After solidifying their revenge against Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers, the Vancouver Canucks are travelling up the I-75 to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final game of their latest road trip out East.
I think I got the Interstate between Sunrise and Tampa Bay right. I did a little research and that seems to be the most direct route between Sunrise and Tampa. Is that right, State of Florida hockey fans?
Anyways, although the Panthers were able to bust Ryan Miller’s three-game goose egg late in the third period, Vancouver was still able to come away with the 2-1 victory and their third straight win overall. Here are your highlights:
To his credit, Miller is taking losing his shutout streak in stride:
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) January 20, 2015
Atta boy, Millsy.
These wins may not have come against the cream of the crop, but these are the wins that every team needs to earn a spot in the playoffs. I remember a time when the Canucks couldn’t muster enough motivation to even show up against the worst of the NHL, so lets not spend too much time analyzing these victories.
Besides, the next game comes against Steven Stamkos and the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning. Let us analyze that instead.
Game Time: 4:30 pm
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
This game will be an excellent test for the Vancouver Canucks as the Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the NHL’s top franchises this season.
The bread and butter of this team is obviously their offence, led by Steven Stamkos, Tyler “exactly where the hell did you come from” Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov.
With the emergence of Ornsköldsvik native Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman as a top-pairing unit, the Lightning now boast an incredibly balanced attack and currently hold a +26 goal differential in only 47 games.
It’s going to take quite the effort to take out the Lighting. Here’s how the Canucks can do it:
1. Survive the First Period
Just surviving the first period will a monumental test for the Canucks as the Lightning will be primed and ready to pounce on what will likely be a very tired Vancouver team.
Tampa Bay currently sits seventh overall in the NHL in first period goals with 41 so you know they can burn you early. Even more scary? The Lightning have scored 51 second period goals and 56 third period goals. So they keep on getting stronger as the game progresses.
For a start, the Canucks just need to focus on weathering the storm (get it? because Lightning…) but that can’t be accomplished by sitting back and solely focusing on defence because, like my frail attempts at humour, we’ve seen this fail time and time again.
The Canucks will need to at least attempt to push the play against the Lightning and maintain possession because the thought of Stamkos vs. Sbisa is terrifying. This seems blatantly obvious, but the less Stamkos has the puck, the more likely the Canucks will survive and have a chance.
Speaking of Stamkos…
2. Contain the Lightning Offense
As of Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning have the NHL’s most potent offence with 152 goals scored in only 47 games.
Led by Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson, the Lightning are dangerous virtually every time they touch the puck. This is a game where Luca Sbisa and Kevin Bieksa going to scare the crap out of me until the final buzzer goes off because any mistakes, and we know they will happen, will likely end up in a grade-A scoring chances against. Ryan Miller, who will apparently be starting again against the Lightning, will have to stand on his head against a fresh Tampa Bay squad.
Willie D didn't divulge tomorrow's starter but sure sounds like he's leaning towards Miller again. #canucks
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) January 20, 2015
We’ll see I guess.
3. Final Game Before the Break
Well, that came rather quickly!
It’s hard to believe that the NHL All-Star break is almost upon us. For the Canucks, I’m sure this will be an anxiously awaited break from the rigours of the regular season schedule. Well, except for Radim Vrbata who is very excited about his first All-Star game appearance:
"I have a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a long career. Skills that make me an All-star" pic.twitter.com/zQBSg0Ogwk
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) January 10, 2015
So if the final game before a long and well earned break isn’t enough motivation to leave it all on the ice for the final game of an Eastern Conference road trip, I don’t know what would be.
*Update: Corrado is in for Stanton
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Vrbata|
I’m really torn on this one. On one hand, the Lighting have the second best record in the Eastern Conference (only trailing the New York Islanders…never thought I’d say that.) but their record since January 1st is nothing special.
The Canucks have a lot of momentum going into Tuesday, but they are also at the end of a longish road trip and are playing in the second of back-to-back games with Tampa Bay coming in fresh, not having played since Saturday.
Last season, I always predicted a loss in these types of situations and the Canucks usually came out of top. So, I’ll stick with that logic and say Vancouver to Tampa Bay loses 5-2. If the Canucks end up winning, that’s awesome!