The Canucks are back at Rogers Arena Friday night for their second and thankfully final tilt of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Will the Canucks suck again? Or will John Tortorella have scared the living hell out of them?
Most Canucks fans were left speechless following Tuesday night’s loss against the Florida (Yes, freaking Florida) Panthers. Having lost four straight despite playing some decent hockey, the Canucks failed to capitalize on a weak opponent and came out flat, eventually losing 3-2 in a shootout. Vancouver did manage to score more than one goal (courtesy of Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen) but the Canucks were unable to hold the lead as future Canuck Shawn Matthias tied the game late and Jonathan Huberdeau sealed the deal in the shootout. Had it not been for Roberto Luongo, the score could have been much worse as John Tortorella summed the loss up as the result of a “lack of respect”. He was slightly pissed off to say the least.
It appears that the Columbus Blue Jackets are back to being the Columbus Blue Jackets, even though they went out East which should really be working in their favour. Currently in 12th place in the conference, the Jackets sit three games under .500 and are missing their two best players in Nathan Horton (who still hasn’t played a game this season) and Marian Gaborik. Offensively, the Blue Jackets are led by defenseman James Wisniewski with 22 points so far this season. After being embarrassed 7-0 by the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Blue Jackets were able regain a touch of their dignity by upending Calgary Flames a night later in overtime. This will be the Blue Jackets third game in four nights, so expect a tired squad. Hopefully that actually matters to the Canucks.
We have a bit of a line scramble going into Friday’s game. The Sedins will be split as John Tortorella tries to “throw shit against the wall a bit here and see what sticks“.
Higgins- H. Sedin – Hansen
D. Sedin – Santorelli - Kesler
Burrows – Richardson – Kassian
Sestito – Welsh – Weise
Garrison – Edler
Hamhuis – Tanev
Stanton – Bieksa
1. Mt. Torts
You can see some frustration beginning to percolate within John Tortorella as the Canucks are currently on a five game slide. Even though he was generally happy with the way the team had been playing, that stinker of a game against the Panthers almost caused an eruption and appearance from pre-anger management Torts. Another effort like that against the Columbus Blue Jackets and I can see the post game press conference being the event of the year.
2. Stay focused
The reason I find this to be key is that although Tortorella will have warned his squad against taking a team lightly, it will be hard to stay 100% focused with a big matchup against the Stanley Cup Champion (shudder) Chicago Blackhawks in town the very next night. Games against the Blue Jackets are usually (how to put this mildly…) boring and awful to sit through, especially with such a big game the next night which unfortunately will air on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. It will be very interesting to see how the Canucks respond to this situation.
3. Zack Kassian…again
There have been very few things I’ve disliked about Tortorella’s coaching so far. In fact, I’m quite enamored with it. However, I am still trying to understand why Zack Kassian hasn’t been given an extended look on the top line with the twins. Pretty much every combination has been used at this point, with nothing really sticking. How about giving Zack a chance? He has been playing much better, and it’s not like he’ll slow the twins down considering they haven’t been scoring lately. Some may argue he doesn’t deserve his chance yet, but I would personally like to see how he responds to the responsibility the coaching staff would be giving him.
I was so ready to call a loss on this one. However, after reading Tony Gallagher’s Wednesday Hat Trick, I found it hard to bet against Vancouver. Let’s put it this way, if the Canucks find a way to lose against the Blue Jackets, the usual optimistic outlook in my predictions will be flushed down the crapper. So, without further ado, I predict the Canucks will reward my blind faith by beating the Blue Jackets 4-1. Bonus prediction: Someone in British Columbia will propose a Ryan Kesler for Ryan Johanson trade. Again.