The Canucks head into Calgary after stomping all over the Oilers at home (just like the good old days) and giving fans a whole lot of optimism after a mini panic set-in across Canuck nation on Thursday.
The high flying/high scoring Canucks were back for one night at least, beating the Oilers 6-2 at home on Saturday night. They outshot the Oilers badly (43-23) and the Canucks’ best players were dominant. Edmonton out-hit (38-22) and blocked more shots (19-10), mostly because the Canucks had the puck all night.
Calgary is probably the worst team in the National Hockey League on paper, so their early season success has to be a huge surprise to most. They lost in a shootout to Washington in their season opener and beat the Blue Jackets the next night. Karri Ramo should be in net with an unheralded group (Stajan, Stempniak, Hudler… you get the idea) leading the team offensively. Dennis Wideman is averaging more than 27 minutes of ice time per night, while new captain Mark Giordano is seeing 25 minutes/night.
I assume that against the lowly Calgary Flames and on the second half of a back-to-back that Eddie Lack will get his first career NHL start. Unless they recall someone from Utica, it will be a defenceman playing forward on the 4th line once again. It’s possible that Andrew Alberts may draw into the lineup, but I doubt it. With that said, the lineup should look like this in Calgary:
D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Hansen
Higgins – Kesler – Booth
Richardson – Santorelli – Weise
Sestito – Dalpe – Weber
1. Avoid the letdown game
The Canucks played a great game against Edmonton on Saturday night and they need to not take the Flames lightly at all. The Flames (the worst team on paper in the NHL as far as I’m concerned) are feeling good about themselves about picking up points in their first two games and will also be energized playing in their home opener.
2. Protect Eddie
If Eddie Lack does indeed get his first start of his career, it would be wise to ease him into the game. Lack is a bit of a wildcard this season, nobody knows exactly how good he will be. We should get our first taste of it.
3. Shoot the puck
Those fans that yell “shooooooot!” all the time at Rogers Arena got their wish on Saturday night. The Canucks had 40+ shots for the first time this season. Last year they managed more than 40 shots on goal in a game only twice. It’s a great recipe for a win and they have been guilty of overpassing in recent years. If they do that against Karri Ramo and the Flames, they should get a W. Let Henrik overpass, everyone else shoot the puck.
I’m 1-1 in predictions this year (predicting two Canucks victories) and I’m sticking with the blue and green. The Canucks will be tired and playing a rookie goaltender, but the Flames are the Flames and are due for an outright loss after two solid games to start the season. It won’t be pretty, but the Canucks will gut out a 3-2 win.