Vancouver Canucks Week #12 Outlook: Rolling the Dice

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Last week, the Vancouver Canucks tried to bounce back without their captain, Henrik Sedin. Can call-up Linden Vey continue to save the day? This week, the Canucks finish their six-game road trip and return home to face some familiar Pacific Division foes.

After being shut out twice this past week, the Vancouver Canucks will look to end the road trip with consecutive wins against the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. With Captain Henrik Sedin out without a concrete timetable, Linden Vey is up from the AHL Utica Comets.

Jake Virtanen will be missing, away on duties with Team Canada for the World Junior Championship. D Luca Sbisa and C Brendan Sutter, alongside D Dan Hamhuis, are all out.

Week 12 does seem a bit easier after a week full of tough match-ups. But potentially without captain Henrik, the Canucks will need to take some risks — deploying their youth. They will need some luck. It is time to roll the dice — take some risks with the Youth.

@Florida Panthers (17-12-5) Sunday, December 20th

Leading Scorer: Jussi Jokinen (6 Goals, 23 Points)

Keys to the Game:

  1. Rattle Roberto Luongo early
  2. Exploit the aged Panthers
  3. Get under their skin

This is the first meeting this season between the two clubs, as Vancouver looks to give its former No. 1 netminder a rough outing. Roberto Luongo is still going strong, boasting a .927 save percentage and coming off of a shut-out win versus the Carolina Hurricanes. If the Canucks cannot solve Bobby Lou, they know all too well that it is going to be a tough afternoon. Again, they know that a second-guessing Lou lets in all sorts of goals.

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The squad’s top-two leading scorers are Jussi Jokinen and Jaromir Jagr. You know that means something when you got guys like Alex Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad, but still have Jagr and Jokinen doing the scoring. Not saying that shutting down the old guys means winning, but the Canucks should make the Panther’s veterans pay with some quickness and agility down the ice.

Lastly, the Panthers do not have a single player in their lineup with more than 40 penalty minutes. They are not the grittiest team out there. It’s time for the fourth line to have a rough-and-tumble outing. Make them play intimidated.

@Tampa Bay Lightning (16-14-3) Tuesday, December 22nd

Leading Scorer: Steven Stamkos (12 Goals, 23 Points)

Keys to the Game:

  1. What has Stamkos got?
  2. Clog up the centre
  3. Grind it out

This, likewise, is the first game between the two clubs in their 2015-16 NHL campaigns. If you know anything about the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are on the outside looking in while the Panthers are locked up in a Wild Card spot. Also, the two are perhaps the most contrasting lineups.

Steven Stamkos leads the team, but the star centre has just 23 points in 33 games. Are you kidding me? With so much off-ice dispute about his contract extension and a potential trade come New Year’s, Stammer seems to be losing it. So, what do you do if you are the Canucks? Seal him air-tight, and don’t let him add to his totals. He has had success against the Canucks — four points in two games last year.

But that being said, the Canucks need to watch out for about a dozen other teams. Tampa Bay is just loaded with young talent — Steve Yzerman is doing a great job. Names like Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman lead the list of ten other skaters not named Stamkos to have double-digit point production thus far. And they are young. Slow down these skilled skaters, and you stand a chance of saving Ryan Miller — or Jacob Markstrom for that matter — a ton of work.

Lastly, the same thing applies here as it did to the Panthers. Grind them out. J. T. Brown is their leader in the penalty department with 25 minutes? C’mon NHL. Gotta toughen up. The Lightning are a squad with injury woes as well, read it for yourselves straight from NHL.com. I don’t even know how to summarize this.

"Forwards Ondrej Palat (ankle), Jonathan Drouin (lower body), J.T. Brown (maintenance day),Yanni Gourde (undisclosed) and Ryan Callahan (maintenance day) did not practice on Saturday. Palat won’t play until after the Christmas break, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Tyler Johnson (undisclosed), Cedric Paquette (upper body) and Erik Condra (lower body) did practice. Assistant coach Rick Bowness told the Lightning website that Condra is expected to play against the Senators, the team he played for from 2010-11 through last season. Johnson is day-to-day and Paquette, out since Nov. 14, is expected back soon."

Vs. Edmonton Oilers (14-17-2) Saturday, December 26th

Leading Scorer: Taylor Hall (15 Goals, 35 Points)

Keys to the Game:

  1. Let the puck do the work
  2. Let the Sedins work their magic
  3. Ambitious Ryan Miller

Home sweet home, eh? And on a long rest too.

The last time the Vancouver Canucks faced the Edmonton Oilers was more than two months ago. Since then, Connor McDavid has gone down, Taylor Hall has been on fire, and Leon Draisaitl has scored 27 points in 23 games. What is up with these guys — and why are they still below the Canucks in the standings?

Surprisingly, the Canucks have gone 4-1-3 against division rivals. That single regulation loss comes at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on a night Vancouver was shut out 0-4. Hopefully, the Canucks can repeat their winning ways as they open a home series against their Pacific rivals, starting with the Oilers.

Related: Ryan Miller not Good Enough for Playoffs

The Oilers are young, they are strong, and they are fast. Do not try to out-skate them if you are the Canucks. Let the puck-passing do the work. On that note, supposing that captain Henrik Sedin comes back, let the Sedins do the work. We know that their “A-game” comes against Albertan foes. Let them have a go at it.

Also, I would like to think that Ryan Miller wants his streak back. When he lost that game some two months ago, he his unbeaten streak against a single team, which had been the longest in the Modern NHL era. That was 12 games of unbeaten Ryan Miller versus the Edmonton Oilers. With three full days of rest, let Ryan Miller have his performance of the year — you will need him.

The Bottom Line

If last week was about playing fast foes who knew how to win, then this week is about being flexible with the game plan and playing smart hockey.

The Canucks just have to find ways to win right now, and if they try to win by hitting the ice with the same goal in mind each and every game, they will not be able to adjust to the mix of youth and experience they face this week — and lose.

Next: Canucks Analytics: Virtanen Carrying Teammates

If Vancouver wants to salvage an even .500 record on this six-game trip and start their seven-game homestand on the right foot, they will have to do so without Jake Virtanen, who is away on World Juniors duty. That also means going for a perfect week of three consecutive wins. Will the Canucks be able to salvage at least three of six possible points this week? The Dice has been rolled. Roll the youth out there and take some risks.