Rob The Hockey Guy

// A Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog

Canucks vs Blackhawks Game Preview – December 20, 2013

Image courtesy of Canucks.com

Image courtesy of Canucks.com

After their first regulation loss in nine games, the Canucks are right back at it and visiting the United Centre for their second game of back to backs. How will they respond to their first regulation loss in December? Read on to find out.

Last Game:

The Canucks and Stars hooked up on Thursday night for a showdown in Dallas. The game didn’t start very well for Vancouver, as they gave up two goals (courtesy of Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour) in the span of 15 seconds to go down early. Chris Higgins gave some life back to the team after a wicked wrist shot beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen. However, that was just a charitable act on Lehtonen’s part as he shut the door the rest of the way to lead Dallas to a 4-1 victory at home.

The Opponent:

The Chicago Blackhawks have picked up right where they left off and are sitting pretty at 1st overall in the entire NHL with 55 points. As usual, the Hawks are powered by Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Captain Serious Jonathan Toews (or as my wife calls him, “that little bitch”. Love her). The Blackhawks have top to bottom depth that no team in the NHL can match. Their forwards are consistent and their defence is deep (led by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook). The ONLY flaw that the Hawks have at the moment is goaltending, and that’s only because their goalie is hurt. Corey Crawford is currently battling the injury bug and the responsibilities have fallen on rookie Antti Raanta. Chicago did pick up former Canuck Jason Labarbara as insurance, but Raanta has so far been able to hold down the fort. For more information on why we hate the Chicago Blackhawks, check out Stu Elmes on-going series.

Canucks Lines:

It’s still too early to tell what the lines will be, but I can’t see them splitting up just yet. Eddie Lack gets the start in net.

D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Hansen

Higgins – Kesler – Santorelli

Booth – Richardson – Kassian

Sestito – Dalpe – Weise

Hamhuis – Tanev

Alberts – Bieksa

Weber – Garrison

Lack

Ian’s Soap Box:

A few weeks ago, my colleague Ian Lusher introduced a feature to his game previews where he could vent some frustration. Well, I’ve decided to steal his soap box for a little venting myself.

What the hell is wrong with the NHL? How Tom Wilson escaped a suspension for his hit on Brayden Schenn is the most staggering thing I’ve seen this year. What exactly did Shanahan see that the rest of us didn’t? He believed Brayden Schenn turned into the hit which I’ll admit is a fair point. However, that doesn’t excuse Tom Wilson charging across the ice to hit him. But then, Shanahan justifies this by going into a lengthy description of how teams forecheck. Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that’s how that worked. How does this relate to a Canucks Game Preview blog? Zack Kassian.

As we all remember, Kassian received a lengthy 8 game (3 preseason and 5 regular) suspension for ACCIDENTALLY hitting Gagner in the face with his stick causing some major dental damage. So for an accidental play, Kassian gets 5 games. For a deliberate play, Tom Wilson gets nothing. Gotcha. I would leave it at that but something else is pissing me off about this. Last week when the Canucks played the Oilers, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reported that Kassian didn’t text Gagner after the incident to apologize, as if it was mandatory.

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 10.05.43 PM

Yes, it’s a touching gesture from one player to another but Kassian chose not to text him and I’m not going to demonize him for it because he did show remorse when talking about the play. Tom Wilson however, did send a text to Brayden Schenn which Schenn himself called “classy”. Well that’s sweet and I’m glad Schenn is smitten with Wilson’s olive branch. But you know what’s even classier? NOT deliberately charging a player resulting in a concussion that the Flyers are apparently going to ignore.

Deep breath…

Storylines:

1.The Rivalry

The rivalry between the Canucks and Blackhawks has diffused over time. While the Canucks have taken a few steps back, the Blackhawks decided they wanted to toy with all the other teams and have become the most dominate franchise in the league. This may sounds weird coming from a Canuck fan, but I actually like it this way. Chicago poses an incredible challenge for Vancouver which gives them an opportunity to step up and test themselves against an elite team. Plus, beating an arch rival who also happens to be the top team in the league is that much sweeter.

2. Contain the Kane

After his second Stanly Cup victory, I naturally assumed Patrick Kane was going to go on an epic binge and redefine the meaning of Stanly Cup hangover. Instead, it looks like he decided to focus (i.e grow up) during the summer and has come back better than ever. He currently sits second in league scoring which honestly should be thought of as high as you can go if Sidney Crosby is healthy. Kane has always given Vancouver fits, and the defence will need to take away his space in the offensive zone. The moment you give Patrick Kane space and time to drink think, you’re screwed.

3. #hikeith

I think it’s fair to say the Duncan Keith revenge ship has sailed. While we may never get any retribution for the elbow that knocked Daniel Sedin out of the line up just in time for the 2012 Playoffs, I always hope someone from the Canucks steps up and drops him with a huge (clean) hit. So with that, I’ll let you take it from here Zack Kassian.

Prediction:

I really hope I’m wrong about this one, but I see a Canucks loss. Chicago is too powerful offensively and Vancouver’s defence is depleted. Hawks take it 3-1. Chelsea Dagger continues to haunt our existence.

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