VANCOUVER CANUCKS vs LOS ANGELES KINGS
7:00PM PST HONDA CENTER, ANAHEIM, CA
TV: SPORTSNET PACIFIC. RADIO: SN650.
OPPOSITION BLOG: ANAHEIM CALLING
For the last couple years, the general consensus in these parts was “We don’t even really care if they miss the playoffs, just make the damn games enjoyable to watch”. I am pleased to say there’s a good chance we could end up with both this year. The Canucks are fun, and the entire NHL is taking notice. And not only that, they served up some world class snark to the one-time leaders of NHL trolling and it was glorious.
And it’s not just the PR Department. The team is taking this and using it, and I am totally here for it.
Now, I am not quite prepared to dive in head first on this team being playoff bound (ask me in two weeks, though) but there’s a lot to like about the way this team is playing. Wrap your head around this for a moment: a win tonight, combined with a Colorado loss to the Dallas Stars will see the Canucks take over 1st place in the Western Conference. Yes, it’s early. But this team has certainly earned every point they’ve gotten, and had they not blown games against Washington and New Jersey, would likely already be there. The big questions are how will they handle adversity against front runners, who will step up when the injury train arrives, and can they keep up this amount of goal scoring? This month is gonna be one hell of a litmus test to determine the answers to all of these.
Tonight’s opponent was supposed to be in the same boat. In the middle of their own re-tooling, having said goodbye to a big piece of the core in Corey Perry, the Ducks have played well enough to be sitting in a wild card slot after October. How much of that is underperformance by teams like Calgary and Winnipeg remains to be seen, but for now I think Ducks fans should be pretty happy about the start. We spoke with Managing Editor CJ Woodling from our buds at Anaheim Calling about the Ducks to get us ready for tonight’s tilt:
1. First things first: What is the mood around the fanbase now that you’ve entered the post Corey Perry era?
It’s a weird combination of sadness with a mix of hope. Corey Perry is a legend in Anaheim and will almost undoubtedly have his number retired as soon as he’s finished playing. However, even though he was more productive playing injured the last several years than many people gave him credit for, having him move on represented General Manager Bob Murray’s desire to accelerate the retool process and give chances to the younger prospects. While we remember the good times Perry brought us, the feeling of optimism with the youngsters that his departure helped foster rings throughout Anaheim.
2. The Ducks are off to a much better start than most had predicted. What’s been the most prominent reasons for a pretty decent October?
This start is actually right on par with what much of the fanbase was expecting. Those outside Anaheim may have had lower expectations for the team, but we saw a team that was playing with bricks attached to their ankles under Randy Carlyle last year break free of the burden once he was fired. They weren’t world beaters by any stretch of the imagination down the stretch, but they were a respectable hockey team.
Most of the fanbase this season expected the Ducks to be a fringe playoff team with room to grow due to prospect development, which is exactly how they are playing now. The kids are playing more support roles right now, as much of the Ducks’ thin offense has been led by a revitalized Ryan Getzlaf, a newly confident Cam Fowler, and shooting percentage benders by Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg. On the other end, having the best goalie on the planet in John Gibson and one of the best backups in the league in Ryan Miller keeps the games within reach.
3. The injury bug seems to have hit early and hard. Who’s going to step in and take the places of Manson, Kase and Lindholm?
What’s sad is that this might be the healthiest the Ducks have been in several years, including these current injuries. It’s a very low bar.
Josh Manson has effectively been replaced by Erik Gudbranson. When I say replaced, I mean strictly in the sense that he took his spot in the lineup. You are obviously familiar with his play in Vancouver, and we’re pleased (pissed) to report that it’s gone about exactly as you would expect. As for Manson’s status, he sprained his MCL, which is relatively good news given the nature of his injury. Mid-December to early January is the tentative timeline for his return.
As for Ondrej Kase and Hampus Lindholm, both are fortunately day-to-day. Kase passed concussion protocol, which is a massive relief given that he’s already had three in his career. He is just dealing with a jaw issue. He is not expected to be out for long, which is great news considering he (unsurprisingly) has the best play driving shot metrics on the team at the moment. He’s not that replaceable, though Max Comtois has gotten more ice time than expected because of it.
Lindholm is dealing with a lower-body injury, but there is a possibility he will be ready for the game tonight. If he can’t go tonight, we would be shocked if he is not ready to go for Sunday’s game. He is far and away the Ducks best defenseman, and his absence from the lineup has put a world of hurt on the Ducks already suspect overall defensive metrics.
4. Yeah, we wanted you to think we were gonna not ask about this, but we really have no choice. The Ducks already have Micheal Del Zotto, so why on earth would they go out and acquire Erik Gudbranson?
Bob Murray supposedly wants more grit in the lineup to help protect the numerous young Ducks now populating this roster in addition to the lack of defensive depth this roster has had since Opening Night. He said this when he gave up a 4th round pick for Nicolas Deslauriers and reinforced it when it came out that the Gudbranson trade had been effectively in the works since before the season began.
Murray has one foot in the room of modern, skilled hockey and the other in the old, gritty, heavy style of play. He can’t seem to fully commit to the new world. We have a theory that he keeps trying to re-create Chris Pronger out of spare parts.
5. And finally, is there someone we may not be familiar with we should keep an eye on tonight?
Troy Terry has some name recognition from his legendary WJC shootout performances, but has not put up numbers at the NHL level yet to make him a well-known brand. However, he has been one of the Ducks best forwards over the last four or five games and very well might be on the verge of an offensive breakout. Watch for number 61 on the ice, especially on the power play from the half-wall. His hands and vision are reminding a lot of us of prime Ryan Getzlaf.
Thanks to CJ for giving us some insight into the Ducks for this contest.
Canucks projected lineup
Above is the lineup that they iced against Los Angeles. Micheal Ferland left that game, and so the Canucks made a call to Utica...
Sven Baertschi has been called up by the #Canucks.— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) November 1, 2019
Baertschi played extremely well for the Comets, doing everything asked of him and helping to lead the team to their best ever start to a season with an 8-0-0 record heading into this weekend’s home games against Providence and Rochester. There is some question as to when Baertschi will make it to Anaheim, as his journey from Utica is a little bit difficult at the moment thanks to some incredibly bad weather. And Ferland getting injured seems to be just another example of how useless fighting is much of the time. What exactly was the point of that scrap with Kyle Clifford?
Micheal Ferland sent back to Vancouver to see Canuck doctors. Sven Baertschi not expected to arrive in Anaheim until later today. May not play tonight.— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) November 1, 2019
If Baertschi arrives late, expect Adam Gaudette to return to the lineup tonight.
UPDATE: This is probably what we’ll see. Expect Thatcher Demko to get the start tomorrow night in San Jose.
Line rushes at #Canucks morning skate in Anaheim:— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) November 1, 2019
Markstrom in the #Canucks’ end.
We’ll post a Ducks lineup as soon as we see one posted.
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN:
Happy Dia De Los Muertos, everyone!