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Previewing the Abbotsford Canucks’ four-game homestand against Ontario and San Diego

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Photo credit:© Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK
Cody Severtson
3 months ago
The Rätybowl has come and gone, and we regret to inform readers that elder brother Aku has decisively won over young Aatu.
Aatu gets bonus points for playing all four games of the Rätbowl, with Aku missing their December 16th matchup with an undisclosed ailment.
However, the 2023-24 Rätybowl wasn’t even close to being judged by conventional scoring standards.
The Tucson Roadrunners shut out the Abbotsford Canucks in two of the three games that Aku played. Aku picked up two goals and an assist with ten shots on net during those three matches. In four games, Aatu managed a single assist and two shots on net.
The Canucks began their six-game homestand on uneasy footing and now take on the visiting Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls for their first four-in-six stretch since October.
Week 14 predictions review
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.
Good news: they unfroze the doors to the Abbotsford Centre.
Bad news: they got shut out by the Roadrunners for the second time this season in game one of their back-to-back. The shutout loss was the third time the Canucks have drawn a blank on offence in their last five games.
Good news: the Canucks rebounded in the second leg, recording their second-most shots on goal in a game this season, scoring five past Tucson netminder Dylan Wells.
Team Stats
League Stats
Like their series against Coachella Valley that saw them shutout once before rebounding with a high-scoring victory on the second leg of the back-to-back, the Canucks haven’t done much to improve or harm their position on the shot rate charts. They’re narrowly generating more shots than conceding and converting at the fifth-highest rate in the AHL to score the seventh-most goals per game, all while rocking the league’s worst power play.
To echo Comrade Dyatlov in HBO’s Chernobyl, “Not great. Not terrible.”
Division Standings
Scoring Leaders
With a goal and two primary assists in their 5-2 victory, Arshdeep Bains continued to widen the gap between himself and the next leading scorer, Sheldon Dries. He currently has as many primary points (goals + primary assists) as Dries has total points.
All three of Bains’ points came at 5v5, which leapfrogged him above Max Sasson and Aatu Räty for the 5v5 Scoring leader.
Tristen Nielsen managed a late goal at 5-on-5 to preserve his place as the team’s leading rate-scorer at 5-on-5, narrowly above Sasson and Bains.
Injury Report
Games 34 & 35 vs. Ontario Reign
Despite their place rollercoaster of results, the Abbotsford Canucks head into this week sporting a decent 6-3-0-1 record in their last ten games. Unfortunately, those three regulation losses were the loud, incredibly hard-to-ignore kind of losses.
I mean, three regulation losses, all via a shutout? That’s a tough look for any AHL club. Let alone alternating between shutout losses and tight, high-scoring affairs the following night. Even when they weren’t shut out over the last six games, the club was hemorrhaging goals against. In their three non-shutout games, the Canucks scored 15 goals but still gave up 12.
Fortunately, the club’s first back-to-back in this run of four games in six nights comes against the Ontario Reign, who were routed in their last visit to Abbotsford by a combined score of 11-2.
Since that meeting, the Reign have gone 5-2-1-0, with three of those five victories coming against Pacific Division bottomfeeder San Jose.
Unlike the Canucks, Ontario’s special teams are pretty good. Their power play ranks 10th best in the AHL, scoring on 19.9% of power play opportunities, and their penalty kill ranks fourth-best in the AHL, killing 85.4% of all power play opportunities against. Compare that to Abbotsford’s dismal power play conversion rate of 12.7%. After conceding two power play goals to the Roadrunners, the Canucks’ PK has fallen from fourth-best in the AHL to a lowly seventh-best.
That’s sarcasm, by the way.
Abbotsford’s penalty kill has been one of the lone bright spots of this otherwise deflating run of games that began at the end of last calendar year and has carried on into 2024.
Still, if Sheldon Dries or Linus Karlsson returns to the lineup, the Canucks’ fortune could shift dramatically in their favour, and this mid-season concern could be moot. With the Canucks’ roster moves today, it appears that both Karlsson and Mark Friedman will be getting into the lineup tonight, two welcome additions for Abbotsford.
Since giving up nine goals against Abbotsford in back-to-back games, goaltender Erik Portillo’s game has rebounded, notching a shutout against the San Jose Barracuda while posting save percentages of no less than .917 in four of his last five starts.
After recording a shutout against the Reign, Silovs’ game has slipped. He’s posted sub .890 save percentages in three consecutive starts while conceding 21 goals over his last five.
“Not great, not terrible.”
But, a concerning slip that is worth noting as Abbotsford looks ahead to two California teams who are currently getting above league-average save percentage from one of their starters. The league average among all goalies is currently .902; Silovs’ is even with the league average (.902), while Erik Portillo’s .921 sits well above average, and rising goalie stud Tomas Suchanek leads all three with a .933 save percentage in his pro debut.
Games 36 & 36 vs. San Diego Gulls
The last time the Canucks played the Gulls was October 27th, and it was one of their gutsier performances of the season.
Despite missing Danila Klimovich, Matt Irwin, Tristen Nielsen, and Vasily Podkolzin from the starting lineup due to various injuries, and despite losing team Captain Chase Wouters to an injury in the first period, the Farm rallied to defeat the Gulls 5-2 on the road.
The victory preceded a three-game losing streak where, despite the valiant efforts of their shortened bench, they were not enough to overcome the strength of the Ontario Reign or powerhouse Coachella Valley Firebirds’ roster.
Abbotsford’s roster on Tuesday night should be significantly better than the first time these two clubs met.
They’re probably the best opponent to follow a run of shutout losses and a two-game series against the Ontario Reign. The Gulls host the 20th-ranked power play and the sixth-worst PK in the league. Through 33 games, the Gulls have conceded the seventh-highest rate of goals while generating the 11th-fewest per game.
Offensively, the Gulls are generating the second-fewest number of shots (27.03) while allowing the fourth-most (32.36) per game.
Bailing the Gulls out as of late is rookie netminder is the aforementioned Suchanek, whose time split between the ECHL and AHL has resulted in a .933 save percentage in the AHL, ranking seventh-highest among all goaltenders and fourth-best among all netminders currently rostered in the AHL. In his last ten AHL starts, Suchanek has posted save percentages no lower than .940 three times. Three! 
Not bad work from an undrafted 20-year-old on an AHL contract!
The Gulls’ regular veteran tandem of Calle Clang and Alex Stalock has failed to yield quality results. Suchanek’s work between the pipes has led to a 6-2-1 record with the Gulls. Clang’s .893 save percentage and Stalock’s .894 save percentage have yielded a combined record of 5-14-5, with Clang responsible for four of those five victories.
It’s been not good, folks!
In Suchanek’s brief AHL tenure, he’s recorded regulation wins against the Coachella Valley Firebirds and Milwaukee Admirals, taken the Iowa Wild in the shootout, and notched a shutout against the Rockford IceHogs. The high-scoring offence of the Abbotsford Canucks may prove to be the biggest test of Suchanek’s young career.
Week 15 Predictions 
I have a feeling the players will do everything in their power to distance themselves from this recent stretch of alternating shutout losses.
Because their power play remains so dreadful, I’m picking Abbotsford to win three of their next four, exclusively on the backs of their even-strength scoring.

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