Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Previewing the Abbotsford Canucks’ back-to-back games against a Dylan Guenther-less Tucson Roadrunners
1 month ago
Ah yes, everyone’s favourite time of the year in the Lower Mainland, when ice rinks are significantly warmer than outside.
I’m going to keep this preview quick because the office that I’m writing this in is about -14°C, and my fingers might fall off if I type for too long.
First, let’s see how we did with last week’s predictions.
Week 13 predictions reviewBakersfield should be a guaranteed win for Abbotsford. The vibes on the two-game series against Coachella are not good. I’d be surprised if they picked up a single point. They have had their number, and nothing about either team’s play of late suggests a change to the norm.
Not a great week for the ol’ prediction series, that’s for sure!
The guaranteed win was spoiled when the Bakersfield Condors rallied from a three-goal deficit to win in the shootout, then the Canucks honoured my prediction of the “vibes being not good.”
In game one against the Firebirds, the Canucks got absolutely trounced by their Pacific Division rival. Before getting shutout for the third time in their last ten games, the Canucks were dominated in the shot counter before score effects came into effect. With the game tied nil-nil, the Canucks barely held the puck en route to getting outshot 10 to 1. After the Firebirds mounted their lead, the Canucks rallied to out-shoot their opponent 39 to 38, including 20 to 18 at 5-on-5, but they were never in the game.
In game two against the Firebirds, the Canucks defied the odds. After five-straight losses to the Firebirds (just this season alone), the Canucks gave up two two-goal leads and overcame a one-goal deficit to eventually win in the shootout. The Canucks outshot the Firebirds 41 to 38 across all situations and 27 to 20 at 5-on-5 but were outshot 13 to 12 with the game in a tied game state. Vasily Podkolzin and Arshdeep Bains scored twice, while Max Sasson and Matt Irwin put up multi-point nights to boot.
The shootout victory ended a three-game losing streak that saw the club shut out twice and outscored 14 to 5.
Enter the Tucson Roadrunners, who were the first team to shut out the Abbotsford Canucks this season.
BUT FIRST: Updated charts!
On the bright side, the Abbotsford Canucks maintained their top-5 in the AHL conversion rate despite their early New Year struggles. Their shooting percentage (11.3%) sits fifth-best in the AHL, even after getting shutout twice in their last five games. That shooting clip is partly due to the high volume of shots (30.8 shots per game) generated despite the lack of goals against Coachella Valley and Calgary.
The sheer volume of shots and goals allowed over the last stretch of games has seen their defensive environment stats hemorrhage. Their platoon save percentage of .900 ranks 22nd in the AHL, while their defensive environment (30.2 shots allowed per game) ranks 21st-best in the AHL. By the slimmest of margins, they’re out-shooting their opposition but are leaning dangerously hard on their goaltending and 5-on-5 scoring to win.
Despite the lack of experience at forward and defence, the Canucks have managed the 3rd-best penalty kill in the AHL. And that’s after conceding two power play goals to the Coachella Valley in their last outing. Their active forecheck and ability to disrupt shooting lanes has seen Abbotsford hold opponents to less than 1.3 power play shots per opportunity, 162 shots allowed on 127 PKs, totalling 206 minutes of shorthanded ice time.
Their PK prowess makes their power play struggles all the more difficult to stomach. Through 31 games, the club has just 16 power play goals scored on 118 power play opportunities totalling 199 minutes. They are goalless through their last 17 power play opportunities, totalling 28 minutes of ice time. It’s been bad, folks!
As for the why? Christian Wolanin hasn’t looked quite the same this season while patrolling the blue line on the man advantage, taking many penalties while defending shorthanded rush chances to negate the opportunity. Additionally, the team lacks a surefire shooting threat, with both power play units deploying lines with players who are better shooters off the rush or through drivers with possession toward the net rather than one-shot scoring types.
Their main shooting threats on the power play are Vasily Podkolzin from the right circle, Sheldon Dries at the net front, and Arshdeep Bains from the left circle. Despite 31 shots, Podkolzin has converted on just 6.45% of his attempts for power play goals. Dries and Bains have each combined for two goals apiece but aren’t exactly shooting threats. Some have asked about Aidan McDonough as a power play shooting threat, but he has yet to endear himself with the coaching staff enough to earn significant power play reps over other players. In all honesty, the club’s most potent shooting threat from the perimeter is Filip Johansson, whose ten shots are tied with Max Sasson and Tristen Nielsen for fourth-most among power play features.
With his two goals in their shootout win against Coachella Valley, Arshdeep Bains is the runaway scoring leader for the Abbotsford Canucks again. Barring a return of Linus Karlsson to the AHL or Sheldon Dries from IR, Bains’ 22 primary points (goals and primary assists) are six more than the next leading primary producer on the roster, Max Sasson.
Speaking of Sasson, he edges Bains’ by a single primary point at 5-on-5, with 14 total. Not bad, considering he has 15 points at 5-on-5 altogether!
Abbotsford’s goal differential at 5-on-5 is at its best with Sasson on the ice. They’ve nearly outscored their opposition two-to-one with Sasson on the ice, and Sasson has factored in on 65% of the goals scored at 5-on-5 with him on the ice (15÷23=65%).
Akito Hirose remains waylaid with a lower-body injury, Sheldon Dries missed the entirety of the Farm’s California road swing, and Danila Klimovich slid out of the lineup after missing an entire month with an undisclosed injury. The team is mum about player absences, but the transaction that returned Josh Passolt to Abbotsford from the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings is indicative that something is amiss with Abbotsford’s forward group.
Hopefully, we’re wrong, and Klimovich is fine. But concern is there that he re-aggravated the same injury that sidelined him through December.
Games #32 & 33 versus Tucson Roadrunners
The final round of the Rätybowl takes place Friday and Saturday night.
As mentioned, the first matchup saw Aatu lose to his older brother by a 5-nil score. Fortunately, he redeemed himself with a primary assist on the empty-netter goal in the rematch.
Tucson are riding into Abbotsford, having won seven of their last ten games. The Roadrunners are solid on the road, having won 12 of their 18 road games. Their power play is no better than Abbotsford’s, sitting third-worst in the AHL overall and fifth-worst in the league while on the road.
Usually, that special teams struggle would be good news to the home team, but the Canucks’ league-worst overall power play is fifth-worst in the league on home ice. Their stalwart PK is slightly better on home ice, second-best in the AHL.
In a spot of good news, the Roadrunners will be without talented young forward Dylan Guenther, who was called up to the Arizona Coyotes after scoring ten goals and 28 assists through 29 AHL games. Guenther made his NHL debut this past week, where he promptly scored 2 goals and 1 assist while averaging 14:54 of ice time per game. It is safe to say he won’t be flying into Abbotsford for this weekend’s series and may not be rejoining the Roadrunners anytime soon. Great news for Guenther! Great news for Abbotsford! Tough news for Tucson!
Week 14 predictions
Assuming they can unfreeze the doors of the Abbotsford Centre to play hockey, I’m betting that the Canucks win both games, scoring at least four goals in each game.
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