What a difference two weeks makes.
Two weeks ago, the Canucks had just defeated the lowly Avalanche to hop to the good side of the playoff bar with one game to go before the All-Star break.
Since then, the Canucks have lost four straight games and now find themselves in 11th place in the Western Conference and seven points out of a playoff spot.
If the Canucks have any remaining hope of making the postseason, they better start winning now.
- No suspension coming for McLeod after concussing Canucks' Baertschi
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Vancouver Canucks (23-24-6, 52 points) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (34-13-5, 73 points)
Venue: Nationwide Arena, Columbus
Time: 4 pm PT
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TSN 1040
By the numbers
|Goals for||2.28 (28th)||3.29 (5th)|
|Goals against||2.87 (20th)||2.46 (5th)|
|Power play %||14.7 (28th)||24.0 (1st)|
|Penalty kill %||78.7 (24th)||81.8 (14th)|
|Shots for||27.9 (28th)||30.2 (12th)|
|Shots against||31.0 (21st)||30.1 (14th)|
|Faceoff %||52.1 (5th)||47.5 (29th)|
The Canucks will have a different look up front due to Sven Baertschi’s concussion.
Markus Granlund has moved to the top line, while Jannik Hansen moves into Baertschi’s spot. Reid Boucher draws in for just his second game as a Canuck, while Ryan Miller returns to the net.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Granlund|
What you need to know
1. Blurred lines
This is the first time I can remember that all four forward lines are different than those from the previous game. Mostly due to Baertschi’s concussion suffered last game, head coach Willie Desjardins has put together four new combos.
Granlund gets a turn with the Sedins on the top line; perhaps he will be the guy to help the twins – Daniel in particular – break out of their scoring slumps.
Hansen replaces Baertschi on the second line. This tandem will have both speed and grit and I’m looking forward to seeing Hansen and Horvat play together.
Loui Eriksson returns to Brandon Sutter’s side on the third line, with Jayson Megna playing on the other side.
And on the fourth line, Boucher makes just his second appearance as a Canuck playing with Jack Skille and Michael Chaput.
This collection of forwards is hardly intimidating; no surprise it’s the 28th-ranked offence in the league.
2. Boucher is back
— Clay Imoo (@CanuckClay) February 9, 2017
No, it’s not Bobby Boucher of Waterboy fame. But if Reid Boucher can play with any semblance of Adam Sandler’s intensity, Canucks fans will be in for at treat.
Boucher is playing for his third NHL team this season. He played nine games with New Jersey and three with Nashville before coming to the west coast. In his first game as a Canuck (January 17 against Nashville), Boucher had 12 shifts totalling just over six minutes… and a whole lot of zeroes on the stat sheet.
The consensus is that Boucher has a really good shot but doesn’t have good foot-speed. As a fourth-line player, Boucher will be expected to bring energy, intensity, and a defensive awareness.
And if he can hit like Bobby Boucher, then so be it.
3. The Blue Jackets can score
John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets are scoring 3.29 goals per game, good for fifth overall in the league. That’s a full goal per game more than the Canucks – a strong reason why Columbus is third overall and Vancouver is fourth from the bottom.
The Blue Jackets have five players with more or equal points to Canucks’ leading scorer Bo Horvat (34 points): Cam Atkinson (48), Alexander Wennberg (44), Nick Foligno (40), Brandon Saad (38), and Sam Gagner (34).
As well, Blue Jackets defencemen have combined for 110 points (led by Zach Werenski and Seth Jones) while Canucks blueliners have a total of 73 combined points.
Add in the stellar goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky (who is having a bounce-back year) and you have a very powerful team. It was no fluke they won 16 games in a row over the month of December.
My fearless predictions for tonight:
- The camera will catch Tortorella swearing and/or shaking his head at least three times in the game
- Boucher will not send anyone flying, but Nikita Tryamkin will
- Horvat and Hansen will combine for two beautiful scoring chances
- The Blue Jackets will prevail 4-2