written in collaboration with Lucas Martin (@BurrowsWingman on twitter)
I’m not in Vancouver right now, which is fine because it looks like the Canucks are getting it done just fine without me around. Still, it’s very important that you are prepared for the upcoming games this week.
Philadelphia Flyers – Tuesday December 27
After winning 5 games in a row, the Flyers lost their last one 5-0. But considering the 5 goal shutout loss was to the Florida Panthers, you’ve got to think that against any team that competes in the NHL, they would’ve lost by twice the score.
That’s not to say the Flyers will be a pushover, more likely they were looking ahead to a 7 day Christmas break (they had no games between the games against the Panthers on the 20th and the Canucks on the 28th) and they were already checked-out and on vacation.
Make no mistake, the Flyers are one of only 3 teams that are above the Canucks in NHL standings right now, so if the Canucks want to take a run at number 1, they’ll have to overtake these guys to do it.
Who to Watch:
Mike Richards is regarded as one of the league’s elite 2-way centres – basically, he’s Philadelphia’s equivalent of Ryan Kesler. The stats verify this, as Kesler has 31 points, and Richards has 32 points on the season so far.
Dallas Stars – Friday December 31
Following their Christmas break, the Stars schedule has them playing 4 games in 6 nights, with the Canucks game being the second part of a road trip that starts in Detroit. So they should be a tired team.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, Dallas has enough scoring depth to make up for any lack of energy – they have 6 players with over 20 points, while Vancouver has only 5.
They’re also only 1 point below the Canucks in the standings, so they will be hungry and motivated, exhausted or not.
Who to Watch:
Somehow the Stars have become one of the NHL’s elite teams without anyone seeming to notice. Similarly, Brad Richards is the forgotten one between the two Richards featured in this post, yet he’s the one sitting 8th in scoring with 40 points and last year he finished 7th in the NHL.
Colorado Avalanche – Sunday January 2
During my world travels (I’m actually writing this post from Vietnam), I met a man from Denver. Being the one dimensional male that I am, I had to talk hockey with him, so I asked how the city feels about their team right now.
He told me: “It’s not like it was during the days of the Avalanche vs. Canucks rivalry, when the Steve Moore incident happened.” He also said that tickets are much easier to come by than during the Sakic/Forsberg days, and the excitement around the team isn’t what it was back then.
It makes me wonder if the people of Pittsburgh or Chicago felt the same way in the years leading up to their recent Stanley Cup victories, wishing for the good old days of Lemieux and Jagr or Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. Point is, Colorado has a great team right now, and their fans should jump on board.
For now, they’re a growing, young squad that’s sitting in 6th place in the West. This should be another fun game for fans, as these two teams always seem to entertain us.
Who to Watch:
Milan Hejduk has 3 points less than Matt Duchene for the Avs’ scoring lead, but he’s played 7 fewer games. Obviously this former Rocket Richard trophy winner hasn’t lost his touch yet.