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Previewing the Abbotsford Canucks’ weekend back-to-back against the Coachella Valley Firebirds

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Photo credit:© Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK
Cody Severtson
2 months ago
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The boys on the Farm stayed hot this past weekend!
Goals were scored and Teddies were tossed as the Abbotsford Canucks swept the season series against the Laval Rocket with a pair of four-goal, come-from-behind victories.
The two straight victories against Laval gave Abbotsford wins in eight of their last ten! They outscored their opposition 33 to 20 while registering two shutouts during that time.
Next up on the docket is a two-game series against the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the team that helped motivate the club’s November resurgence.
Before we get into the matchup, let’s see the stats and how we did in last week’s predictions!
Week 8 predictions review
I’m picking Abbotsford to rack up a ton of goals as they defeat Laval twice in regulation.
Another bang-on prediction from yours truly, depending on your mileage on the definition of “a ton of goals.”
For my money’s worth, eight goals over two games counts!
Team Stats
It’s pretty wild that the Canucks have just 10 power play goals this season. Through 19 games played, the team has almost as many combined shorthanded and empty-net goals as they do goals from the man advantage. 50 of the team’s 70 goals scored (excluding shootout goals) have come at even strength, 43 of which came at 5-on-5.
Impressively, Abbotsford’s PK has almost scored as many goals while undermanned (8) as they’ve allowed goals on the man advantage (11).
Through November, Abbotsford scored four times shorthanded while facing 31 power plays, totalling nearly 52 minutes of ice time, giving up two goals. Alternatively, the power play scored twice on 28 power play opportunities and allowed zero shorthanded goals over 49 minutes of ice time.
During November, the PK was without Chase Wouters, John Stevens, Arshdeep Bains, and Christian Wolanin for an extended run of games, resulting in players like Aatu Räty, Marc Gatcomb, Max Sasson, and Alex Kannok Lepert earning considerable minutes on the PK in their absence. The team’s light-on-experience penalty-killing group overcoming significant injury woes to find as much success on the PK as they did in November is a major reason why the club could overcome its dismal power play to sit fourth in the AHL by points percentage at the quarter-mark of the season.
League Stats
The Canucks’ series against Laval didn’t do much to bump them up or down the shot generation/concession charts. Their team shooting percentage still sits fourth-highest in the league at 11.9%, with last year’s Calder Champion Hershey Bears sitting atop the league with a shooting percentage of 12.7%.
Similarly, the series against Laval did not do much to change Abbotsford’s ranking on the team save percentage and shots allowed charts. The Canucks are allowing a perfectly average (16th out of 32 teams) rate of 30 shots against per game. Their tandem of Silovs and Tolopilo has provided the 10th-best combined save percentage (.905) in the league. The visiting Coachella Valley Firebirds have a goalie platoon that has averaged a save percentage below .900, at .898.
Division Standings
Scoring Leaders
Injury Report
Jeremy Colliton told the Abbotsford News’ Ben Lypka that Max Sasson missed the Teddy Bear Toss weekend due to a concussion suffered during practice.
Transactions
Games 20 & 21 versus the Coachella Valley Firebirds
The Abbotsford Canucks’ first game against the Firebirds was about as schedule loss-y of a schedule loss as you can get.
The game was their fifth in eight nights and came amid a brutal injury wave. Danila Klimovich, Chase Wouters, Matt Irwin, Tristen Nielsen, and Vasily Podkolzin were all out due to injury, forcing ECHL call-up Josh Passolt into action. And Alex Kannok Leipert, who missed the first seven games as a healthy scratch had to enter the lineup as a fourth-line forward.
Then, during the game, with the Canucks already down by four goals, defenceman Ryker Evans drilled Aidan McDonough into the endboards that took him out of the remainder of the game. McDonough then missed the next three weeks with concussion issues.
The Canucks lineup, Sasson’s return notwithstanding, is miles better than what it had been when these two clubs first met. And the team is rolling, even without Nils Åman and Linus Karlsson in the top six. Since losing Åman to an NHL call-up for the foreseeable future and Karlsson playing well in prescribed fourth-line minutes, Abbotsford has added Jack Studnicka while additionally returning Wouters, McDonough, Nielsen, and Podkolzin to the regular rotation.
Like their NHL parent, the Coachella Valley Firebirds are in a bit of a tailspin, with a sub.500 points percentage over their last 10 games. The Firebirds have alternated wins and losses over their last five games, including a 6-0 blowout loss at home to the Ontario Reign. Coachella returned fire with a 2-0 shutout victory against Ontario to even the shutout score, and the other win came against Jack Campbell and the Bakersfield Condors.
Helping Coachella as they enter the Abbotsford Centre for the first time this season is the return of leading scorers Max McCormick and Marian Studenic. The club will still be without their leading scorer among defencemen, Ryker Evans, who was called up by Seattle last weekend. Additionally, the Kraken returned two-time JB Sollenberger Trophy (Most points in the AHL) winner Andrew Poturalski to the Firebirds, meaning it’ll be an almost-stacked Firebirds lineup on Friday night.
The Firebirds’ 8th-best power play will be tested without its usual firepower when they take on Abbotsford’s 10th-best PK in the league. Alternatively, the Canucks’ 3rd-worst power play will try to generate something against the Firebirds’ 5th-worst penalty kill.
Friday/Saturday will be a true “unstoppable force meets an immovable object” kind of game that will almost certainly get decided at even strength.
Week 9 Predictions 
Despite the Firebirds’ plethora of reinforcements, I still like Abbotsford’s chances much better in this rematch series than in their first match of the season. I still think Coachella Valley will be a tough out, but I predict the Abbotsford Canucks to win once in regulation while losing another in extra time.

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