road trip of the season, the Canucks begin a four-game home stand that will take them into the Christmas break. Having now played more road games than any other team in the NHL, the relatively slack schedule (just four games between today and December 27th) is a welcome break, and one that Vancouver will surely be looking to take advantage of. The Rangers too are well rested though, as they last played on Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins – a 4-3 overtime win.

Rick Nash had a goal and 5 shots in the victory, which has been pretty much par for the course for Nash this season. Nash has been on fire with 18 goals, good for second in the NHL behind Tyler Seguin. His 14 even strength goals are 1st in the NHL, he’s T-20th in the league in total shots, and he’s inside the top-10 in even strength shots on goal/60 too.

Nash’s performance has gone a long way towards patching some of the holes left by Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, and Brian Boyle. After being a top-end possession team and going on a Stanley Cup run last season, the Rangers’ depth eroded over the summer and they’re simply not the same team as the one that won the East in 2014. The Rangers rank 18th in the NHL in score adjusted Corsi at 49.5%, just below Vancouver who sit 17th at 49.9%. Gone is their impressively effective depth, and the top end of their roster has struggled to control play at even strength. Especially disappointing are Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi, who both have a Corsi% slightly over 45%.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the connections between these Rangers and the Canucks. Most notably, Alain Vigneault makes his was back to Vancouver after that ill-fated coaching swap in the summer of 2013. John Tortorella was a pretty huge disaster for the Canucks and we know that the Rangers brass had to be pretty pleased with 2013-2014 from there end, but this horse has been beaten to death already.

New father Derek Dorsett will play his first game against his former team though, as he carved out an effective role for himself under AV last season. He played in a very defense-oriented deployment on Vigneault’s specialized fourth line, and controlled just above 50% of the shot attempts. Although he’s produced offensively – a 30 point pace is massive for a 4th liner – he hasn’t seen the same two-way success. For example, his on-ice shots against are up by more than 7 per 60 minutes this season despite a dramatically higher offensive zone start rate, but some of this may be attributed to having to babysit a rookie centre at all times.

Even though the Canucks were recently the first place team in the NHL, the standings can change in the blink of an eye. A short road slump was enough to bump them down 7 places in the NHL standings, and they’re now closer to falling out of the playoff picture than they are to keeping pace with the Anaheim Ducks. They’re just three points ahead of the L.A. Kings for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division, though Vancouver has a game in hand. The West is as cutthroat and unforgiving as ever, especially with Nashville, Winnipeg, and Minnesota emerging as legitimate threats to take the wild card crossover spot.

All this is to say that the Canucks can ill afford to have a prolonged slide here, and they have to keep winning games to stay clear of the surely brutal race for the final few playoff spots. Taking advantage of their favourable home schedule, starting tonight against the Rangers, will help them immensely.

  • lucky

    Ok now this is a disturbing “shake up”!

    We have seen this movie before and it has always been a disaster. Hansen should be playing on the 3rd or 4th line, that is where he belongs. I agree with dropping Higgins, but bumping Hansen up to the top line spells disaster.

    Vrbata could work with the second line, but why not give Jensen a shot or even Matthias?

    The club looked flat the last 5 periods of the roadie and something needed to be done…. OR is it an homage to AV and his “shake things up” tendencies. Willie, Hansen doesn’t work on the top line! Period

  • lucky

    @JFR

    It’s been hammered over and over that Hansen has been one of the Sedins most effecting wingers. He’s out playing Burrows. He has more goals than Daniel Sedin while playing 3rd/4th line minutes and zero power play time. Calling it disastrous is simply and utterly wrong.

    Give the Sedins the hard skating, puck retrieving winger that Burrows was several years ago. Let Vrbata re-ignite Bonino. Let Higgins on the 4th line be a wake up call to him as well as a boost for Horvat.

    There is absolutely no reason to panic or doubt these decisions, Desjardins has been fantastically patient and the team is slumping.

    • lucky

      Hansen is most effective playing those 3/4th line minutes. He uses his speed to create turnovers and take the rush the other way.what happens and watch tonight is that he changes his game with the Sedins. He tries to hard to create and is not the pure shooter they need. Meaning he misses the net too much.

      Bottom line if Hanson plays 3rd line and PK he is an effective two way player that can score 20 goals. Putting him in an offensive/finisher role doesn’t play to his strengths.

      I hope I’m wrong.

  • WTF

    Hey, tonite nobody is effective, least of all Miller. The boys have to pick up the pace fast or we might as well pack it in. Tough first game back after a road trip, that’s the only excuse I can think of and that’s not good enough.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Ummmmm…Dude, not to be a smartass, but Miller isn’t the problem. Luca Sbisa is a -4 on the night and Kevin Bieksa, his partner, is a -3. Miller was hung out to dry. #thesecondpairingisthethird