The Vancouver Canucks are looking to kick off 2014 on a positive note with a New Year’s Day tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Will the Canucks be suffering from the same hangover as everyone else? Will I be able to finish this preview before succumbing to New Years Eve celebrations? And will this post contain a picture of Martin St. Louis in his underwear? Read on to find out.
The Philadelphia Flyers came to town on Monday night to face the Canucks for the second time this season. Tom Sestito was clearly amped up to play his old team, as he was involved early and was even able to score to tie the game 1-1. Sestito’s third goal of the year ties him with David Clarkson of the Toronto Maple Leafs who is making over five million a year on a long term contract. Isn’t that sad? But I digress…
Anyways, Steve Mason stood on his freaking head as the Canucks once again made a mediocre goaltender look like Ken Dryden. The game looked to be locked up late in the third after Daniel Sedin put the Canucks ahead 3-2. However, thanks to a defensive zone break down (Kevin…), the Flyers would tie the game up with their net empty. Overtime solved nothing and we went to another shootout where John Tortorella once again proved he’s just not that into them. Canucks would lose 4-3 but picked up that all important
Phoenix Coyote loser point.
On a day that will be dominated by the Winter Classic (the first of 31 outdoor games, I believe), the Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning square off for the only other game of the day. The Lightning have somehow managed to do just fine without star forward Steven Stamkos (who has been eating organic quinoa and free-range greek yogurt around the clock with guru Gary Roberts to recover from a broken leg) and are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, good for third place in the Eastern Conference. Pint-sized forward Martin St. Louis has been carrying the offensive load on his gigantic legs (kids: don’t skip leg days at the gym), and is getting some consistent support from Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn. The main danger for the Canucks will be Martin St. Louis who despite nearing his 40th birthday is still a threat and even won the Art Ross last year for leading the league in scoring. If you are wondering how a 38 year old borderline little person could accomplish that, this is how:
As of New Years Eve, there are no changes to the line up. However, Jeremy Welsh was sent packing to Utica so one of Alex Burrows or Jordan Schroeder could be back soon.
D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Hansen
Higgins – Kesler – Santorelli
Booth – Richardson – Kassian
Sestito – Dalpe – Weise
Hamhuis – Tanev
Weber – Corrado
1. Enough with the Defensive Breakdowns
The Canucks really need to start bucking a disturbing trend that has plagued them all season. Going into the final moments of the game with the lead, Vancouver seems to be unable to finish off their opponents and have lost a few points as a result. This might be less of an issue if the Canucks were competitive in the shootout. However, that is not the case so the Canucks will have to either score on the empty net or stop with the defensive breakdowns (Kevin…).
2. Stay Patient
After an 10-1-2 run, you would think the Canucks would be in a better position in the standings than where they currently find themselves. But the Western Conference is stupid this year so not much ground has been recovered. However, it’s important to remember that the before this run, the Canucks had played a lot more than any team in the West so without this current streak of wins; things could be looking incredibly bleak. Most teams have caught up in games played and the Canucks remain in a solid playoff position. So stay focused and patient. As long as the Canucks play consistently well down the stretch, their position will improve.
3. Sami Salo
So I was going to write this whole paragraph about how it will be great to see Samit Salo back. Well, apparently that was a bad assumption to make as he is, surprise, listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. So unfortunately, one of the most endearing players to ever put on a Canucks jersey will not be making his return to Rogers Arena on Wednesday night. The quiet and lovable defenseman from Finland played exceptionally well for Vancouver during his tenure and his booming shot has been missed (Exhibit A: The Power Play). If it wasn’t for ridiculously bad luck with injuries and Tampa Bay offering too much term (much like Mattias Ohlund…), I am convinced Salo would have ended his career with the Canucks. Here’s to you Sami.
I’m conflicted here. On one hand the Canucks are playing so well right now it’s hard to bet against them. On the other hand, the Lightning are also playing well and shouldn’t be underestimated as that seems to piss off Martin St. Louis which isn’t good (right Calgary?). Screw it. I’ll flip a coin.
Heads: Canucks win
Tails: Lightning win
Happy New Year Everyone!