Canucks vs Jets Game Preview - January 31, 2014

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image courtesy of canucks.nhl.com

January is mercifully at its end and the Canucks are looking to salvage at least a small percentage of their dignity against the reborn Winnipeg Jets. Can the Canucks end January on a high note? And can David Booth do anything right? To be honest, both are looking doubtful.

Last Game

The Canucks and Blackhawks met up at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night for what many hoped would be a classic match between two fierce rivals. Well, that wasn’t the case as Chicago once again (much to the chagrin of the Canuck faithful) proved they are the dominate franchise in this twisted relationship.

Things looked good for the Canucks early on as Chris Higgins tucked a sneaky shot through Corey Crawford’s five-hole only 16 seconds into the game. Tom Sestito added to the lead early in the second period and it looked like Vancouver was on its way to a competitive game. But then David Booth happened.

Doing exactly what he is supposed to do, Booth drove the net and nudged Crawford (who was outside the crease) drawing a goaltender interference call and sending the Canucks to the penalty kill. It was a game changing call as Marian Hossa scored to cut the lead in half and, more importantly, shift the momentum in Chicago’s favour. The Blackhawks took over the game from there and before I had a chance to crack another cold one, Chicago was leading 3-2.

The Canucks couldn’t muster anything in the way of a comeback as the Blackhawks cruised to a 5-2 victory. Although the marginal (at best) call on David Booth ultimately turned the tide, the Canucks should in no way blame the officiating for their ineptitude in this game.

The Winnipeg Jets

Friday night will mark the first time since 1996 that the Vancouver Canucks are in Winnipeg for an NHL game. After firing Claude Noel as head coach and hiring Paul Maurice as his replacement, the Jets have significantly improved their play, going 6-2 in their last eight games.

Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little are the main offensive cogs for Winnipeg at the moment, as Vancouver’s own Evander Kane is out with a disgusting hand infection.

Goaltending has been a weak spot for the Jets, as Ondrej Pavalec has failed to live up the lofty expectations that accompany a big contract. It is great to have the Winnipeg Jets back in the NHL, but it’s just not the same without the old portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that used to decorate the old Winnipeg Arena:

Queen

Image: ndgood.blogspot.com

They should probably put the old gal back up there. Or better yet, mount this portrait:

kate-middleton-garticle

Image: hollywoodneuz.com

Done deal.

Canucks lines

Well, things are looking bleak on the injury front. It was announced today that Kevin Bieksa is injured and won’t be joining the Canucks on their road trip out East. In response, Frankie Corrado was called up from the Utica Comets to help fill the void.

Higgins – Kesler – Burrows

D. Sedin – Richardson – Kassian

Booth – Schroeder – Hansen

Sestito – Dalpe – Weise

Hamhuis – Stanton

Garrison – Edler

Corrado – Weber

Luongo

Storylines

1.Defensive mentality

This was what coach Mike O’Sullivan had to say following Wednesday’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks:

“If we can keep teams off the scoreboard it lends to giving us a better opportunity of the result we’re looking for. At this particular point, I don’t know if we’re built to score a ton of goals.”

I don’t know when the coaching staff will get this figured out, but the Canucks are not built to shut teams down by playing defensively. We have seen this time and time again through different regimes that as soon as the Canucks stop putting pressure on other teams, the wheels completely fall off the wagon. The Canucks had their most success this season when they consistently drove the play offensively.

Vancouver is not built to shut teams down. Get over it and think of something else!

2. Final roadie before the Olympics

January was a disaster and the Canucks now have only five games left before their extended break for the Olympics. All I want to see is Vancouver give it everything they’ve got and then they can rest. Well, minus the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, Yannick Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Roberto Luongo and Alex Edler – I guess they have to keep going a little longer.

3. The Manitoba Moose

Not so long ago, the only professional hockey team in the province of Manitoba was called the Moose, which happened to be the spot where many current Canucks plied their trade before getting the call to the big show. These names include Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen, Kevin Bieksa, Eddie Lack, Chris Tanev and Jordan Schroeder. Not that this has much significance to the game on Friday, but it must be nice to revisit their roots and hopefully (HOPEFULLY) rediscover what made them successful hockey players. Because I think a few of them may have forgotten. Yes Jannik, I’m talking about you.

hansen

Image: ottawacitizen.com

Prediction

My confidence in this team is probably at its lowest point since 2008. It’s not so much that the team is losing, it’s that they are losing and doing nothing about it. The Canucks, despite what they claim, are not built to win games 2-1 or 1-0. They have proven that over and over yet still continue to use that as a crutch for their unwillingness to take offensive risks.

I say the Canucks lose to the resurgent Jets 3-1, ending one of the most frustrating Januarys in recent memory.

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Steve Lancashire Canucks Contributor
@lankey22

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