Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC
When: 7:00 pm PST
Where to Watch: Sportsnet, CBC
SB Nation Opposition Blog: Knights On Ice
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Six days ago these two teams met and it was, with absolutely no hyperbole, the worst game we’ve seen from the Canucks this season. It pretty much snuffed out any possibility of this team getting into the playoffs (though let’s be honest, even a win Sunday would still mean they’d need a shockingly long win streak just to make the last wild card slot). And that means 4 straight seasons of no playoffs (and 5 of the last 6). There’s a couple ways you can look at this. One way is to say that the rebuild continues and the fact that they were still in it for a while should be an encouraging sign. Or you can look at the fact that even if they improve point-wise over the last season, it’s such marginal growth (and made to look more impressive because of how bad their fellow Western Conference teams are this year) that apart from the emergence of Elias Pettersson, good seasons from Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Jacob Markstrom, nothing has changed.
There’s multiple factors for this. The Canucks are a team that have made bad personnel decisions for years that are hampering them on ice. They have far too much money tied up in their bottom 6 forwards, and that is compounded by what they get from these players in return. Their defence is bad, and they’re going to have to overhaul it. They’re also going to end up giving Alexander Edler a contract that’s gonna be too long term-wise and if it’s not done right could lead to them exposing someone in the Seattle expansion draft. There are also questions starting to be asked about just what is happening in terms of development with the Utica Comets. From players that seem to be fizzling out, to guys that end up sitting a lot in place of AHL lifers, the balance between doing what’s right for the parent club and doing what’s right for the Comets seems to be at odds and as the Canucks move forward they need to be able to look to the farm team to help provide the next core since attempts to do so via free agency and trades haven’t been particularly successful.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been any good trades. It’s really starting to look like Jim Benning did a hell of a job when he acquired Josh Leivo from the Leafs for Michael Carcone. Leivo’s been a solid addition to the top 9, wherever he’s been slotted and has produced offensively. I think he has a home here in the future. But for every Josh Leivo we have Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson and Derrick Pouliot. I think Pouliot is done here, and wouldn’t be surprised to see them start to sit him in favour of callups from Utica. Quinn Hughes could be done his college career as early as Monday if his U of Michigan Wolverines are eliminated this weekend, but in true Canucks fashion, he took a puck off the ankle last night and may not be available for their game tonight. It’s not a serious injury at least, but there was concern when it happened.
The Canucks likely can’t fall much further behind the pack, though we shouldn’t be surprised to see them get passed by Anaheim, who are just 2 points back after a win over Montreal last night. They won’t get into last in the West, and there’s a couple teams in the East who can’t catch the Canucks likely, so they’d need incredible luck to get one of the first two lottery picks. That has brought up discussion in the media about what kind of trade could they do to nail down that top pick, and should they bother? It’s something that requires a deeper dive than I can do here, but the fact that assets are few and far between for a trade of this nature make it difficult at best.
I am sure revenge will be on the minds of the Canucks who want to avoid getting manhandled the way they did 6 days ago. I am not confident there’s anything they can do to stop it, especially the way they’ve been playing for the last few weeks.
It looks like Jake Virtanen could return to the lineup as early as tonight. He was cleared for contact yesterday, but if he’s not ready to go we’ll see him Wednesday against the Rangers. Until he’s confirmed the lineup should look like this (via the Province):
Antoine Roussel — Bo Horvat — Tanner Pearson
Josh Leivo — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser
Loui Eriksson — Adam Gaudette — Nikolay Goldobin
Markus Granlund — Jay Beagle — Tyler Motte
Alex Edler — Troy Stecher
Derrick Pouliot — Alex Biega
Ashton Sautner — Luke Schenn
Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko
GOLDEN KNIGHTS’ LINES
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty — Paul Stastny — Mark Stone
Brandon Pirri — Cody Eakin — Alex Tuch
Ryan Carpenter — Pierre Edouard-Bellemare — Ryan Reeves
Nate Schmidt — Deryk Engelland
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill — Colin Miller
Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban
Canucks: Ben Hutton (foot, day-to-day), Chris Tanev, (ankle, IR), Sven Baertschi (concussion symptoms, IR), Jake Virtanen (rib fracture, IR), Brandon Sutter (season-ending hernia surgery)
Golden Knights: Erik Haula (undisclosed, IR), William Carrier (upper body, day-to-day)
Canucks: 29th (14.9%)
Golden Knights: 21st (17.6%)
Canucks: 14th (80.7%)
Golden Knights: 20th (79.9%)
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: Ever hear something and you can just tell that the band is gonna be huge? I totally got that feeling with this first track off SPIRIT ADRIFT’s upcoming album ‘Divided By Darkness’. A little doomy, a little proggy and just an absolutely thick wall of sound production-wise, this new one from the awesome 20 Buck Spin label is one you need to hunt down in May. Check them on Twitter and swing by https://www.20buckspin.com/ and check them out.