Canucks vs Oilers Game Day Report: The Zack Attack is Back

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Canucks vs. Oilers

The Vancouver Canucks return to action on Wednesday against an Oilers team that they have seen way too many times since September.

It will be a prime opportunity for Vancouver to get back on the winning track as they look to keep pace in the race for first overall. With most the of the team recovered from a string of injuries, I will be looking for the Canucks to pounce on a nervous Edmonton team that will most likely be preoccupied with their upcoming schedule. I checked it out and I almost feel bad for them.

Matchup

Game Time: 5:00 pm

TV: Sportsnet Pacific

Coming off an embarrassing effort against the Arizona Coyotes (still sounds weird…Arizona, not the embarrassing effort), the Canucks will be looking to rebound in a big way Wednesday night against the Oilers. Mercifully, this will be the final time the Oilers and Canucks will do battle until the final game of the regular season on April 11th.

Much to Edmonton’s chagrin, the Canucks will have a familiar face back in the lineup with Zack Kassian set to return. A constant thorn in Edmonton’s side, it’s always entertaining to see how riled-up Kassian can get the Oilers and their fans. Speaking of the Kassquatch:

Storylines

1. Welcome back Zack. So long, Linden Vey

Image: nhl.com

Zack Kassian will be making his return to action on Wednesday after missing the past five games with a knee injury suffered against the Colorado Avalanche.

Although his point totals are a little underwhelming to start the year, I would still argue that the Canucks are a much better team with Zack Kassian in the lineup. Not only does he provide a physical presence, he also serves as an important piece of the third line with Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias. While most of us would love to see what Kassian could do with an extended stay in the top-six, it’s just not going to happen unless the Bonino line falls off the face of the earth.

But with Kassian coming in, another has to go out and apparently like Ben Affleck in Armageddon, Linden Vey drew the short straw. Although I doubt anyone will sacrifice their roster spot a la Bruce Willis with Steven Tyler screaming at the top of his lungs for reasons only Steven Tyler understands. I really didn’t think I was going to include an Armageddon reference.

Image: canucks.nhl.com

Sitting Vey should come as no surprised. It has been obvious over the last few games that Vey has some work to do in order to make it at the NHL level. What has kept him in for this long has been his power play work but now that the well appears to be tapped, it’s time to sit and give others the opportunity. With Vey out, Bo Horvat will also have the opportunity to solidify his bid to become the team’s fourth line centre, which he should because he is clearly their best option for that spot.

One question though: was it not a few days ago that Willie Desjardins was making sure Vey wasn’t getting confused about constantly switching from centre to wing? How about wing to the press box? That just seems kind of cruel now.

2. Dallas Eakins ranked worst coach by ESPN…Oh nevermind

As maybe three of you may know by now, I am not a fan of Dallas Eakins and it’s for a completely illogical reason that has nothing to do with his random strands of greased haired that constantly hang over his forehead…mocking you.

1_eakins

Image: oilers.nhl.com

Forget his horrifying coaching record at the NHL level. I’m more hung up on the healthy food stunt he pulled with the media last year. If you’ve forgotten, he banned donuts and other junk food from media events in Edmonton as if it would have anything to do with his team’s success. Yes, we could all eat much healthier than we do. I just can’t stand when someone forces their personal food choices on others.

While trying to find some hilarious pictures of Eakins, I stumbled across ESPN’s annual ranking of NHL Head Coaches. I should have stopped reading as soon as I saw ESPN…

Ranked by a panel of experts, Every coach drew a rating between 0 and 10 based on how they (the coach, not the team) are predicted to do this season. My first thought was naturally: what the hell is the point of ranking coaches 20 games into the season? Wouldn’t it make more sense to do this AFTER the season? But that’s not the point here.

The point is that Dallas Eakins was ranked dead last and although it’s important to remember we’re reading ESPN, it’s hard to argue that Eakins deserves a higher spot. Even though the Oilers said they were committed for the long haul, you have to imagine that the leash is becoming increasingly shorter.

Willie Desjardins, by the way, was ranked 24th behind the likes of Paul Maurice (Winnipeg), Peter DeBoer (New Jersey), and only one spot ahead of Ted Nolan (Buffalo).

3. Ryan Miller: A Work in Progress

Ryan Miller has been interesting to watch so far this season. It has been well documented that when he is on his game, he looks unbeatable. On the flip side, when he sucks, he really sucks. Courtesy of CBC’s Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, we may have an idea what goes wrong on those occasions. From his latest 30 Thoughts piece:

18. Former St. Louis goalie coach Corey Hirsch on Ryan Miller: “Rollie Melanson has got him playing a lot smarter. He’s playing a little deeper in his net and not attacking so much. Teams were starting to pass around him he was so aggressive…He’s a deep thinker for a goalie, you always have to explain why something will or won’t work for him. He’s still very talented, but I thought he was really behind in new goaltending techniques and saves.”

19. Can you give more detail on that? “Yes, his post work…. Rollie’s a big one-knee down on the post guy. (Miller) is using it at the proper times now. On net drives only. He used to use it everywhere.” Hirsch added that Miller also occasionally raised his knee in the butterfly, which opened his five-hole. Melanson has worked on that, too.

20. Ran that assessment by another goalie coach, who agreed with Hirsch, but added when Miller had a rare rough night against Los Angeles, he reverted to some old habits. So that’s the next challenge. This coach added: “How many practice days did Hirsch have with Miller once St. Louis got him?” It’s impossible to say for sure, but the Blues acquired Miller Feb. 28 and the regular season ended April 13. There were 21 non-game days, but some of those would have no practices. “It’s why I’m against trading for goalies late in the season,” the coach said. “If a guy needs to adjust to what you do, you’ve got no time.”

So there you have it. Miller will no doubt be a work in progress over the next little while as it takes a lot of time to break old habits. I mean, it took me years to stop picking my nose. Imagine how difficult it is to change the technique that won you a Vezina Trophy.

Fortunately, Rollie Melanson is a renowned goalie coach who has been working hard to get Miller up to snuff.

Lineup

It looks like the cavalry has arrived. With Kassian and Luca Sbisa set to return, it appears that Linden Vey and Yannik Weber will be the odd men out.

***Update: Weber will play and Sbisa will sit.

D. Sedin H. Sedin Vrbata
Higgins Bonino Burrows
Matthias Richardson Kassian
Dorsett Horvat Hansen
Hamhuis Weber
Edler Tanev
Stanton Bieksa
Miller

Prediction

By principle, I can’t ever bet on the Oilers beating the Canucks. Maybe in a few years when Kevin Lowe and Dallas Eakins are a distant memory, I’ll be more open to the idea. But as it stands, they are still on the payroll which gives any team a more than decent chance at winning. Not to mention the Canucks are probably a little miffed at their performance against the Coyotes.

Therefore, I see a 5-3 Canucks victory. Let’s show that treacherous Cameron family who’s boss!

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Steve Lancashire Canucks Contributor
@lankey22

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