As the Canucks continue their search for an identity in the Trevor Linden/Jim Benning era, one thing is becoming a tradition: opening the season with a win over the Calgary Flames. It just feels right, you know? Sure, there's gonna be nights this year where the Canucks get stomped by this Flames team, but thanks to the NHL schedulers, they set this one up on a tee for the Canucks. Sure, they almost flubbed it, but if you haven't learned by now that style points do not show up in the standings...
There were a lot of noteworthy things in last night's contest, and while it's extremely early, perhaps there's room for (measured) optimism? The defense looked good, and yes that includes Luca Sbisa.
Credit where credit is due: Luca Sbisa had a pretty good game last night. Erik Gudbranson had a really nice play to stop a breakaway and overall, they handled the Flames speed, as tired as they were, pretty well. Ryan Miller was probably the best player on the ice last night though, and when that happens, the Canucks usually leave with 2 points. He stopped Johnny Gaudreau repeatedly, and looked as confident in that shootout as I think we've ever seen him. If this is his last season in a Canucks uniform, he looks determined to go out fighting.
There was a lot of discussion over the placement of Bo Horvat on the 'Don't call it the 4th line' 4th line, but to Bo's credit, he had a decent game, though that was in spite of his linemates more than anything else. And when you look at some of the advanced stats from last night, while it didn't look like a dominant Canucks performance per se, the Flames really weren't a threat to take a 2 goal lead.
It's a credit to the Flames D, and goalie Chad Johnson that the game even got to OT in the first place, as it looked at times as though the Flames were content to try and ride out the own goal for the win. Now, let's take a look at tonight's game!
||Streak||Lost 1 (OT)
||Goals For Per 60 (GF60)
||Goals Against Per 60 (GA60)
|0.00 (24)||Power Play %||50.00 (3)|
|0.00 (1)||Penalty Kill %||80.00 (19)|
|50.8 (16)||Faceoff Win %||64.1 (1)|
||Shooting %||14.8 (6)
||Corsi For %||54.9 (7)
Stats from NHL.com and www.hockey-reference.com
Just who are the Carolina Hurricanes, exactly? With the loss of face of the franchise Eric Staal, this is another team in search of an identity. Well, let's start with the lineup we can expect tonight, from the Hurricanes' site:
We've got some former Blackhawks there in Viktor Stalberg, Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell. Another thing that jumps out? Lee Stempniak on the top line. I suppose the lesson here is that there are worse problems than Bo Horvat on you're 4th line. There are a few players to keep an eye on though. Jeff Skinner is a pretty fun player to watch, and the line of Teravainen, Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho could be interesting. On D, Justin Faulk leads a crew of mostly unknown to the Western Conference crew, save for veteran Ron Hainsey. And in goal? This guy:
Kudos to the 'Canes for giving Lack the start against his old team, especially after coming off a tough loss against Winnipeg the other night. It would have been easy to go back to Cam Ward, who blew a 4-1 lead to lose in OT to... you know what? I don't blame them here. Ward is terrible and Eddie should be #1. You may have been exiled, but we still love ya, Eddie.
It's a back to back situation for the Canucks now, and while the season just started, and he played so well last night, I do like the optics of starting Jacob Markstrom tonight. One thing that's always been a concern with Miller has been making sure he gets enough rest. There's a competent goalie as back up in Markstrom, so there's no good reason for Miller to ever have to play back to back games this season. The Canucks success hinges on both goalies playing well, and Markstrom needs to get in more games.
Other than that, we're not expecting any changes from last night's lineup. This is a good test, actually. A lower echelon opponent on the back end of a back to back. Let's see what the Canucks bring, and see if we get a little more consistent effort. Also, more goals please. You don't win a lot of games in the NHL scoring 1 per game.
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
North Carolina is the home to Corrosion Of Conformity, and back in their punkier early days they released a wicked cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Green Manalishi' (you are probably more familiar with the Judas Priest version). I dig the raw approach here. I was hoping to track down a cover of Hatesphere doing COC's Vote WIth A Bullet (timely, no?) but apparently not everything is on YouTube...