The Vancouver Canucks will face the mighty Senators of Ottawa, in a clash similar to that of David versus Goliath.
After dropping three games in a row, the Canucks will look to bounce back against a Senators team that has won their last three games by a combined score of 15-3.
And mind you, this iteration of the Sens annihilated the competition WITHOUT superstar defenceman Erik Karlsson, who will make his season debut tonight. Simply put, the Canucks are going to have to take a page out of legendary NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby’s prayer book if they even fathom a chance of winning this game.
These two teams played each other last week, with the Senators coming out ahead by a score of 3-2, courtesy of a shootout. This in hindsight looks good as the Canucks have proven that they can keep the Sens high octane offence in check.
However, the Canucks will be without top defender Alex Edler and six million dollar a year penalty killer Loui Eriksson, so they are going to need some of the youngsters to step up and play more crucial minutes. All of which should be happening regardless of the injuries (but that is a rant for another day).
2017-2018 Record: 1-2-1
Record vs. Senators: 0-0-1
Goals for: Nine
Goals Against: 14
Injuries: Brendan Gaunce (shoulder, out indefinitely), Alex Edler (knee, 3-4 weeks), Loui Eriksson (knee, out indefinitely)
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WHO’S ON OFFENCE
Brock Boeser has come as advertised, putting up two points in his first two games this season. Look for him to find the score sheet again as he will receive more powerplay time than he has so far.
Horvat is a high character individual who holds himself accountable for even the slightest of mistakes, look for him to come flying out of the gate.
WHO’S ON DEFENCE
Derrick Pouliot had a decent Canucks debut, posting an assist in 17:42 of ice time. With the Canucks powerplay struggling, Pouliot will be bestowed ample opportunity to help fix it, especially with Edler out of the lineup.
This is the best chance Pouliot has had to show he is an NHL defenceman since he was drafted back in 2012, he will do everything he can to show the coaching staff and management that he deserves to stay in the lineup once Edler returns.
Lost in all the Loui Eriksson rage has been the poor play of Ben Hutton. He has struggled so far this season, posting just one assist in four games played. In particular, he has been hindrance on the power play, with his inability of getting shots on goal.
With Troy Stecher waiting in the shadows, and Pouliot slowly creeping into the picture, Hutton is going to have to improve fairly quickly to maintain his spot on the power play (and maybe even in the lineup).
WHO’S IN NET
Look for Jacob Markstrom to get the start again. As the starting goalie for this team, Markstrom needs to be given the opportunity to rebound from a sub-par game. He will be highly motivated to prove that he can be a number one goalie in this league, so I expect he will have a great game.
2017-2018 Record: 3-0-2
Record vs. Canucks: 1-0-0
Goals for: 20
Goals Against: 10
WHO’S ON OFFENCE
Kyle Turris has seven points in his last three games. With rumours floating around that he will be traded in his contract year, Turris will be determined to keep his torrid scoring pace to land a long term, big money contract.
Mike Hoffman has four points in his last two games (three of which are goals). He will be counted on to continue his scoring. Both Derick Brassard and Mark Stone have six points in five games this season.
WHO’S ON DEFENCE
Erik Karlsson makes his season debut tonight after undergoing ankle surgery. He was Ottawa’s leading scorer last year posting seventy-one points in seventy-seven games. It won’t take long for him to shake off the rust, and will only help further feed the machine that is the Sens offence.
It took Wideman seventy-six games last season to post five goals, and this season he has three in just five games. Whether it is an anomaly or not is yet to be seen, but he currently has the hot hand on the Sens D-corps.
In the meanwhile Ceci has matched his entire goal total from last season (two) in seventy-four less games. He seems poised for a breakout campaign.
WHO’S IN NET
After back-up Mike Condon played against the Oilers, look for well rested starter Craig Anderson to get the call between the pipes. He has looked good in the four games played, sporting a .937 save percentage and a 1.65 goals against average.
Keys to Victory
- Power play power play power play. The Canucks powerplay is absolutely appalling. The only way it could be worse is if they were all skating in “Make America Great Again” hats. They need to drastically improve their zone entry, and the defencemen need to get their shots through. If they can get that going, it would be huge.
- Getting by the 1-3-1 trap. This trap is specifically designed to stuff the opposition at centre ice, giving them no choice but to dump the puck in from far and chase. This allows a swift skating defenceman to easily retrieve the puck and send it the other way. To counter this, the Canucks are going to need speed through the neutral zone to chip or pass it by the wall of Senators.
- Bo Horvat. The Canucks need him to play to play like the top centre they pay him to be. Small victories like face-offs and advanced stats are not going to cut it. He needs offence, and he needs it now.
- Strong penalty killing. The Sens are the only team in the league who have yet to surrender a power play goal. If this continues, there chance of winning the games goes up exponentially.
- Erik Karlsson. He is one of the best defenceman to ever play the game, and if he plays up to his potential, the Canucks will be in a whole lot of trouble.
- Continued Offence. If the top six continue producing offence the way they have been the past three games, then this match will be over before it even begins.
3-1 Senators. Ottawa completely shut down Vancouver in their previous meeting. Now they’re at home, with Erik Karlsson back. Can’t see how this anemic offence breaks through today.
2-1 Canucks. The Sens are overdue for an off night. They’re not as bad as some people think but they’re not as good as the recent record suggests. Not that the Canucks are going to play well, but Nilsson will (finally) get his first start and will make the most of it.
4-0 Senators. Ottawa demolished the Alberta teams on their Western Road Trip without Erik Karlsson. With him back in the lineup, the Canucks will be lucky to get shots on Craig Anderson. The power play is in shambles and will not receive any help on offence any time soon. The Canucks blue line is in store for a rough ride and Chris Tanev cannot stop the Senators on his own.
3-2 Canucks. I agree with my fellow contributor Tyler that all the good things happening with the Senators must come to an end at some point. The Canucks who have worked doggedly on their powerplay in practice see the payoff and score a power play goal. Brock Boeser lights the lamp yet again, and Bo Horvat plays like the centre we expect him to be. Markstrom stands on his head to give the Canucks a chance.
Defensively Vancouver has been decent thus far so it should be a tight game. I say 3-2 because though Ottawa plays the trap, they clearly have goal scorers. Five on five the Canucks have not played horrible. If Vancouver makes adjustments on the powerplay – and it works – perhaps a special teams goal ultimately wins the game for the boys.