Vancouver Canucks @ New York Islanders
4:00 p.m. PST, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
TV: Sportsnet Pacific, Radio: SN 650
Remember that time the Edmonton Oilers traded for Griffin Reinhart when they could have had Mathew Barzal?
Although both players are from the Lower Mainland, only one is flourishing in the NHL right now.
Barzal has settled in with the Islanders in a second line role, but he’s producing top-line numbers.
With 23 points in 23 games, Barzal’s production leads all rookies in scoring. Yes, he’s even ahead of the almighty Brock Boeser.
It sets up a battle between the top rookies in the NHL at the moment. While it’s a tight Calder race with other names like Will Butcher, Nico Hischier, and Clayton Keller, Barzal and Boeser sit at the top right now.
The Canucks take their impressive 8-4-1 road record to Brooklyn to face to New York Islanders who are 7-0-2 on home ice.
Guess who the Islanders leading scorer is at the moment.
It’s not John Tavares, and it’s not Barzal.
Tavares’ winger Josh Bailey leads the team with 28 points in 23 games. That top line that also includes Anders Lee is one of the most dangerous lines in the league.
The Islanders second line is nothing to sneeze at either. Barzal centers that unit with Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd.
Those two lines have been instrumental in the Islanders scoring the third-most goals league-wide. They’re also second in the league with 2.98 goals-per-60 at even strength, trailing only the Toronto Maple Leafs.
One more important member of this potent offence to mention is defenceman Nick Leddy.
Before the season began, Doug Weight was telling the media that Leddy should be in the Norris conversation. With 20 points in 23 games, Leddy is doing nothing to prove Weight wrong. His 20 points are tied for second overall among all defenceman.
The one area where the Islanders struggle is, well, playing defence. They give up the eighth-most scoring chances in the league at even-strength, and they’re 19th in the league in terms of goals against.
Neither goalie has been all that impressive either. Both Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak have matching .903 save percentages.
Although goal scoring hasn’t been their forte, the Canucks have managed to score 15 goals in the first four games of this road trip. They have a glorious chance to bury some more goals against the Islanders here on Tuesday night.
Nikolay Goldobin has been called up to the team, but it’s unlikely that he gets into the lineup tonight. Travis Green was pretty happy with the way his team played last game, so expect the Russian sniper to sit.
The only change in the lineup would be the likely appearance of Anders Nilsson in net, facing off against the team who drafted him.
He was never superb on Long Island, but then again he was never really given a chance. They traded him away after 23 games in an Islanders uniform.
Now, he’s sure outperforming both netminders for the Islanders. Nilsson’s numbers back to last season with the Sabres have been superb, and I think most Canucks fans are itching to see how he does with a run of starts.
Regardless of who starts in net, it should be a close game between these two teams tonight. Dating back to 2004, seven of the 15 games between these teams has gone to overtime. The Canucks are 8-4-3 in those games.
There have been a couple of notable high-scoring affairs between these two teams. There was the infamous game against the Islanders under John Tortorella, where the Canucks gave up seven third period goals in a 7-4 loss, effectively ending their season.
If you want a feel-good throwback, there was a game on Jan. 14th, 2006 between these two squads that saw Todd Bertuzzi register his last hat trick as a Canuck in an 8-1 Canucks win.
Anson Carter and the Sedins combined for eight points in the win, and current Canucks assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner even played 22:27, registering one assist. The Canucks blasted Rick DiPietro and Wade Dubielewitz for four goals a piece.
The Canucks are clearly destined for a win if the Sedins can channel their dominance from that game. It also means Jake Virtanen aka ‘Todd Bertuzzi lite’ is going to score a hat trick tonight.
The Islanders aren’t going to go unbeaten on home ice all season. They have to lose at some point.
Game Day Battle Hymn
I’m always a fan of the throwbacks, and I want to keep channeling that success from the Canucks 2006 drubbing of the Islanders.
One of the best albums to come out of 2006 was 10,000 Days from Tool. The whole album is worth a listen, and The Pot remains one of the best jams on rock radio stations today.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Trevor, you must be high to think the Canucks are going to win 8-1.’
High on confidence, perhaps.
Virtanen with the hat trick. Sedins and Eriksson with a combined eight points. Book it.