Vancouver Canucks: 3 keys to victory over the Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 9: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky
COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 9: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky /

The Columbus Blue Jackets actually have more pressure to win at home tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. Does this finally provide an opportunity for the Canucks to steal a win

What should Vancouver Canucks fans hope for this evening? A random flury of offense from Brock Boeser, Sam Gagner, and Thomas Vanek? Or, a mid-game trading of Erik Gudbranson Matt Duchene-style #racefordahlin?

In all seriousness, the Vancouver Canucks are zero in their last five games and sit second-last in the Western Conference. They owe fans a win, or at thr very least a strong entertaining effort. It is possible, even without Bo Horvat!

Remember the 28 December win over the Chicago Blackhawks? Vanek, Gagner, and Boeser combined for 12 points! Not to mention popular names like Troy Stecher and Nikolay Goldobin made the score sheet with helpers.

So what happened since then? This is not the Happy New Year the Vancouver Canucks were hoping for.

Vancouver Canucks

16-21-6 (38 points), 7th in NHL Pacific Division
Goals For: 111 (27th of 31)
Goals Against: 143 (26th of 31)
SRS: -0.72 (28th of 31)
SOS: 0.02 (12th of 31)

Lineup Notes

Horvat is still out with an ankle injury. He is due to return at the end of the month.

Brandon Sutter joined the Vancouver Canucks on the road and practiced with the group with morning; however, he is still listed as day to day with a groin injury and will lilely be a game-time decision.

Three Keys to Victory

1) Contain the Youth

The Columbus Blue Jackets are also suffering with significant injuries. The likes of Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Murray are all sitting out. What separates Columbus from the the Vancouver Canucks is their maturity without some of their veteran Blue Jackets.

It’s the youth that have stepped-up in the absence of Atkinson and Dubinsky up front. Though the Columbus Blue Jackets record as of late is not remarkable – three and two in their last five games- they are managing to stay at the top of the Eastern conference.

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Leading the offence right now are forwards Artemi Panarin (26 years-old), Oliver Bjorkstrand (22-years-old), and Josh Anderson (23 years old), and Pierre-Luc Dubois (19 years old).

On defence, 23-year-old Seth Jones and twenty-year-old 2017 Calder candidate Zach Werenski are also included on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ points-leader board.

Also, with the youth gaining the trust of old-time-hockey coach and media darling John Torteralla shows this team is unique. The players seem like a tight group with respect for their coaching systems and managment’s plan based the team’s recent success.

The Canucks have to pay close attention to line match-ups this evening. Going best-on-best like coach Travis Green did against the Toronto Maple Leafs employing Boeser’s line when Auston Mathews was on the ice. Perhaps refraining from that strategy and placing a Jake Virtanen, a fast and strong player who can take away space for Panarin to work is an option.

2) Possession

Since Torterella does not employ an agressive game, it should come to no surpirse that the Columbus Blue Jackets have solid posession numbers up and down the roster. This is an issue for the Vancouver Canucks because, until recently, they have struggled to generate shots and secondary scoring beyond whatever line Boeser is on.

Ten players on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster are above 50% in CF% and FF% – Panarin and Dubois are just shy of 60% in both categories respectively.

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The Canucks on the other hand have only five players above 50% in CFHenrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Stecher, Derrick Pouliot and Virtanen – and three in FF% in the Sedins and Pouliot. Also, the Canucks’ leaders in these categories is much lower than those on the Blue Jackets.

The Vancouver Canucks have to play a disciplined game, try to control play in the neutral zone, and  collectively advance the puck into the offensive zone. A dump-and-chase game without Horvat does not work. Boser rarely brings the puck into the zone by himself and he needs support to set him up when he is in shooting position.

3) Showcasing Erik Gudbranson

With Anthony Duclair going to the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks fans hoping for a trade that saw Gudbranson being sent to the Arizona Coyotes for Duclair were probably banging their heads. Especially with the return Arizona recieved! The Canucks could have easily constucted a package of the same value for Duclair.

Anyway, Gudbranson is still available.

To my surprise, hockey insiders all over the country are valuing him higher than I imagined. Was he not valued at no more than a fourth round-pick last month?

General manager Jim Benning if you are reading this, you take that deal and you run!

Since the Blue Jackets are in town let’s stir the pot. Is Gudbranson not a Torterella-type hockey player? Columbus is likely to make the playoffs and this group surely doesn’t want an early exist this time around.

Gudbranson could fit in as a bottom-six and/or depth defensemen for the Blue Jackets. To sweeten the pot, Benning could retain some of Gudbranson’s salary. Anyways, stay tuned as Vanek and Gudbranson trade talks are about to heat up.

By the way, Chris Tanev is beast folks.

Game Predictions

Andrew Nazareth

3-1 Canucks. At some point they need to win. Granlund scores, and Jake Virtanen has a fantastic game. Anders Nilsson gets the start

Scott Rosenhek

2-1 Canucks. The team has won 2 of its last 15. The stink of a losing culture is stuck to this team whether you want to admit it or not. They need this win. We can’t watch another game where the players are going “here we go again.” Brock Boeser has to turn this game on its head. Maybe Edler will pass to him. Torts will make his post-game very interesting.

Alex Hoegler

4-3 Blue Jackets. The Canucks have been playing better, and will keep this game close. But the Blue Jackets suffocating defence will hold on and get the job done.

Next: World Juniors Recap: Grades for Canucks prospects

Tyler Shipley

3-1 Canucks. Can’t lose every game right? It’ll be a trap for CBJ and Canucks will capitalize on a flat start. If Goldy gets good minutes with the Sedins, he will score. His game has really come on as he’s been given more space.