Based on their records, two of the worst teams in the NHL are set to battle tonight.
However, both teams are dealing with off-the-ice stories that are bigger than the game at hand.
For the Canucks, the biggest story right now is Jim Rutherford’s continued criticism of his coach, his players, the old regime, Vancouver weather and store-bought sushi.
Okay, the last two things are assumptions, but I’m assuming he hates those too.
Rutherford recently hopped on Sportsnet 650 to talk about the struggles of his team and coaching staff.
“In order for us to become a better team, we have to play with a stronger system and really be more accountable for more of the things that some of the players are struggling with.”
The Canucks’ President continued his everlasting praise for head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“If we were playing in a real strong structure, it would make it easier for our defensive play, and it wouldn’t matter who is on our defence.”
Surely, Boudreau has to be feeling great heading into this season-defining five-game road trip.
Because hey, that last comment about “it doesn’t matter who is on our defence” is an emotional answer that doesn’t exist in the reality of the Canucks situation. Does Rutherford despise Boudreau’s system that much that he really believes it doesn’t matter who is on defence? I don’t think a man with Rutherford’s hockey experience is that thick.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, the biggest story surrounding their franchise is that Vancouver-native Ryan Reynolds publicly admitted his desire to buy a minority stake in the team.
If the NHL was forward-thinking, they’d be trying to find ways to get a dynamic content creator and well-known public figure like Reynolds into the Senators’ next ownership group.
As much as Rutherford and Reynolds overshadow the actual game tonight, there is, after all, an actual game tonight.
CANADIAN TIRE CENTRE, OTTAWA, ON. 4:00 PM PST
TV: SN PACIFIC, TSN5. RADIO: SN650
OPPOSITION BLOG: SILVER SEVEN SENS
Believe it or not, the Canucks come into this game as the hotter team. The Senators have lost five straight, although every game has been close. Their last three losses have been by one goal, and the two before that were one-goal games before an empty netter magnified their defeat.
So far this season, this team has been above average at even strength in terms of save percentage, goals and expected goals. They just haven’t been able to put it all together for 60 minutes.
An inefficient power play (25th overall) has hurt. The Senators are also a high-event hockey team, meaning they create a lot, but also give up a lot. No surprises there when you look at their talented forward group and weak defence.
Tanner Pearson — JT Miller — Brock Boeser
Andrei Kuzmenko — Elias Pettersson — Ilya Mikheyev
Vasily Podkolzin — Bo Horvat — Conor Garland
Dakota Joshua — Nils Aman — Jack Studnicka
Quinn Hughes — Luke Schenn
Riley Stillman — Tyler Myers
Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Ethan Bear
Starting Goalie: Thatcher Demko (expected)
Backup: Spencer Martin
Scratched: Jack Rathbone, Kyle Burroughs, Nils Hoglander, Sheldon Dries
Injured: Tucker Poolman (undisclosed), Travis Dermott (concussion), Curtis Lazar (undisclosed)
Brock Boeser traveled with the team and practiced on the top line yesterday. He hasn’t officially been removed from IR yet, so consider him a 50/50 chance to play.
If he does slot in, the Canucks would have to make a roster move, so expect Sheldon Dries to return to Abbotsford.
Brady Tkachuk — Tim Stützle — Claude Giroux
Alex DeBrincat — Derick Brassard — Drake Batherson
Tyler Motte — Shane Pinto — Mathieu Joseph
Parker Kelly — Dylan Gambrell — Austin Watson
Thomas Chabot — Jacob Bernard-Docker
Jake Sanderson — Travis Hamonic
Erik Brannstrom — Nick Holden
Starting Goaltender: Cam Talbot (expected)
Backup: Anton Forsberg
Scratched: Nikita Zaitsev, Magnus Hellberg (goalie)
Injured: Josh Norris (shoulder), Artem Zub (upper body)
Other: Alex Formenton (RFA, contract stalemate)
Curious to watch the Sens third line in action tonight. Tyler Motte has been solid with seven points in 11 games while averaging more than 15 minutes a night. Shane Pinto was just named NHL rookie of the month, and Mathieu Joseph has solid underlying possession numbers despite registering just a goal and three points in 11 games this season.
How They Stack Up
- Vancouver: 3.42 (13th)
- Ottawa: 3.45 (11th)
- Vancouver: 4 (29th)
- Ottawa: 3.45 (23rd)
- Vancouver: 30.5 (23rd)
- Ottawa: 32.1 (14th)
- Vancouver: 32.6 (20th)
- Ottawa: 33.7 (25th)
- Vancouver: 30.2% (3rd)
- Ottawa: 18.4% (26th)
- Vancouver: 60.5% (32nd)
- Ottawa: 77.3% (18th)
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
This five-game road trip could define the Canucks season. Will they claw back from bad, back towards mediocrity? Or, will they seal their fate as a bottom feeder before we hit the quarter pole?
The Canucks should be treating this like The Final Countdown. Hell, I bet they win if this is their dressing room song pre-game.
Westy’s got you covered with the Gamethread.
Enjoy the contest, folks.