With their loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday evening, the Vancouver Canucks’ current nine-game losing streak is now the NHL’s longest such spell this season. Tonight, the Canucks have an opportunity to exact a little revenge on the Sharks in their final meeting of the season.
Game Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Nothing seems to be going the Canucks’ way these days. Several injuries to key players, lacklustre performances on the ice, and questions regarding ownership’s involvement in hockey operations have spoiled the latter half of this season.
Now, in the midst of a 9-game losing streak, the hits just keep coming; this time self-inflicted. Jake Virtanen has been suspended 2 games for his late hit on Roman Polak and a defeat tonight would tie the franchise record for consecutive losses set in 1997. Ouch…
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) March 30, 2016
Logan Couture is probably licking his chops thinking about playing the Canucks again, just two days after he recorded his first career hat-trick against them. The Sharks are still within striking distance of the top teams in the Pacific Division, trailing the Kings by 3 points and the Ducks by 4 points.
They may not be able to capture the division crown before the end of the season, but an extended run of wins could land them home-ice advantage through the first round of the playoffs. You can bet they’ll be better prepared tonight than they were in the opening period of Tuesday night’s game.
It was announced yesterday that Jake Virtanen has been suspended two games for his late hit on Roman Polak. The NHL Department of Player Safety released an explanatory video stating the “extreme lateness and predatory nature” warranted supplemental discipline.
Some thought the punishment fit the crime…
Benning on Virtanen's two-game suspension: "We agree with the league's take, but we don’t want it to take away from the way Jake plays."
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) March 30, 2016
Others remarked about the uniformity of discipline handed down by the Department of Player Safety…
— Andy Cole (@AndyCole84) March 30, 2016
And still others had ideas of alternative sentences…
Forcing Jake Virtanen to continue playing out the remainder of this Canucks season would've been punishment enough.
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) March 30, 2016
It’s a shame to see Jake Virtanen’s frustration manifest itself this way. Virtanen received a 5-minute major and game misconduct for the illegal hit and though he did admit it was a little late in an interview following the game, you’d like to see a little more awareness in the moment.
While this is Virtanen’s first brush with the NHL Department of Player Safety, he has been disciplined for an illegal hit before. During last year’s WHL playoffs, Virtanen was suspended for Game 2 of the Calgary Hitmen’s first round matchup with the Brandon Wheat Kings following this illegal hit to the head of Tanner Kaspick.
There is no reason to believe this is a pattern for Virtanen, but you can imagine it is something the veteran leadership in the Canucks locker room, Willie Desjardins, and perhaps even management will speak to the youngster about.
Virtanen will sit out tonight’s game against San Jose, eliminating any attempts of retribution from the likes of tough guy Michael Haley or even Polak himself. Virtanen will also miss tomorrow night’s game in Anaheim.
It may surprise you to learn that San Jose boasts three players among the NHL’s top 10 point-getters. The only other team with multiple players in the top 10, you ask? The Dallas Stars (Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin).
Joe Thornton (75), Joe Pavelski (75), and Brent Burns (71) have led a fairly balanced attack for the Sharks, with 11 skaters totaling at least 20 points. By contrast, you would have to rattle off the top 209 scorers in the NHL to include the top three Canucks in that category (Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Bo Horvat).
Despite ranking 12th in the league in shots per game, the San Jose Sharks are among the top 3 teams in the league in total goals (225), goals for per game (2.92), and power play (22.4%). It’s aided their sub-par goals against per game (2.55) and any perceived deficiencies between the pipes.
If the Sharks can continue with their potent offence, things could get interesting in the first round of the playoffs. Likely to face off against in-state rivals Anaheim or Los Angeles in the conference quarterfinals, Peter DeBoer should have every reason to believe his team can make a run.
With Jake Virtanen out for the next two games, Linden Vey will return after being scratched in Tuesday night’s game. Chris Tanev practiced today and looks ready to play on the top pairing with Ben Hutton.
Tanev and Tryamkin are part of a full #Canucks skate.
Dorsett & Virtanen did not travel. pic.twitter.com/EzP2mstit0
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) March 31, 2016
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Hansen|
There isn’t much to go on with regard to predictive analytics in this one. The Canucks aren’t very good, the Sharks are pretty good, but seeing as Ryan Miller has allowed 3 goals in each of his previous two contests with San Jose, I’ll predict a 3-2 win for the Sharks.