Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Canucks Report: Jan. 26

The Vancouver Canucks (30-10-9) will host a hot Nashville Predators team (27-16-6) in their final game before the all-star break tonight at Rogers Arena.
Nashville has won 10 of their last 13 games, averaging 3.5 goals per game during the span. It’s the first meeting between the two clubs this season, with the teams splitting their head to head matchup two games apiece last season.
The Canucks are 27-15-3 all time against the Predators, including a 14-6-2 mark at home, their third best home record among teams in the Western Conference.
Nashville sit 4th in the Western Conference this year, a surprise for many who criticized the team’s lack of offensive depth at the beginning of the season. The Predators are winning through team defense and scoring-by-committee; they feature 10 different players who’ve registered between 6 and 15 goals this season.
“They are really well structured in all three zones, they compete real hard and obviously they’ve been getting great goaltending this year,” said Coach Vigneault. “We’re going to have to play our best game on the ice tonight”.
This evening’s matchup could be a defensive battle; it features two teams tied for 3rd place in Goals Allowed. The Canucks, however, are far ahead in the Goals For department, having scored 30 more than the Predators this season
Goaltender Pekka Rinne has been spectacular for the Predators this season, going 17-12-4, and sitting 2nd in the NHL in Goals Against Average (2.11) and Save Percentage (.928).
The Canucks are no slouches in the goaltending department either; quietly, Roberto Luongo is dominating, going 15-1-5 with a 1.96 GAA and a .936 save percentage in 21 games since late November. He will start in net tonight for the Canucks.
Vancouver is coming off a 7-1 drubbing of the Dallas Stars last Monday night, which saw 14 different players register at least a point.
“It would be nice to feed off of last game, it was a big stepping stone for us after some mediocre hockey and we’d like to follow it up with a strong performance heading into the all-star break,” said Kevin Bieksa.
Alex Edler is suffering from back spasms and is a game time decision. If he can’t go, defenseman Lee Sweatt will get his first NHL start. He has 14 points for the Moose this season in 41 games played.
After the game the Canucks have the rest of the month off, resuming play in Dallas on February 4th.

Canucks Report: Jan. 25

Everyone got into the action in last night’s 7-1 victory over the Dallas Stars; 14 of the Canucks 18 skaters registered points in a ruthless victory that solidified the Canucks place atop the Western Conference.
Most notably, former 30 goal scorer Mikael Samuelsson scored his ninth goal of the season, his first in 15 games. He finished with a game-high 5 shots and was a +2 in 13 minutes of ice time.
"It feels good to score goals, I'm not going to lie to you about that," said Samuelsson. "But this may sound cocky but I knew that if I kept doing the right things, being strong on the puck and moving it, it was just a matter of time”.
Fellow slumper Mason Raymond also potted his first in 12.
“It’s always good to get the monkey off the back, from there I have to work harder and continue to do the things that make you successful,” saidMason Raymond.
During the course of a season there will be ups and downs and slumps and streaks but it’s not something Coach Alain Vigneault worries about.
“At one point or another this happens to players,” said Vigneault. “Nobody made excuses, nobody was looking to blame anybody and they worked really hard to stick with the process and get on the right track”.
Throughout the secondary scoring drought the Canucks have demonstrated their maturity, battling hard, and finding ways to get points. For a supposedly slumping team, the Canucks are remarkably hot, having picked up points in 22 of their last 24 games.
The power play was the deciding factor last night, going 3/7, scoring two important goals in the first period when the game was still in doubt.
“Our special teams were huge and that made a big difference helping us get off to a good start,” said Mason Raymond.
The Canucks 3rd ranked power play has had trouble at home this season, ranking an anomalous 16th at Rogers Arena and 1st on the road.
“I thought last night the guys moved the puck better and were able to get into lanes where they could get pucks to the net and we had people there,” said Vigneault. “That’s the best way to make a power play work”.
The Sedin twins, buoyed by their power play contributions, continue their climb up the NHL scoring charts.Henrik Sedin had a goal and two assists last night, while brother Daniel added two helpers. Daniel is now third in NHL scoring, three points behind Sydney Crosby and four behind leader Steven Stamkos. Henrik registered his 50th assist of the season last night and sits ten assists above his nearest challenger.
As a final illustration of the team’s willingness to do whatever it takes to win, Canucks fourth liner Aaron Volpatti punctuated the dominating victory by diving to block a shot when the score was 7-1. His effort did not go unnoticed by the Rogers Arena faithful.
The Canucks are 2-0 against the Stars this season, outscoring them 11-2. Vancouver now hold a five point lead over the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference.
Vancouver hosts Nashville tomorrow night at Rogers Arena.