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GAME DAY PREVIEW: Canucks vs Columbus- Dec 18/16

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The Canucks are coming off a pretty impressive win Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but this afternoon face a whole different beast: ex-Coach John Tortorella and his Columbus Blue Jackets. Wait, a 1 pm start time? Isn't that when Torts takes his nap?

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

1:00 PM PT - Rogers Arena- Vancouver, BC

TV: SNP  - Radio: TSN 1040

Sure they gave up a lead, and needed a bounce to get the win, but this is a team that's been ridiculously overdue for a bounce or two, right? The important thing was they put together a mostly solid effort. The question now is can they start stringing some wins together in this also ridiculous quest to somehow make the playoffs?

Canucks
CATEGORY
Blue Jackets
13-16-2 SEASON RECORD 19-5-4
28 Points 42
6th Division Position 3rd
Won 1
Streak Won 8
2.39 (22)
Goals For Per 60 (GF60)
3.32 (2)
3.06 (28)
Goals Against Per 60 (GA60)
2.04 (2)
14.3 (27) Power Play % 25.9 (1)
82.1 (14) Penalty Kill % 82.3 (13)
51.3 (9) Faceoff Win % 47.8 (26)
8.1 (25)
Shooting % 10.7 (2)
49.4 (18)
Corsi For % 50.3 (14)
98.0 (29)
PDO 103.8 (2)

Stats from NHL.com and www.hockey-reference.com

THE OPPOSITION

It's a symptom of the hockey media hive mind that we sit here at Christmas and there are still people publishing articles that are some version of "Are the Blue Jackets for real?". It's a well known stat that more than 75% of the time when you are in a playoff spot by US Thanksgiving, you make it. Given where the BJ's are at the moment, it would take a catastrophic collapse tied in with an insane amount of injuries for that to happen, so why not just do the the obvious thing, since it's staring everyone in the face and say it: Yes, the Blue Jackets are good.

Maybe it's a John Tortorella thing? After all, there may not be a more polarizing figure in the NHL when it comes to dealing with the media. Maybe it's that whole snobbery against teams that don't have a Cup in their past? Yeah, that's a real thing as anyone who follows this team can tell you. The sport's media are never ready to let another team even peek into the door of their exclusive club until they kick it down, and heap disrespect upon them until that day. Whatever the case, this is not really surprising if you'd actually paid attention to what's been going on in Ohio, as the ground work for this had been laid a couple years ago.

Sure, Torts deserves a lot of credit. But let's not overlook the work of GM Jarmo Kekalainen and President John Davidson. Savvy trades and some shrewd drafting have given the Jackets a team that can compete with the beasts in the East, and have to be considered one of the favorites should they continue on the path they've blazed thus far.

Is there a big story individually for Columbus? Not a singular one, but a number of remarkable performances: The resurrection of Sam Gagner's career. Brandon Saad making Chicago feel some regret. Sergei Bobrovsky back to form. 19 year old Zach Werenski becoming a leader on the BJ's blue line. There's a lot to like about this team, and people need to get over their Tortorella feelings and realize what's happening in Columbus is one of the best things about the season so far. And when you factor in Tortorella is sitting at 499 career coaching wins, this game should have a ton of feeling for both squads.

THE CANUCKS

And that brings us to our boys. Remember back a few years, when the Canucks would be rolling and they would have a game that popped up on the schedule like this? It used to scare the hell out of me, because quite often they would play down to the level of the team they were facing, and lose what should have been a slam dunk of a game. So when I see the Jackets stroll into Rogers Arena on an 8 game winning streak, even with Tortorella no-doubt drilling it into his troops that there is no acceptable result today than a complete drubbing of the team that fired him, you can't help but feel this has an upset ala that road win against the New York Rangers written all over it.

The last game saw the Canucks return to some form of defensive stability, the calming influence of Chris Tanev's return seemingly infectious (save for Nikita Tryamkin, who struggled at times during that win over the Lightning), and even a goal from the oft-maligned Luca Sbisa. And with the news that Eric Gudbranson may be out long term as the word surgery has reared it's ugly head in regards to his wrist injury, this does appear to be the D they will go with into the January/February grind of the schedule. There is, of course some bad news potentially (what else is new?) as the Canucks may be without rookie phenom Troy Stecher today. Stecher was sore after Friday and won't skate this morning. He will likely be a game-time decision. If he can't go then we can expect to see Andrey Pedan for the Canucks, and that will give them a pair of Russian bears on the back end. Ryan Miller should get the start against Bobrovsky.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Epic Vancouver metallers Unleash The Archers are back with a new album on Napalm Records. Here's the title track from 'Time Stands Still'.