When boatloads of people predicted the Vancouver Canucks to be last this NHL season, they probably didn’t mean last to lose, but that’s exactly what’s happened. Four games in, and the Canucks have the maximum of eight points, sit first in the league, and are the only team without a loss.
They’ll look for a franchise-best fifth straight win to start the season when they take on the LA Kings tonight, who are without starter Jonathan Quick.
Vancouver Canucks (4-0-0, 8 points) vs LA Kings (1-3-0, 2 points)
Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Date: Saturday, October 22, 2016
Time: 7 pm PT
Radio: TSN 1040
By the numbers
|Goals For||2.25 (27th)||2.50 (24th)|
|Goals Against||1.50 (2nd)||3.75 (24th)|
|Power play %||6.7 (29th)||14.3 (21st)|
|Penalty kill %||91.7 (9th)||76.9 (23rd)|
|Shots for||27.0 (23rd)||29.0 (16th)|
|Shots against||24.5 (3rd)||26.8 (7th)|
|Faceoff %||48.7 (19th)||50.9 (13th)|
The Canucks held an optional skate on Friday, so we should get more information at Saturday’s morning skate.
*Update: Willie Desjardins has juggled his lines again at the morning skate. Jake Virtanen will draw back in for Jack Skille, while Sven Baertschi will play with the Sedins. Jacob Markstrom is expected to get the nod in goal.
Here are the likely lines for tonight:
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Baertschi|
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What you need to know
1. History in the making
The Canucks’ 4-0 start to the year already matches the previous best in franchise history set in the 1992-93 season. For the record, that team finished 46-29-9 and won the Smythe Division.
A win tonight would bring the Canucks’ record to 5-0, the single best start to a season in franchise history. Pretty crazy considering how many people predicted them to crash and burn this season. The season is still young, and that could very well end up happening, but right now the Canucks are playing a smart, sound style of hockey. It’s really quite refreshing
Last season the Canucks didn’t win four games in a row all season, and it took them until Game 79 – when they were well out of playoff contention – to even string three wins together.
This season the Canucks wasted no time out of the gate, and now have their first four-game win streak since early in the 2014-15 season.
Can they keep up the pace? Probably not, so let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
2. Tryamkin watch
One thing to keep in mind the longer the season goes on is the situation with Nikita Tryamkin. The big Russian defenceman came over from the KHL at the end of last season to play 13 games with the Canucks, but has yet to play this season.
With Luca Sbisa and Philip Larsen playing surprisingly well to start the season on the bottom pairing, there isn’t a spot for Tryamkin right now.
Typically, a player in this situation would just go to the AHL for a few games until injuries occur and a spot opens for them in the lineup. The problem lies in an AHL-out clause in Tryamkin’s contract, meaning he can go back to Russia if he gets sent down. The Canucks don’t want to take that risk, so for now he continues to practice with the team and wait for his opportunity.
How long can he wait though? At 22-years-old, this is a critical time in his development. As much as practicing with the team helps, it’s not the same as a game situation. That’s especially true for someone who is 6-foot-7, 230 pounds and likely needs experience playing full games to get NHL conditioning.
This topic will only get bigger and bigger (pun intended) the longer Tryamkin’s out of the lineup.
3. Hundred for Hansen
The trio of Granlund-Sutter-Hansen was the team’s best line against Buffalo, and have looked solid in every game they’ve been together. Sutter leads all Canucks with four points through four games, and Granlund and Hansen each have a goal and an assist.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 21, 2016
Hansen got the opening goal against Buffalo, which was the 100th tally of his career. He’s only the 17th player from his 2004 draft class to hit the 100-goal mark. Not bad for a ninth-round pick!
For old times sake, here’s Hansen’s first career goal:
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 21, 2016
4. Not the wealthiest of Kings
Coming into this season, the Kings were thought to remain as one of the powerhouses in the West. So far that hasn’t happened, and their 1-3-0 record is cause for concern. They’ve lost their starting goalie long-term, but the worry goes beyond that.
The Kings have been tight to the cap these past two seasons, but no cap crunch was tougher than this past summer.
They didn’t have enough money to re-sign Milan Lucic, and couldn’t adequately replace him. Now Marian Gaborik is injured, and that just leaves Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Tyler Toffoli as the heavy-lifters offensively. Their top-six currently includes Dwight King and Devin Setoguchi, who hasn’t played an NHL game since November of 2014.
The Kings have holes, but no cap space to fill them.
How can you bet against the Canucks making history?
The California teams are typically tough to beat, but Quick’s injury makes the Kings a lot more vulnerable. Right now their goaltending tandem is Jeff Zatkoff and Peter Budaj, who’ve combined for an .857 save percentage to start the season.
Meanwhile, the Canucks have played great defensively to start the season. They’ve only allowed six goals, and two of them were put in by their own player. The Kings don’t have a lot of firepower up front, meaning it could be another low scoring game for the opposition.
Add it all up and it should be a historic night. The Canucks will beat the Kings 3-1 for their franchise-best fifth-straight win to start the season. The 82-0 dream is still alive!