On Saturday night, The Canucks will be looking to rebound from yet another tough loss against their aquatic rivals from Northern California and will apparently have to do so without the services of Alex Edler. When the Montreal Canadiens are in town, there is always a buzz around the Lower Mainland. Here is how I see things shaking down:
The following paragraph is dedicated to Joe Thornton:
We may not have received the privilege of seeing Thornton stroke his rooster as promised, but I’m sure he received just as much pleasure from San Jose beating off Vancouver for the ninth straight time. From start to finish, the Sharks vigorously jerked the Canucks around in their own zone and early on you could tell there wasn’t much chance for Vancouver to come out on top. Mike Santorelli gave the home side some hope, but Patrick Marleau quickly rubbed out those dreams as San Jose cruised to a 4-1 win and their fourth straight victory to open the season. The Canucks meanwhile, dropped to a respectable but disappointing 3-2 record and are looking to rebound in a big way.
Les Habitants are finally back in Vancouver after a long absence thanks to last year’s NHL lockout. Led by B.C. born goaltender Carey Price, Montreal is 2-2 on the season after Thursday night’s victory over the Oilers. Saturday will be a big night for local product Brendan Gallagher, who played his junior hockey with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. Look for Gallagher to have a huge game alongside Alex Galchenyuk, who continues to impress in his sophomore NHL season and is currently third in NHL scoring with 1 goal and 6 assists. Along with Gallagher and Galchenyuk, Lars Eller is off to his own torrid start to the year, having already netted 4 goals and 2 assists in four games. Look for those three plus the current Norris Trophy winner and always dangerous P.K. Subban to be the focal point of the Montreal attack.
Here are the lines from this today’s morning skate:
D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Santorelli
Higgins – Kesler – Hansen
Kassian – Richardson – Booth
Sestito – Dalpe – Weise
Garrison – Bieksa
Hamhuis – Tanev
Stanton – Weber
1. The Zack Attack is Back, Jack
Saturday night sees Zack Kassian return from his Shanaban, but which Kassian will show up? Will it be the dominating presence that opens up time and space for the twins? Or will it be fourth liner Kassian who barely makes anyone notice he is even there? If Tortorella made good on his promise to make Zack work throughout his suspension, I’m betting we see the former. Zack knows he has to impress the coaches with a strong performance and the with the twins playing solid hockey at the moment, I like his chances of putting up some points.
2. Take a seat Eddy.
The Canucks should really stop choosing to spin the wheel of justice. Always go with the Mystery Box (Could be good, or could be bad…). Listen, I get that the league wants dangerous hits to the head out of the game. Everyone does. But Brendan Shanahan (or whoever is making these decisions) really have to do a better job at distinguishing what is a deliberate head-shot and what is a hit to a player smaller than you. Yes, the head was the principle point of contact, but Edler’s elbow was tucked and to my knowledge, Thomas Hertl isn’t missing any time with a concussion which eliminates the punishment based on injury rule (see, Zack Kassian). The length of Edler’s suspension is likely based on being considered a repeat-offender, or as Darren Dreger would have you believe, “a master of accidentally on purpose plays”. I would have been okay with a one game suspension, but three games? Give me a break. Was Edler’s hit really that much worse than Mike Fisher, who pushed Cody Franson from behind into a stanchion? This play, by the way, wasn’t even reviewed.
3. How will the Canucks respond without Edler?
Losing Alexander Edler, to put it mildly, stings. Under John Tortorella’s system, Edler has been rock solid and has been devouring the minutes. The big question that now faces the coaching staff is who will take over? Logically, it will be Dan Hamhuis, but his early season struggles have been well documented. Yannick Weber should slot into the bottom pairing to hopefully make up some of the offense that will be lost and provide a dangerous shot on the power play. It’s Weber’s play in his own zone that presents an issue. I wouldn’t be against a Frankie Corrado call up, but that may not be an option that Mike Gills is exploring at the moment.
The boys at Rob the Hockey Guy have been pretty optimistic about the Canucks thus far, picking them to win in each of the first 5 games. Well, today I am bucking the trend and predicting a Canucks loss. I really want to say they will win, but I think the growing pains will continue and loss of Alex Edler will have a huge effect. I don’t know what it is about Montreal. Maybe because it feels like they have home-ice advantage every time they come to Vancouver because of a very passionate and vocal fan base. Either way, after losing 4-2 to Montreal, the Canucks will drop to 3-3 on the year and as per tradition, the loss will send the Canuck faithful into an early season tailspin.
Follow Steve Lancashire on Twitter at @lankey22