7:00 PM PT - Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC
TV: SNV - Radio: TSN 1040
Given that the Canucks were playing their 3rd game in 4 nights and going up against a pretty impressive St Louis Blues team, a loss wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. It could be chalked up to the Canucks not being able to hang with the elite teams in the West, with the qualifier of being tired. No biggie. So for them to pull out another one, and do it the way they have is what makes this start so impressive.
Fewest Chances Against / 60 at 5v5, via @CorsicaHockey— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 20, 2016
1. Florida 4.65
2. New Jersey 5.20
3. Dallas 5.43
4. Vancouver 5.43
5. Toronto 5.96
Now let’s remember: the last 2 seasons started off pretty much the same way. They ended radically different though, especially last season. The difference here is that the Canucks are controlling the play in a good chunk of these games, and limiting the opposition’s shots in a way that no one expected.
Small sample sizes aside, this is a mind-blowing reversal for the Canucks. It’s likely that they regress to something a little more matching for the personnel involved, but playing like this even on a semi-regular basis could keep this team in the running for a post-season spot. At the other end of the spectrum we have the Canucks’ expansion cousins, the Buffalo Sabres. They’re looking to secure points in all 3 games of this Western road swing tonight.
You had to feel for the Sabres when sophomore Jack Eichel went down in practice before opening night, suffering a high-ankle sprain that will keep him out for weeks. And you really had to feel for them when Evander Kane slammed into the boards, breaking a few ribs in the process. This team, without Eichel and Kane, have points in two straight, and that’s pretty impressive. They were full value for their win in Edmonton, and probably deserved a better fate against a Calgary Flames team that was due for a win, but as we’ve seen from the Canucks, teams you count out early can come back to bite you.
One thing that is working for the Sabres is their PP. It’s clicking along at 25% right now (4 for 16) and the Canucks will need to be wary of this. They’re also a perfect 9 for 9 on the PK, bad news for the Canucks dismal PP.
One question for the Sabres is who will start in goal tonight. Robin Lehner’s gotten the first 3 starts, and coach Dan Bylsma has said that Anders Nilsson will get a start soon, so perhaps it’s tonight? We’ll let you know as soon as it’s announced following their 11:30 am skate.
Ryan O’Reilly is one of the players that really seems to have benefited from his WCoH experience, off to a great start for Buffalo with 3 goals and 2 assists so far. He’s tied for the team scoring lead with Rasmus Ristolainen, who has yet to score, but has 5 helpers in 3 games.
The big news is that we will see Jacob Markstrom start his 3rd straight, as Ryan Miller continues to recover from tightness in his Adductor muscles. He will be on the bench though, and was on the ice this morning with the team. There’s been a lot of rumours swirling about Miller being a goalie that the LA Kings are looking at as a stop-gap while they await Jonathan Quick’s return from a knee injury. Unless the offer was too good to refuse, I can’t see the Canucks sending Miller to a rival, especially when they believe that he is key to their success this season.
Jim Benning is crediting a focus on the Canucks’ neutral zone play so far this year, and the stats don’t lie: the Canucks are doing a wonderful job of limiting opposition chances. It might make for some boring hockey at times, but it’s going to give them the chance to win far more often than we saw last year. Check out his interview from earlier this morning on TSN 1040
Botch also took a look at how the Canucks got to this point, and one of the reasons is the way they’re approaching OT. Either way, the team is playing with confidence, and that’s a good thing.
As far as the lineup, expect no changes from Tuesday, and that means Jake in The Box again as Jack Skille starts on L4 again.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Line rushes this morning for the <a href="https://twitter.com/Canucks">@Canucks</a> are the same as Tuesday's game vs St. Louis - Jack Skille in, Virtanen out.</p>— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) <a href="https://twitter.com/TSN1040/status/789158395072880640">October 20, 2016</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Our pals over at Die By The Blade have their preview up, so go check it out if you have time. We’ll update you throughout the day as always.
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
In keeping with our theme this season, today’s cover tune is provided by the most famous metal act from Buffalo: Cannibal Corpse. Sure, they moved to Florida and became synonymous with that scene, but they got their start in upstate New York. Here they are doing a killer yet faithful reworking of ‘No Remorse’ from Metallica’s debut Kill ‘Em All.