It’s amazing what a coaching change can do.
Since dumping future Hall of Famer Ken Hitchcock on February 1, the St. Louis Blues have gone 6-and-1 to leapfrog the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central Division.
Meanwhile, the Canucks are staggering to the end of their six-game road trip, potentially without All-Star forward Bo Horvat, as well as Brandon Sutter for the second consecutive game.
Vancouver Canucks (25-26-6, 56 points) vs St. Louis Blues (30-22-5, 65 points)
Venue: Scottrade Centre, St. Louis
Time: 5 pm PT
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TSN 1040
|Goals for||2.30 (27th)||2.84 (10th)|
|Goals against||2.84 (20th)||2.88 (23rd)|
|Power play %||15.5 (27th)||21.3 (7th)|
|Penalty kill %||79.3 (23rd)||84.5 (5th)|
|Shots for||28.0 (28th)||27.6 (29th)|
|Shots against||31.2 (22nd)||27.7 (5th)|
|Faceoff %||51.8 (7th)||50.2 (14th)|
"I'll be a game time decision tonight. I'm lucky I was wearing shot blockers. If I didn't, my foot may have shattered." – Horvat
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 16, 2017
Both Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter will be game-time decisions. The defence pairings will remain the same and Jacob Markstrom returns to the crease.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Granlund|
The Canucks are a completely different team without Bo Horvat in the lineup. They aren’t as fast, they aren’t as strong, they aren’t as threatening, and they aren’t as exciting to watch. One game is certainly too small of a sample size, but did you expect the Canucks to have any chance of beating the Penguins on Tuesday night? Losing Brandon Sutter didn’t help, either.
In fact, with Horvat, Sutter, and Sven Baertschi all out last game, you could argue that half of their forwards aren’t even bonafide regular NHL players.
In just his third year, Horvat has already emerged as the heart and soul of the team. He never takes a night off, and rarely takes a shift off. In hindsight, you almost wish he didn’t block that shot late in the Buffalo win last week.
The longer that Horvat is out, the more the Canucks will struggle. And the bigger his payday will be in the summer.
Luca Sbisa has been a pleasant surprise this season. He was thrust into a top-four role with injuries at different times to Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, and Erik Gudbranson. And he is the only Canuck blueliner to play all 57 games so far.
He logs huge even-strength minutes and has stayed entrenched in the top four, even with an almost-healthy defensive corps (only Gudbranson is out currently).
You have to wonder if the big minutes are starting to catch up with him, though. He has struggled at points during this road trip, especially against the Penguins on Tuesday night.
For the first half of the season, Canucks fans barely noticed him – and that was a good thing. Now, we’re starting to notice him more for things like giveaways, poor clearing attempts, and weak checking.
Those are bad things.
Keep an eye on both him and Gudbranson as we get closer to the trade deadline and then the expansion draft. The Canucks can only protect three d-men in the expansion draft: Edler and Tanev are the obvious choices, while Hutton, Tryamkin, and Stecher don’t have to be protected.
That means only one more spot for either Sbisa or Gudbranson.
This is section has nothing to do with the Canucks and Willie Desjardins. Although it’s pretty clear that the head coach will last through the remainder of this season. If he can survive a nine-game losing streak, he can probably survive just about anything.
Looking at the five NHL teams that have changed coaches during this season, you’ll see that the results have been overwhelmingly positive:
Thus, these teams are a combined 30-14-11 (.645) since their coaching changes compared to 78-70-20 (.524) before, an increase of 23% in points percentage.
Coach Mike Yeo has the Blues playing outstanding hockey. Since he’s taken over, his team has outscored their opponents 22-8 and has three shutouts in those seven games. He’s been getting balanced scoring from his three scoring lines and the goalie tandem of Jake Allen and Carter Hutton has been outstanding.
My fearless predictions for tonight: