After starting 2015 on a sour note against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks have a chance to get back on track and exact some vengeance against the Detroit Red Wings in a Saturday matchup that is sure to entertain.
Gone are the days the the Canucks had to face off against Detroit on a regular basis. Many would see this as a good thing (I happen to be one of them). The Wings are one of the few teams that have consistently taken it to Vancouver year after year after year. Playing against Detroit twice a year is a blessing, but everyone would obviously still like to see some W’s against them.
Game Time: 7:00pm
In their previous game, the Canucks all but handed the game to the Kings. It was not an inspiring bunch that took the ice against Los Angeles and it seemed only fitting that the Canucks would snap defeat from the jaws of victory in the last minutes of regulation. There were some very unhappy players in the dressing room after the game, and while it’s never nice to see a game like that, I think solace can be taken in the fact that the Canucks players were just as upset (if not, more so) than an anyone else. Complacency and/or excuses don’t help, and there was none to be found two nights ago.
With a few shakeups in the dressing room, Jim Benning addressed the media in the Canucks locker room yesterday.
1. Zack Attack Is Back
If the aim of Canucks management and coaching staff to sufficiently tick off Zack Kassian, I think it’s mission accomplished. Kassian made it clear that he didn’t intend on sitting out again…
In the past week, much has been made about Kassian being healthy and not being slotted in the lineup. Many figured he would start against the big and tough LA Kings, but it now looks as if Kassian will finally resume a starting role against the Red Wings, playing on a line with Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson. With Burrows moving to the top power play unit and replacing Linden Vey, he has essentially made the latter dispensable. I think everyone is hoping Kassian can come in and provide some energy, as well as some much needed offense.
Also, I hope Benning is being truthful here…
Benning says teams have called about Zack Kassian.. but they aren't looking to move him.
— Blake Price (@BlakePriceTSN) January 2, 2015
2. WANTED: Goals
#Canucks have scored 26 goals in past 11 games cresting 3 in a game once (7 vs ARZ). So 7 in one game & 19 in the other 10
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) January 2, 2015
In the early part of the season, the Canucks were firing on most (if not all) cylinders. Sure, the Sedins were playing well and producing, but it was the second line that was winning them games. Well, the above stat is troubling. It doesn’t take an advanced statistician or even casual knowledge of the NHL to know that 2 goals per game won’t result in too many wins. In their last three games, the Canucks have been outshot, outplayed, and, most importantly, outscored. If this is the valley that Vancouver is going to encounter this year, I’m okay with it. Of course, nobody wants to see their favourite team play this way, but if they can turn things around and establish that this year’s team is not going to fall apart a la the 2013-2014 Vancouver Canucks, I can take some lackluster play in late December and early January. Again, not thrilled, but it could be worse.
3. Canucks Prospects at the World Juniors
The Canucks may only have 3 prospects playing at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, but they are representing their respective countries in fine fashion.
While 2014 36th overall pick Thatcher Demko was a member of the United States team eliminated in the quarterfinals by Russia, he had himself an excellent tournament, allowing just 6 goals in 4 games and posting a .943 SV%. Many would have expected the Americans to go a little further than the first elimination game, but a woeful power play and lack of discipline has them out early.
Jim Benning selected Gustav Forsling in the 5th round of the 2014 entry draft and let’s hope this selection is a sign of things to come. Part of Sweden’s effective power play unit, Forsling leads the tournament in points from a defenceman with 8 points (3G, 5A) through 5 games, including a goal and an assist in Sweden’s quarterfinal matchup with Finland. However, he’s also shown a sound defensive acumen and could be one of the steals of Benning’s early tenure with the Canucks.
All (Canucks) eyes were on Jake Virtanen coming into this tournament. The 6th overall pick last June hasn’t had an opportunity to play on a big stage before the World Juniors. He’s made the most of it so far. Playing on a line with phenom Connor McDavid and loaned NHLer Curtis Lazar before transitioning to a 3rd line role in place of injured Robby Fabbri, Jake The Snake has 3 points (1G, 2A), but it’s been his intangibles that have excited those watching. The scrappy nature of his play has been noticeable and while his offense has yet to be on full display, he’s shown some flashes of the skill that had him taken in the top ten in last year’s draft.
Tom Sestito was placed on waivers early yesterday and if he is not picked up in 24 hours, he’ll be heading to the Utica Comets. Based on line rushes at yesterday’s practice, Linden Vey will likely be the healthy scratch tonight. Kevin Bieksa had a maintenance day yesterday and should still be available for the matchup against Detroit.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Vrbata|
Zack Kassian slides back into the lineup and hopefully, it’s the catalyst Willie Desjardins has been looking for. The rough and tough winger may be in the coach’s doghouse, but he’s a passionate player that drives possession regardless of his linemates. Now is as good a time as any for the Canucks to wake up and put together their best effort since a 7-1 thrashing of the Arizona Coyotes. I’ll take the Canucks in a 4-3 shootout win.