ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC
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OPPOSING BLOG: HOCKEY WILDERNESS
It was a rough haul for the Vancouver Canucks to start the season, their first six games on the road before the home opener against Minnesota tonight. And just four games in, things weren’t looking so great. With just one win, and three of a possible eight points, not to mention two embarrassing losses in Detroit and Buffalo, the Canucks needed to shake things up.
While there wasn’t much done in the way of lineup adjustments, whatever Travis Green and his staff said to them worked, as they came through with impressive back to back wins, culminating in the best game of the season so far, a 4-2 win over the Seattle Kraken, spoiling the expansion squad’s first ever home game.
So with a bit of confidence and knowing that they’ll have a full house tonight at Rogers Arena for the first time since March 10, 2020, they should be fired up for tonight’s home opener. That’s 595 days for those of you keeping track. Nice job by the schedule makers here, by the way. It’s great that it will be against the team they got that 2020 playoff run going: the Minnesota Wild.
If you can even remember that far back (and for some reason, it feels as though it happened before the 2011 Cup run, if that makes any sense), the Wild took Game One of that best of five series 3-0, and many had figured this was going to be a short series. The Canucks withstood two late Minnesota goals to take Game Two 4-2, then got a 3 assist night from Quinn Hughes, and a 27 save shutout from Jacob Markstrom in a 3-0 win that gave them the series lead.
The Wild came out firing on all cylinders in Game Four, and had a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, and were up 3-1 when goals by Brandon Sutter and Quinn Hughes tied it. A goal from Nico Sturm in the last minute of the second gave the Wild a 4-3 lead and a chance to force a fifth and deciding game.
Cue Bo Horvat.
On a set up from Tanner Pearson and Chris Tanev, the Captain tied the game in the third to force overtime, and in the extra frame it was one of the most unlikely heroes with the goal to win it as Chris Tanev scored for a 3-1 series win.
While both teams have made a lot of changes since then, it’s pretty unlikely either team has forgotten that hard-fought series. We went to our pals over at SBN’s Hockey Wilderness and asked managing editor Thomas Williams about the Wild and what we need to know about them heading into tonight’s game:
1- While we’ll look the other way from Sunday night’s loss to Nashville (said the guy whose team lost to Buffalo and Detroit), obviously you have to be pleased with the start to the season by the Wild. Is it what you expected, or are they surprising you?
I certainly did not expect them to start the season 4-1-0, but I did expect the specific way they have gotten those wins. For the Wild, it’s simply grinding out the opponent and not trying to outshine them, but simply get enough high-danger chances that some of them will eventually turn into goals.
2- Some big changes in Minnesota over the summer, most notably the parting of ways with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Was it as awkward and surprising as it looked to many of us on the outside, and are you concerned about the cap space those two contracts will continue to eat up?
It was certainly shocking to see them both go. A buyout of the remaining four years of Zach Parise’s deal was likely — and that was rumored for a while — but to see them both get bought out on the very same day was surprising. This certainly ties into the future outlook of the team, but there is a significant leadership group change and culture change for the team that would not have happened if either of them were on the roster this season. The dead cap space is just another hurdle that the team will have to overcome, but as of right now, there aren’t any immediate concerns. I would much rather have the young players in the lineup and that dead cap, than Suter and Parise taking up those spots.
3- The Wild certainly have a far different identity than the Jacques Lemaire era teams. We know about Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson-Ek, but who’s someone on the Wild that maybe is deserving of a little more of the spotlight?
Outside of even the obvious blue line — Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, and Jared Spurgeon — one player that you will certainly notice is Brandon Duhaime. A 24-year-old rookie that is on the fourth line isn’t normally a player that you want to give a spotlight to, but he is just something else. He has the straight-ahead speed that gets you off your seat and is just not afraid to fly straight into the paint, pouncing on any visible loose puck. There’s a reason why he got the last available forward spot ahead of Marco Rossi (aside from age).
4- The Central is a pretty tough division, and there’s a legit Cup contender in Colorado, and Dallas & St Louis could still be threat. Did the changes the Wild make in the offseason give them what they need to challenge for the division?
It’s a transitional year. I think the changes they made in the offseason were simply to replace the people they lost on the blue line. And outside of those defensemen and Frederick Gaudreau, they didn’t add anyone significant. It’s certainly a year where they will be hoping to develop the future core of this team, rather than go all-in on a deep playoff run. Everything might break right for them and they can end up winning the division, and they are certainly a near-lock for a spot in the postseason, but to be considered a contender, they need to have a lot more going for them.
5- Is Cam Talbot a goalie that can lead a team to a Stanley Cup?
The way he played last season and during the first round against the Golden Knights is certainly the performance of someone that is capable of playing behind a very good even-strength team. He might not have the endurance capable of notching 16 wins, but crazier things have happened.
6- Is there a concern that the investigation into GM Bill Guerin’s conduct during his time in Pittsburgh could become a distraction to the team?
I’m not concerned about any distraction for the team, but I do just hope the investigation is thorough.
Thanks to Thomas for taking the time to chat with us!
Courtesy of nhl.com , here’s what we might see out on the ice tonight:
Wild projected lineup
Canucks projected lineup
Transaction: #Canucks recall Justin Bailey from Abbotsford. Justin Dowling has been placed on injured reserve.— Canucks PR (@CanucksPR) October 26, 2021
A couple things stick out here, most notably that Justin Dowling is out with an injury, and Justin Bailey is going to slot in on that fourth line in his place. It also looks like we’re getting our wish, and Vasily Podkolzin, who has been a healthy scratch the past two games is back in the lineup and Alex Chiasson will sit tonight.
GAME DAY CHATTER
“It’s been quite some time since we had fans in the stands... to come back and do it in front of our home fans, it’s pretty exciting for us players.”— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) October 26, 2021
Tyler Myers addresses the media ahead of tonight’s home opener#Canucks | @theprovince pic.twitter.com/oaP6MndQ0F
“It’s exciting. I’m sure it will be a loud barn tonight. Just looking forward to getting out there.”— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) October 26, 2021
Conor Garland is excited for his first #Canucks home game#Canucks | @theprovince pic.twitter.com/UJzllPebwi
“It’s amazing to play and coach in Canada. We’re lucky to be playing in front of people that want to come watch. And not having the fans for the last 2 seasons has been very different."— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) October 26, 2021
Coach Green #Canucks | @theprovince pic.twitter.com/dwc7WsdNzA
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
A little old school death/thrash for you today. INCUBUS were based in Louisiana, and put out a couple solid albums back in the 80s before disbanding in 1991. When they decided to reform a decade later, they had to change the name to avoid confusion with the rock band of the same name so they went with OPPROBIUM instead. They’ve released new material along with remasters of the older releases. This is ‘Freezing Torment’ from the album ‘Beyond The Unknown’, released in 1990.
Enjoy the game, it’s really great to have them back in Rogers Arena with fans in the building. If you’re going, I’m jealous. If not, join us in the game thread! Go Canucks Go!