The Vancouver Canucks will begin their 2013-14 season on the road in San Jose, the same place their season ended last season. There are more questions than answers as the Canucks enter this season and getting a good start to the season this year is of particular importance.
The Sharks are entering this season with a lot of optimism. The best years of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are likely behind them, but they are still impact players. Meanwhile, a new wave of impact players are making waves in San Jose. Logan Couture was on pace for a 36 goal season last year (extrapolated on an 82 game season) and is only 24 years old. Their defense is good and very young, featuring Marc-Edouard Vlasic (26), Matt Irwin (25), Justin Braun (26) and Jason Demers (25). Add to that the likes of new found power forward Brent Burns and consistent scorer Joe Pavelski, and the Sharks think they have a chance to win a Stanley Cup this season.
Keys to the Game
1. Exorcise their demons
It’s a term we have usually associated with the Chicago Blackhawks, but it certainly applies to the Sharks. The Canucks lost all seven games against the Sharks last season (three in the regular season and four in the playoffs), plus both preseason tilts this season. The Sharks have their number and they know it. The Canucks will need to find a way to answer the balanced attack of the Sharks.
2. The power play
The Sharks were 7th last season with the man advantage while the Canucks were ranked 22nd. The Sharks torched the Canucks on the power play in both games played in San Jose, notching six goals in two games. Vancouver will have Ryan Kesler as their net-front presence once again and Jason Garrison will be firing bullets from the blueline. The Sedins will try to work their magic down low and Alex Edler will once again be their power play quarterback.
3. Stiffness and bite
John Tortorella wants the Canucks to be a ‘stiff hockey team’ and to have more ‘bite’. To translate, he wants the Canucks to be a harder team to play against. How will this translate onto this ice? If they can play how Tortorella wants them to, they might surprise the Sharks who are likely expecting to steamroll the Canucks once again.
Every piece of logic and reason is telling me that the Sharks will win this game. They have the Canucks’ number, they have home ice advantage and they’re a better team on paper. But that’s precisely why I think the Canucks will win this game. The Sharks will be overconfident and the Canucks have an “us against the world” mentality right now. The Canucks will grind out a 3-2 win.