The Vancouver Canucks and their fans are riding high after an improbable win against the St. Louis Blues on Friday night. The win capped off their best road trip in franchise history and things seems to be coming together for John Tortorella and the Canucks. Will a visit from Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals derail the momentum? Read on to find out.
It was a miracle the Canucks even earned one point, let alone two Friday night in St. Louis. With a tired and battered squad, the Canucks were up against a well rested Blues squad that hadn’t played a game since October 18. Vancouver jumped out to a two goal lead thanks to a fluke shot by Chris Higgins and a vintage Ryan Kesler wrist shot from the slot, courtesy of Mike Santorelli. However, the refs were not to be denied and provided the Blues with a 5-3 man advantage on a couple of questionable calls that would eventually even things up early in the third period. The Canucks held on by any means necessary, such as Alex Edler sitting on the puck, to get the game to overtime. With 30 seconds left in the extra frame, the referees gave Vancouver another token power play to end the game after Blues forward Patrik Berglund hauled down Daniel Sedin while cutting through the slot. This time however, the Canucks we able to finish off the Blues when Kesler batted in his second goal of the night, igniting a shit storm of childish behaviour led by Blues captain David Backes and verteran Barret Jackman. Honestly, I’ve seen more mature behaviour from a three year old having a tantrum at Superstore. Despite Backes trying to gaud enforcer Daniel Sedin into a fight (providing solid leadership as usual), the Canucks weren’t having any of it and left St.Louis with their heads (and arms) held high.
The Washington Capitals have had an uneven start to the season despite their captain Alex Ovechkin having yet another career resurrection (he has about two every year). The Caps are currently sitting at a record of 5-6 after a brutal showing against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night that team will want to forget. This is yet another Western-Eastern matchup with teams who are unfamiliar with each other. Washington plays an offensive style that compliments their stable of talented forwards that includes Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mikhail Grabovski and offensive defenseman Mike Green.
After Pascal Pelletier was sent back to the Utica Comets, it’s looking like Alex Burrows will draw back into the line-up for the first time since opening night against the San Jose Sharks. With Kesler riding an impressive hot streak, look for Burrows to start the game on the second line. Luongo draws back into the line up after sitting out the back to back against St. Louis.
D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Kesler
Higgins – Santorelli – Burrows
Sestito – Richardson – Kassian
Archibald – Welsh – Weber
Garrison – Edler
Hamhuis – Tanev
Stanton – Bieksa
1. Burrows is back!
Finally, Alex Burrows will make his return to the lineup against the Washington Capitals. Although the Canucks have managed to weather the storm exceptionally well in his absence, having a player of Burrows’ caliber will do nothing but improve the lineup. He will automatically help a penalty kill that has been slipping in recent games (now sitting at 11th in the league), and help shore up a second line that in all honesty should probably be classified as a third line. With Kesler on a roll with the twins, Burrows won’t have his usual spot on the top line. However, it is a nice luxury for John Tortorella to have an option if he gets bored with Kesler playing wing.
2. Can the Canucks contain Ovechkin?
With 10 goals in his first eleven games, Alex Ovechkin is off to one of his best starts in recent years. Whether he is finally adjusting to Adam Oates as his coach, or he is motivated by the preparation for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, Ovechkin is playing a dynamic brand of hockey right now and the Canuck defence will have a hard time containing him for sixty minutes. The Capitals love to set Ovechkin up for one-timers off the half wall during power plays. I don’t claim to be an expert in the field, but I would recommend the Canucks do their best to stay out the box to avoid this situation.
3. The Fans
I really hope the fans at Rogers Arena give the boys a nice reception tomorrow night. After collecting 11 out of a possible 14 points on a ridiculously scheduled road trip out east, the Canucks deserve a raucous crowd when they take the ice on Monday night. Now I know noise or enthusiasm isn’t the strong suit of Rogers Arena, but for tonight, forget your case of the “Munday’s” and really show your appreciation for the effort and will the Canucks displayed over the last two weeks. Besides, we really need to start warming up for Pavel Bure day next Saturday. By the way, if you grew up in the 1990′s and aren’t reading Rob’s 10 days of Pavel Bure, shame on you.
I had originally pegged this game as a let down. After a 5-1-1 road trip and two days off courtesy of John Tortorella, I figured the Canucks would probably not be as emotionally invested as their final game against of the trip against St. Louis. However, thanks to there being nothing on TV Saturday, I watched the Calgary Flames manhandle a disinterested Capitals squad. I quickly became a little more optimistic about Vancouver’s chances on Monday night. I’m calling a 4-3 win for the Canucks and I’d better be right, because I’ve screwed up twice in a row (I can forgive myself for the St. Louis prediction) putting our prediction record in danger of becoming average.