The Vancouver Canucks roll into Jobing.com Tuesday night to face the Phoenix Coyotes for their last meeting at home. Vancouver is the top team in the NHL collecting 93 points and just dominating the hockey landscape.
The Phoenix Coyotes meanwhile have struggled after putting together eight straight wins, even leading the Pacific Division at one point during that stretch, only to squander points by losing five in a row before their majestic come-from-behind win against the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night.
The underlying questions: Are the Vancouver Canucks vulnerable at all? I mean, can they just not lose a game? And can the Coyotes continue to build on a momentous night and catch their third wind to ride into the playoffs?
First off, the Canucks are a powerful team with three lines that can just score points. Against the Ducks Sunday night, the third line of Rafi Torres, Manny Malhotra, and Jannik Hanson notched goals and were the west coast killers by also tallying points against Los Angeles. Lock in the Sedin Twins and they look to be unstoppable.
But wait, Ryan Kessler and Malhotra rank among the top ten in NHL for face-off wins.
There's more: the Canucks are second in the NHL in specialty teams - for both the power play and penalty kill.
Oh lest I forget, they have that guy Roberto Luongo. Yeah, he's a good goalie ranked in the top ten for most of the stats that measure goalie effectiveness.
Might as well not play the game, right?
Um, no...not quite.
The Coyotes have uncovered a line that has instant chemistry in Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris, and Brett Maclean. They were the ultimate force that caused the Red Wings to just be utterly confused Saturday night. If it wasn't for that line, we would be wondering how this team might qualify.
I would also imagine that the Coyotes will want their revenge after the drubbing they took the last time the Canucks blew into town. Remember that eight game win streak I referenced earlier? That 6-0 loss against this team triggered that streak.
During that span of eight games, Bryzgalov was the difference. He had a rock solid streak there stopping 227 of 240 shots earning a .946 GAA along with a 1.60 GAA.
If the other lines can get back to lighting the lamp, the game will surely be a competitive one.
The Canucks have their weaknesses. Just like the Coyotes, they are really banged up on the blueline, which is the only small chink in their armor. In addition, taking away the recent victories against Los Angeles and Anaheim, they have not won back-to-back games in four weeks, which included a 3-3 homestand.
What will the Coyotes need to do?
- Play five-on-five hockey like their lives depended on it. Staying out of the box will be critical.
- Win the face-off battle. If they do lose a face-off, they can't get beat. Make it difficult for that team to control the puck.
- The Canucks will jam the neutral zone and play a physical game. Break that system by generating a relentless forecheck.
- Protect the house in front of Bryzgalov.
- Luongo did not play Sunday night against Anaheim, so he will be well-rested. Create the traffic jam in front of him because if he can't see the puck, he can't stop it.
- Realize that it's time to fight for yourself because the fans, the City of Glendale, and FSNAZ have your back off the ice. Show them that there is a reason to keep fighting.
Before we get to the game particulars, feel free to glance at what the other side at Nucks Misconduct has to say about this game.
|2010 - Ilya Bryzgalov||54||3206||28||17||139||2.60||1666||1527||.917||5|
|2010 - Roberto Luongo||50||2989||30||13||110||2.21||1475||1365||.925||3|
|2010 - Mikkel Boedker||2||8||10||8||4|
|2010 - Manny Malhotra||11||16||27||8||20|
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries