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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 44: Canucks @ Montreal

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The Canucks look to win in back to back games for just the 2nd time this season as they visit Les Habitants de Montreal.

Vancouver Canucks v Montreal Canadiens

Vancouver Canucks (20-19-4) vs Montreal Canadiens (21-14-5)

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, PQ

When: 4:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Eyes On The Prize

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: That was quite a day, huh? And not just for the Canucks, but for Elias Pettersson, yesterday was something special. In the span of that 24 hours Dekey Pete was awarded NHL Rookie of the Month for the 2nd time this season, named to the Pacific Division All-Star team and earned a $212,000 contract bonus in the process, and notched his first career hat trick to give the Canucks a 4-3 OT win over the Senators. He also earned 1st Star Of The Night honours from NHL.com. We’ll discuss the last part shortly but let’s just take a moment to talk about EP, shall we?

Even the most enthusiastic and optimistic of prognosticators have to be surprised with what Elias Pettersson is doing here. I mean, just look at this for a moment.

This isn’t a hot streak. It’s not a player getting lucky. And as we saw last night, it’s not a player that teams are underestimating to the point that he surprises them. The Ottawa Senators threw everything they had at EP last night, including this hit, praised by Sportsnet’s Garry Galley, which in even the most conservative view is a clear cut, no bones about it interference call everywhere but in Ottawa on Jan 2, 2019. When Canucks fans say “Pettersson is better than McDavid”, it’s not just trolling. It’s really starting to look like it might be fact, and that’s a little scary to think about.

He has 22 goals on the season, along with 20 assists. He sits 18th in NHL scoring, and his goals total ties him with Johnny Gaudreau, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, Leon Draisaitl, Sean Monahan, and Mark Scheifele. He’s one behind Connor McDavid and 7 behind Alex Ovechkin. It’s not at all wrong to think he will finish in the top 10 by the end of the season, because he’s showing that he can thrive in tight checking and double coverage and still put up multi-point games. Last season, we got excited (and rightfully so) at the arrival of Brock Boeser, because he was the kind of pure goal scorer this team has sorely lacked for ages. I believe that in Pettersson the Canucks not only have a player that is better than Boeser, but better than the Sedins, and better than Pavel Bure. By the time his rookie campaign is finished (and let’s just cut the bullshit, there’s no one who can catch him for rookie of the year unless he suffers a fate like Boeser did last year and even then it’s not a slam dunk) you can say with confidence this is the greatest player to ever don a Canucks uniform.

I mean, think about this for a second...

Even the most generous predictions for Pettersson’s rookie year didn’t have him hitting that plateau. And with 38 games remaining, it’s not even beyond the realm of possibility. I am not calling it, but I honestly wouldn’t bat an eyelash at it happening. When you look at how he stacks up against other rookies, it’s even more shocking.

http://www.nhl.com/stats/player?reportType=season&seasonFrom=20182019&seasonTo=20182019&gameType=2&experience=1&filter=gamesPlayed,gte,1&sort=goals,points,gamesPlayed

And Ottawa threw everything they had at Pettersson last night. And that includes trying to get dirty. How he responded to all this has to be a little terrifying. In a game where he was already the best player on the ice, he took the trips, the high sticks and the interference and he stepped his game up. I mean, just look at his stats for last night:

First off, the shot share? Nice. Second, that’s the kind of elite game control that is going to make this team a force to be reckoned with when they get the defence and goaltending sorted out.

Ah yes, the goaltending. While Mike McKenna will be on the bench again tonight, it’s starting to look like we could see Thatcher Demko in a Canucks jersey for Saturday night’s tilt against the Leafs in Toronto. And with the Leafs in a bit of a pickle given their goaltending situation, having had to recall both AHL goalies, it’s looking like he will end up facing one of these guys on Saturday:

They’ve also called up former Comets G Michael Garteig from the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL to fill in for the Marlies. The Comets will be in Toronto next week. I could go on about Elias all freakin’ day, but we’ve got to focus on tonight.

Coming off a game where the Canucks played well but broke down defensively, allowing a team that shouldn’t have even had a sniff at victory take them to overtime, the Canucks face a much tougher challenge in the Montreal Canadiens tonight. The Habs have been one of the real surprise stories of the season, as many had them chillin’ in the basement with the Sens in their start of the year predictions. Instead, and in spite of Carey Price having missed some time (what else is new?), they are stubbornly clinging to the last playoff spot in the East, locked in a pretty fierce battle with the equally surprising Islanders. In a way they’re kind of like the Canucks, in that they’re playing a fun to watch brand of hockey that may not always look like it’s gonna work, and it’s being fueled by their young players.

The Canucks might get Brandon Sutter back tonight, and that means making a roster decision. It could be as simple as sending Alex Biega down to Utica. But it could also see them try to slip Michael Del Zotto down, but I think that’s unlikely as some team could take a shot on him. Hmmm, maybe not such a bad idea. If they move a forward, Tim Schaller seems to be the obvious choice apart from the fact Travis Green played him to send a message to Nikolay Goldobin. They’re not gonna try and ship Goldy to Utica so that means the trade speculation is only going to increase. I would prefer it be Schaller or Markus Granlund before doing something that borders on crazy like giving up on Goldy.

I don’t like the idea of Jacob Markstrom playing in back to backs ever, but it’s pretty unlikely the Canucks give McKenna the game tonight considering he’ll be a Comet tomorrow at the earliest. And with Carey Price likely to get the start tonight, the Canucks are going to have to make sure their D game is better than it was last night, as goal support might be an issue against the Habs.

Here’s some pregame reading for you to get you up to speed: The preview from our pals over at Eyes On The Prize is up... Botch talks about one of the best Canucks OT shifts in team history... Last night’s Athletties is about Elias Pettersson for some reason... Pregame stuff from the Montreal Gazette... And a look at Montreal’s rookie Jesper Kotkaniemi...

Here’s what we should see tonight (barring a Sutter return, via the Province)

CANUCKS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Antoine RousselBo HorvatLoui Eriksson

Josh Leivo — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser

Sven Baertschi — Markus Granlund — Jake Virtanen

Tim Schaller — Jay BeagleTyler Motte

Defence pairings

Alex Edler — Chris Tanev

Ben HuttonTroy Stecher

Derrick PouliotErik Gudbranson

Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Mike McKenna

CANADIENS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Tomas TatarPhillip DanaultBrendan Gallagher

Jonathan DrouinMax DomiPaul Byron

Artturi LehkonenJesperi KotkaniemiJoel Armia

Kenny AgostinoMichael ChaputNicolas Deslauriers

Defence pairings

Victor MeteShea Weber

Mike ReillyJeff Petry

Brett KulakJordie Benn

Goalies: Antti Niemi, Michael McNiven

SICK BAY

Canucks: Brandon Sutter (shoulder)

Canadiens: Carey Price (lower body), Andrew Shaw (upper body)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play

Canucks: 17.8% (21st)

Canadiens: 13.4% (29th)

Penalty kill

Canucks: 77.8% (20th)

Canadiens: 76.6% (27th)

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: Trying to pick one metal band to showcase from Montreal is like trying to pick just one from Florida or Sweden. It’s ridiculous the number of quality bands the city has produced across the spectrum, from the hard rock of April Wine to the ferocious death metal of Kataklysm and everything in between. If there’s a common bond it’s a sense of musical adventurousness that they share. Avant-garde is a term that can be applied to many Montreal metal acts. Today we’re gonna go with Cryptopsy. Featuring one of the world’s finest drummers in Flo Mounier, they’ve gone from a very gutteral sounding origin to a seamless blend of death and jazz influenced prog, still insanely heavy but one that challenges the listener. And they used to have a singer (Lord Worm) who would ingest live worms on stage. From 1998’s ‘Whisper Supremacy’, this is ‘White Worms’ and a bonus video of Habs fans listening to a track off their latest album “The Book of Suffering - Tome II”