Previewing the Abbotsford Canucks’ three-game road trip to kick off the New Year
1 month ago
New Year. New you.
At least, that’s how these things usually go! Hopefully, not for the Canucks’ Farm team, which overcame a serious lack of pro experience to finish 2023 as the 7th-best team by points percentage on the backs of the 2nd-best goalscoring rate and 4th-best penalty kill in the AHL.
Most impressively, their 2nd-best goalscoring rate comes in spite of boasting the 4th-worst power play in the league. Only Pacific Division rival Tucson and Eastern Conference teams Toronto and Utica possess worse power plays.
Abbotsford will look to rebound from a deflating win-streak crushing shutout loss to the Calgary Wranglers, beginning with a trip to Bakersfield, followed by a weekend back-to-back against the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
But first, let’s see how we did in last week’s predictions.
Week 12 predictions reviewI’m staying positive here, but with a flair for realism. I’m picking Abbotsford to lose in overtime or the shootout in game one, but win in regulation in the second leg of the back-to-back.
I’m calling this a 50/50 prediction win! Game one of the back-to-back went to overtime, but the Canucks won! Abbotsford then lost the second leg of the back-to-back in regulation.
The right method of victory is in the right order. Just reverse the results!
Miraculously, the Canucks didn’t take too big of a hit in the shot-rate department despite giving up a season-high 46 shots to the Wranglers in their 5-zip loss. After starting game two outshot 34 to 17 through the first 35 minutes of play, Abbotsford rallied back to outshoot Calgary 20 to 12 over the final 25 minutes.
Yes, I hate to do the moral victory thing, but they did their best despite being woefully outclassed in the rematch. Calgary has been a historically tough out for Abbotsford. Maybe they would have been better off starting Nikita Tolopilo instead of running Arturs Silovs in both legs of the back-to-back. Maybe they would have been better off converting on any of their five power plays.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda, didn’t.
After pointing out Arshdeep Bains’ lack of production through the second half of 2023, he rallied to close the year with six points over four games, mostly at 5-on-5, to secure his place as the team lead in points.
Since returning from IR due to a concussion, Max Sasson has five points in his last four games, putting him seventh in all-situations points and second in 5v5 scoring behind Aatu Räty and Bains. His 13 5v5 points in 21 games saw him finish 2023 with the best 5v5 production rate of all Canuck skaters.
Sasson has also padded his 5-on-5 goal differential since returning to the lineup. With Sasson on the ice at 5-on-5, the club has outscored their opposition five to three, giving him the second-best goal differential on the team (plus-10). Only defenceman Cole McWard has a better differential at 5-on-5, with plus-11 through 23 games played.
That the club returned two defencemen to the ECHL ahead of a three-game California road swing bodes well for a potential return of Akito Hirose or Filip Johansson to the lineup. Both have missed considerable time with injuries and would be a massive boost to the club’s d-core.
Game 29 @ Bakersfield Condors
Abbotsford’s first tour of duty in 2024 begins with a one-game stint against Olivier Rodrigue’s Bakersfield Condors, the most boringest team in the AHL.
Through 25 games played, the Condors have scored the second-fewest goals in the AHL. Only the Bridgeport Islanders have scored fewer goals. For all the noise about “Olivier Rodrigue stealing the starter position from Jack Campbell in the wake of his struggles,” you’d think the Condors were getting demolished on a nightly basis. But no. They’ve conceded the 7th-fewest goals per game (2.84/game) in the AHL despite conceding the 4th-most shots per game (excess of 32 per game).
The Condors actually have a better combined save percentage from their goalie platoon than Abbotsford. While Rodrigue, Campbell, and Calvin Pickard rock a combined .916 save percentage, Arturs Silovs and Nikita Tolopilo have combined for a .908 save percentage.
With Raphael Lavoie on loan to Edmonton, the club is led in goalscoring by ex-Canuck Lane Pederson (6) and 25-year-old unsigned ECHL graduate Cam Wright (6).
The last time these two clubs met, it was the infamous return of Jack Campbell to the AHL where he gave up 8 goals on 46 shots in back-to-back games. Despite the lack of high-end skill in their lineup, the club has recently enjoyed a six-game point streak, with wins against Calgary, Coachella Valley, and Henderson during that span.
Game 30 & 31 @ Coachella Valley Firebirds
The most that can be said about the head-to-head with the Coachella Valley Firebirds is that the Canucks’ power play has scored 21% of their power play goals against Coachella (3 of 14).
The Firebirds head into their weekend double-header off a two-game road trip to Calgary, where they dominated Pacific Division-leading Wranglers 6-1 on New Year’s Day.
Week 13 Predictions
Bakersfield 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.
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