FACEOFF: 8:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
VERDEAZZURI: Nucks Misconduct
Remember when this used to be the first game you’d circle on the calendar? It was only about two or three years ago when this had an argument at the best rivalry in the NHL. The main characters are mostly still here. Luongo and Kesler have gone but The Children Of The Corn, the festering wound known as Alex Burrows, the human jaw Kevin Bieksa, the overgrown elbow that is Alex Edler, and others still call B.C. home. And yet… the thrill is gone.
The Canucks sit second in the Pacific, and seventh overall in the league. It’s just impossible to figure out how. In just about every category they’re middling to good. They score and give up 2.95 goals per game. They get 31 shots per game, which is pretty good, but they give up 29 shots per game which is only ok. Their possession stats land them squarely in the middle of the pack. Their goaltending has actually been pretty mediocre, which is what you sign up for when you start Ryan Miller most of the time.
But this is certainly a more vibrant outfit than the traveling circus that it was under John Tortorella’s constant measuring of his own balls. Willie Desjardins has them playing more up-tempo and a little more exciting than last campaign. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are doing Thing 1 and Thing 2 things, with matching 20 points in 20 games because of course they do.
Nick Bonino, who was the main chip in the Kesler trade, has been excellent anchoring the 2nd line with 7-8-15. He was a major pain in the ass for the Hawks when he was a Duck, so don’t expect anything different tonight. Radim Vrbata has taken the sweetheart spot on the Sedins’ wing, and he’s taking to it so far. At least until he gets hit.
The bottom six has some scoring punch and even more annoyance with Dorsett, Richardson, beer fart Zach Kassian, and new starlet Bo Horvat has come up for air. Jannik Hansen has five goals in between elbowing people in the back of the head.
The blue line took a bit of a hit as Dan Hamhuis is going to be out a while with a leg injury. That leaves a top pairing of Edler and Bieksa, which can be wayward in a whole lot of ways but also has spurts of true excellence. However, the sight of the Indian head tends to make both of these guys lose their mind, and you can look for Bieksa skating the width of the rink to try and run at Kane because that’s kind of his thing. The Canucks are now the third team to claim they can get all the potential out of Luca Sbisa, and they’ll be the third team that’s wrong.
Normally you’d say this is a tough one on the back half of a back-to-back, but the Hawks hardly broke a sweat last night and should be in good form for this one. No word yet on if Antti Raanta will have recovered from his vapors to take this one or if Crow is going to have to go again, and you always worry about a goalie going two days in a row. Though he pretty much had the lawn chair out last night.
Sweeping Western Canada to start this trip would be optimal, as it would leave the Hawks only needing one or two more points on the last three games to have a successful trip. While this isn’t quite the event it used to be, we can be sure the Canucks still think it’s something to get up for. Not getting sucked into the bullshit and taking advantage of their over-exuberance is the theme of the night. Let’s Go Hawks.