7:00 p.m. PST, Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C.
TV: Sportsnet Pacific, Radio: SN 650
Even though the Canucks beat the defending Stanley Cup champions on Saturday night, even though they’re still in a playoff spot, and even though they’ve picked up points in six of their last seven games...
All anyone cares about is Brock Boeser.
After that hat trick performance in a game where Boeser’s line dominated against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boeser hype became that much more real.
His line with Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat put up a combined 11 points while playing against Sidney Crosby’s line. That line single-handedly won the Canucks the game in a rare matchup where they’ve actually been out-chanced.
Now, they face a far less ominous opponent in the Detroit Red Wings, one that they dominated not all that long ago.
The Red Wings have been hot and cold this season. When they lost to the Canucks, it was their fourth loss in what ended up being a six-game losing streak.
They did start off on a better note, winning four of their first five games. They’ve righted the ship somewhat with wins in three of their last four games, including a 4-0 shutout win over the surprisingly inept Edmonton Oilers last night.
When the season started, Jimmy Howard jumped out of the gate hot, with a .955 save percentage after five starts. Petr Mrazek was on the other end of the spectrum with a sub .900 save percentage in his first few games.
Howard has cooled off a bit and Mrazek has better numbers after a shutout win against Edmonton. They both have strong save percentages now with Howard sitting at .927, while Mrazek is at .924.
Both of their goalies need to stay hot if Detroit is going to be at all competitive this season. Outside of Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Mike Green and Henrik Zetterberg, their offence is almost non-existent. Veterans like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Frans Nielsen and Justin Abdelkader are off to mediocre starts.
The Home Team
One reason why the Canucks have remained competitive through their first 13 games is because of their depth up front.
In more than a few season previews I’ve done, it’s been evident that teams who lack depth are vulnerable. The Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars and now the Red Wings, are all teams that have a considerable drop-off after their top few scorers.
The Canucks did have more balanced scoring before the start of this homestand. Now, the Horvat/Boeser/Baertschi line is starting to contribute most of the goals while the other lines are slacking.
It’s hard to find faults with the Canucks shutdown line, especially after Dorsett exploded for six goals in the early going. Still, his linemates Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund only have three points each on the season.
The ‘Free Agent Express’ line of Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Alex Burmistrov has been largely frustrating. Vanek is the most talented the the most frustrating of the bunch, although he is fifth on the Canucks in scoring. Gagner scored his first against the Stars but has otherwise been invisible. Burmistrov has only had one great game, when he played with Boeser against the Senators.
That leaves the Sedin line, which was getting chances on the road, but they’ve gone dry at home. Daniel has five points on the season but Henrik has a measly three assists, and only one assist in his last 11 games. Jake Virtanen was a good story playing on that line, but they’ll need to produce if they want it to keep being a good story.
Jacob Markstrom, who was superb against the Penguins on Saturday night, will start with Anders Nilsson expecting the birth of his second child.
Game Day Battle Hymn
With everyone focused on Boeser, his hat trick, and his flow, it makes sense to go with a song from one of the best ‘hair bands’ of all time.
Boeser is making Canucks nation feel good right now, and he looks to keep it up against an inferior Red Wings team.