The Vancouver Canucks will play one final game before enjoying eight days off.
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The Vancouver Canucks had an eventful Week 17. The kids stayed hot, the goaltending stayed superb, the defence started to solidify, Mike Zalewski played admirably, Daniel Sedin had a milestone goal. All good, a near-perfect road trip.
Well, until the last period of the road trip, that is.
The disappointing finish to Week 16 also reminded us that the kids aren’t always the heroes, the saviours, and the pleasant surprises. They can be the unpleasant surprises that run around like chickens with their heads chopped off. But they can’t. The Canucks can’t afford to have headless chickens flopping around on the ice against Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Week 17? There is only one game against a Central Division foe. After that, it is the “All-Stars”. I guess John Scott is an “All-Star” for how much meaningless attention he has garnered in the past few weeks for the NHL.
vs. Nashville Predators (22-18-8) Tuesday, January 26th
Leading scorer: Ryan Johansen (9 goals, 35 points)
Keys to the game:
- Give the local boy a rough outing
- Let the puck do the work
- Brandon Sutter returns a hero
Yes, the Nashville Predators will play host to the 2016 NHL All-Star festivities. But Vancouver will play host on Tuesday against the Preds. It would have been just another game against just another Central Division foe in other seasons, but this year, this is a four-point game for both clubs involved.
Tuesday’s match is the first of three games between these two clubs this season. All of them are likely to be “four-pointers”. As we hit the beginning of the week, Nashville has one more point (52 pts) ahead of Vancouver (51 pts) with an extra game in hand. The two are the top-two teams of the Western Conference that do not occupy a playoff spot.
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With a win, the Canucks will put themselves into third place in the Pacific. With a loss, the Predators will tie the Minnesota Wild for the West’s final wild-card berth, and Vancouver will be three points out of the wild-card spot despite having played one extra game than the Preds or the Wilds have.
If the Canucks want to rest over the break and not have to watch the standings biting their nails, this is a must-win. Feel good going into the break, prove that the meltdown against the Penguins was just a fluke.
To do that, the Canucks will have to stop the newest Predator in town, local boy Ryan Johansen. After being traded to Nashville, Johansen has nine points in eight games. Hot, if you ask me. If you don’t want him to repeat Malkin’s performance from Saturday’s game, they better shut down Johansen. Now I blame John Tortorella for bumping him back out to the West.
Let the puck do the work. That will include: shooting it, passing it effectively, and dominating possession after the faceoffs.
The Predators have averaged about 26.6 shots against per game, the second-lowest in the NHL this season. On the shots for department, they sit sixth. The Canucks are going to have to control the puck and outshoot, out-chance their opposition on Tuesday night to win. They won’t be able to win by defence that features a Jannik Hansen breakaway goal.
If you let the puck do the work, the opposition will chase you. When they chase you, they take penalties. When the Predators take penalties — they can’t kill the penalties. The Preds are the league’s fifth-worst when it comes to the penalty kill, successful just 78.2 percent of the time. However, if they get chances on the powerplay, they will score 20.6 percent of the time.
That might be hard to do for the Canucks, given how the refs called the last few games of the Eastern road trip. The Canucks got virtually zero powerplay opportunities.
Lastly, lookie here. Brandon Sutter returns to the lineup after missing dozens following a sports hernia operation. He will need to find his stride and shut RyJo down.
And of course, here are our predictions.
The Canucks will be looking for a bounceback game to go into the All-Star break with a win!
Do I want the Canucks to win? Definitely? Will they win? I don’t think so. The Predators may be outside of a playoff spot, but the Central Division is on another level
And, of course, the All-Star festivities. Daniel Sedin will represent Vancouver and how much of a “lowlife” team it is. If the franchise leader in goals is a low-life, I wonder how the rest of the team is. You know what the ultimate “lowlife” three-on-three all-star game moment will be? Captain John Scott trying to check his own line mate Daniel.
So what do you think? Is this a must-win for the Canucks? Will they be able to go into the All-Star break on a happy note? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @FSTheCanuckWay!