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GAME DAY PREVIEW: Canucks @ Calgary- Jan 7/17

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As Canucks fans, we've seen some pretty ridiculous things with this team since 1970, but the game last night might have topped them all.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames

7:00 PM PT - Scotiabank Saddledome- Calgary, AB

TV: CBC, SN - Radio: TSN 1040


Come on, man! You can't be serious with this. If you think the Canucks had any business whatsoever winning that game last night, you're wrong, and couldn't possibly be more wrong. By every possible measurement and metric, they got their asses handed to them last night, except for one. And it's the most important one. Yes, somehow the Canucks managed to pump 4 goals past Brian Elliott, and Ryan Miller, playing his 5th game in 10 nights was as fresh as a frickin' daisy and stood on his damn head all night long. The Canucks will not win tonight if they play like that tonight. Hell, they'll never win another game where they play as close to as bad as they did last night. But in this wacky, mixed-up season, the Canucks, predicted by some to finish with 65 points are now possessors of a playoff spot.

Canucks
CATEGORY
Flames
20-18-3 SEASON RECORD 21-18-2
43 Points 44
5th Division Position 4th
Won 6
Streak Lost 1
2.44 (22)
Goals For Per 60 (GF60)
2.66 (17)
2.85 (21)
Goals Against Per 60 (GA60)
2.80 (20)
14.4 (27) Power Play % 20.9 (10)
80.2 (21) Penalty Kill % 81.3 (17)
52.5 (5) Faceoff Win % 49.4 (17)
8.8 (18)
Shooting % 9.2 (14)
48.1 (24)
Corsi For % 50.1 (16)
99.5 (18)
PDO 99.4 (19)

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

THE OPPOSITION

As I scoured the various tubes of the internets for reactions to last night's game, it seemed to me that one thing was missing from all of this: why in the hell were Calgary not playing as they usually do? That team is built to go head to head against the big boy California teams, and yet despite the way the Flames dominated the game, it never seemed to be overly physical. And believe me, you can bet they heard about this heading into tonight's rematch. So if the Flames don't come out trying to staple anything in a white jersey to the boards, I will be legitimately shocked. A guy like Michael Ferland is usually very prominent in games against the Canucks, but do you recall anything he did in that game? Even future Brad Marchand on steroids Matthew Tkachuk was a non-factor in the match. It's almost like even though the Flames did almost everything right last night, they played right into the Canucks hands.

The odds of the Flames taking the split tonight are good, however. They'll definitely be starting Chad Johnson in goal after a letdown of a performance from Elliott. The Canucks will also be dressing Alex Biega in place of Chris Tanev, who was felled by a point shot in front of the Canucks net last night. And it's that drop in defensive quality that the Flames will need to take advantage of, and then hope that Jacob Markstrom isn't going to be as dialed in as Miller was last night.

THE CANUCKS

Not only did they lose Tanev, but there was some question as to whether they'd have Ben Hutton and Brandon Sutter after last night. It does appear both will be in the lineup, and that means no call up from Utica as once again Canucks fans are denied a chance to see Jordan Subban make his NHL debut. No word yet on whether Alexandre Burrows is feeling well enough to play, and that would mean another appearance for Anton Rodin. He seemed to struggle at times, and shockingly, the guy who has been in the press box doesn't appear to be in mid-season form. I would like to see them give him more opportunities, and with this being a back to back, perhaps a minute or two more in ice time for a guy who was under 10 last night might come in handy.

So that's 6 games in a row, which has the entire league talking. But as Botch pointed out in last night's Provies, the more impressive number is their record since that ass kicking they received at the hands of the NY Rangers. Since Nov 17th, the Canucks have gone 14-8-2. Even people like us who follow the team closely didn't seem to realize it. During that stretch, that's the 10th best record in the NHL.

It's improbable that anything will come of this. It's likely unsustainable to keep winning at this pace, given the way they're being out shot, out chanced and out played. Even in a playoff spot, they currently have a 19.1% chance of playing a playoff game in April. Despite all of that, somehow this franchise has managed to make the bitter, jaded, disillusioned fans stand up and take notice. It might be all for naught. You can't be a Canucks fan and not recognize this. But after that horrifying 9 game losing streak, the fact that we can actually discuss playoffs as a faint possibility and not be facetious, is probably the biggest victory of all. It may not translate to more butts in the seats just yet. But if the Canucks are still chugging along in February like this, all bets are off.

And remember: that 65 point mile post is coming up, and quickly. Canucks twitter is going to be pretty damn fun on that day whether they make the playoffs or not.

How great was it that the narrative that should have been "SHOuLDA DRAFTED TKACHUK!!1!" was shifted to "Did Jim Benning actually win the Granlund/Shinkaruk trade?" Granlund getting 2 g and 1 a against the Flames, especially in this game is a pretty good indicator, at least early on that this could end up being one of Benning's best moves.

The thing I loved the most about last night's game was the luck the Canucks had. This is a team that is the dictionary definition of snakebitten. And yet there's Loui Eriksson scoring this goal...


And how about the Canucks getting not one, but two goaltender interference calls going their way? It's not that these calls were close either, but as we've seen over the years, even ones that look blatant seem to go against the Canucks. To say they'll need that kind of luck tonight is a massive understatement. The Flames, thoroughly embarrassed last night are going to come out hard at home, looking to make the Canucks pay. They will also be facing a team that heading into game 42 of the season, have just 5 wins on the road. This needs to change if the Canucks truly wish to make the post season.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

While the likes of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Mikael Granlund have been leading the way of late, the Canucks could really use a big game from the Sedins tonight. Here's some Swedish cheese for inspiration from Yngwie J. Malmsteen from his 2nd album Marching Out: 'I'll See The Light Tonight".