Much of the mainstream media are dubbing 2016 as one of the worst years ever.
While that may be a little over the top as a general statement, that definitely rings true for the Vancouver Canucks.
They’ve had one of their worst calendar years in team history. The Canucks are 32-41-7 since the start of 2016 heading into tonight’s game against Anaheim. That’s an 80-game stretch where they earned just 71 points.
For comparison, only Toronto (69) and Edmonton (70) had less than 71 points in 82 games last season. Not good company, and both those teams are starting to turn it around this season.
Tonight, the Canucks take to the ice at Rogers Arena for the final time in 2016, hoping to end on a good note in a year that hasn’t had too many good notes.
- SixPack: Miller outstanding in Canucks 2-1 win over Kings
- Find Loui a home: Canucks have underutilized Eriksson this season
Anaheim Ducks (18-12-7, 43 points) vs Vancouver Canucks (15-18-3, 33 points)
Venue: Rogers Arena, Vancouver
Time: 7 pm PT
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TSN 1040
By the numbers
|Goals For||2.36 (24th)||2.70 (14th)|
|Goals Against||3.03 (27th)||2.76 (17th)|
|Power play %||14.0 (27th)||24.6 (2nd)|
|Penalty kill %||80.2 (21st)||81.4 (16th)|
|Shots for||27.9 (30th)||29.4 (19th)|
|Shots against||30.6 (20th)||28.9 (8th)|
|Faceoff %||51.8 (6th)||56.1 (1st)|
The Canucks won their last game, so expect the same lines against the Kings tonight. Ryan Miller will get the start in goal once again, leaving Jacob Markstrom for tomorrow’s game in Edmonton.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Megna|
What you need to know
1. Back-to-back wins in regulation?
This is something the Canucks still haven’t done this season, and if they want to do it before 2017 starts, it has to be tonight.
This is something Jeff Paterson has been tracking on Twitter for a while now. He probably didn’t expect to be tracking it this long, but here we are.
guess those consecutive regulation wins will have to wait…again. Til after Xmas now. #Canucks
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) December 23, 2016
Having won 2-1 in regulation against the Kings on Thursday, the Canucks are set up for the feat if they can win this one in 60 minutes. Tough ask, I know.
2. The boys are back in town
It’s always fun when the Anaheim Ducks come to town, because we get to see our old pal Kevin Bieksa. Oh and that other guy, too.
We’ve now seen both Bieksa and Ryan Kesler return several times now, and their reception often differs. Kesler gets booed, while Bieksa is still looked at as a sort of folk hero by the people of Vancouver.
They’ve also had different impacts on the Ducks since joining the team. Bieksa’s age has continued to catch up with him, and while he still sees a lot of minutes under Randy Carlyle, there’s a lot of tread on those tires. That reflects in a poor corsi of 44%, by far the worst of the Ducks’ blueliners.
Meanwhile, Kesler is back to his old ways.
Ryan Kesler picks up Lance Bouma's stick behind the net and skates out with it and as Bouma comes over for it, he throws it in the corner.
— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) December 30, 2016
Playing his typical agitating style of game, Kesler has been a difference-maker for the Ducks all season long. Centring a line with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg, Kesler leads the team in scoring with 31 points in 37 games.
After averaging 50 points in each of his first two seasons in Anaheim, Kesler is on pace for 69 points, which would be his best total since 2011 when he had his 41 goal, 73-point season.
Welcome home, Bieksa!
3. Special teams will be key
The Canucks haven’t had the best special teams this season, but they’ll need a good night from both units if they want that second straight regulation win.
The Ducks power play has been lethal this season, converting at 24.6%, so the Canucks penalty kill will need to be in top shape.
The Canucks have seen their PK% dip in the last month or so, and the Ducks top unit has the firepower to make it dip further if they aren’t on their game.
The Ducks have a good power play, but their penalty kill is league average. Unfortunately, the Canucks power play is well below league average, dead last in fact.
They did get a goal on the man-advantage last game, but it was Loui Eriksson on the second unit. The Canucks need more from their first unit if they want to stay competitive the rest of this season.
Power play can't score so the #Canucks put Megna on it. That's some funny stuff.
— Omar A (@omarcanuck) December 18, 2016
They’ve switched up the personnel a bunch, and nothing has changed. Think it’s time to change the structure up a bit. At this point, the Canucks have nothing to lose.
4. Burrows plays NHL game #800
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 30, 2016
Finally, who would have ever predicted that the former ECHL fourth liner who played competitive ball hockey in the summer would end up playing 800 games in the NHL? That’s exactly what Alex Burrows will accomplish tonight.
The former member of the Greenville Grrrowl (yes, they spelled it with three R’s) ranks sixth all-time on the Canucks franchise games played list. The only players ahead of him are Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Trevor Linden, Stan Smyl, and Markus Naslund. Pretty good company.
Maybe I’m a sucker for a good story, but I can’t help but feel the Canucks will finally pull off these two straight regulation wins. If not, they’ll be forced to make it their new year’s resolution.
It’ll be another game where Miller stands on his head, and the Canucks will get goals from Baertschi and Eriksson en route to a 2-1 regulation win over the Ducks.