Canucks vs Flames Game 1: Here we go!

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canucks vs flames game 1 playoffs

It’s finally here. The Vancouver Canucks are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and are looking to extinguish the Calgary Flames in Game 1 of their first round series.

The time for posturing is finally over which, thankfully, means no more blowing smoke up each other’s asses:

Oh yeah?

Yeah…

There is a lot of Stanley Cup Playoff history between these two franchises (bank on seeing an endless string of montages featuring Pavel Bure and Joel Otto’s foot…) and I would imagine that after missing the playoffs last year, both fanbases are ready to get down to business.

Just remember that British Columbians and Albertans live in close proximity to each other so try to to keep things civil with your neighbours. And by civil, I mean throw the lame insults out the window and come up with something creative instead of the usual garbage from both sides:

So there you have it. Keep it civil people! We’ve probably got a long series on our hands.

Matchup

Game Time: 7:00 pm

TV: CBC

Image: thehockeynews.com

Image: thehockeynews.com

Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

Johnny Hockey and Boring Sean Monahan.

The most dynamic duo since…Jenko and Schmidt?

Image: tumblr.com

Image: tumblr.com

Okay they are definitely not that cool but they, along with Jiri Hudler, are damn good at hockey and pose a major threat to the Canucks (Or will they? Stay tuned). From there however, there is a significant drop-off in forward production which is where the depth of the Vancouver Canucks may have a significant advantage over the Flames.

Other than the first line, Lance Bouma is your next highest scoring forward with 34 points, but he is currently injured and questionable to even play in Game 1.

But what the Flames lack in offensive depth, they more than make up in scoring from the defence as Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, (the injured) Mark Giordano, and Kris Russell have carried a significant load of the offence from the back-end.

For a more in-depth look at the series with coherent arguments and facts to back up those arguments, check out Rob Williams’ Series Preview.

Storylines

1. Don’t Botch the Start

It’s been well, and possibly over-documented, that the Canucks are not great at starting games. Vancouver has given up the first goal in way too many games this season and although that does teach a team to play from behind, this can get away from you pretty quickly in the playoffs.

The first game of the playoffs is a three hour adrenaline rush. Both teams have spent a considerable amount of time out of the post-season and the level of excitement will be off the charts.

And yes I know the Canucks only missed one year (2014), but you can make the argument that they didn’t show up in 2012 (4-1 loss to Los Angeles) and 2013 (4-0 loss to San Jose) either.

If the Canucks are going to set the tone at home for the series, they have to be better at starting the game and at least trying to dictate the play. This is where players like Jannik Hansen, Ronalds Kenins, and Bo Horvat need to step up and push the play in the offensive end.

Make the Flames chase the game early.

2. Keep Your Eye on Bo Horvat

I don’t know about this one. But I have a feeling…

Whenever you draft or trade for a player, you hope that when the games get tough and the pressure reaches its limits, that player will step up when it matters most.

Enter Bo Horvat.

Horvat has done nothing but exceed expectations this season and get better along the way. He has earned the trust of Willie Desjardins and can matchup with the best players in the Western Conference. But how will perform when the pressure of the playoffs comes along?

Image: ontariohockeyleague.com

Image: ontariohockeyleague.com

And that would be Bo winning the 2013 Wayne Gretzky Award for being named Playoff MVP of the Ontario Hockey League.

I’m not saying that Horvat will dominate the series, but he has a history of stepping up his game in the playoffs and I will be paying close attention to Bo.

I have a feeling that with the depth that Kenins, Hansen, and Horvat provide to the Canucks, that line will become an important factor in the outcome of this series.

3. What’s Up With Sean Monahan?

Sean Monahan may not actually be as happy as his fake Twitter account suggests because Monahan missed Monday’s practice. He did return to practice on Tuesday, but left early and something appears to be amiss.

If Monahan misses any time, its going to be a gigantic blow to the Flames as their offence is largely driven by their number one line comprised of Monahan, Gaudreau, and Hudler.

If, however, Monahan is able to play (and I bet you he probably will because playoffs), then the Canucks will have to be very aware that the top centre on the Flames is slightly injured. I’m not saying go out and there and finish him Mortal Kombat style…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hHDxlm66dE

…But the Canucks defence would be well advised to play the kid hard into the boards and make him as uncomfortable as possible. If Monahan fears taking a hit, then the hesitation will show, making him less effective and his game will suffer as a result.

I’m looking at you, Luca Sbisa.

Lineup

The big news is that 2/3 of the injured Canucks will be back in the lineup for Game 1. Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson draw back in on the fourth (or third) line which boots Linden Vey to the sidelines.

Head coach Willie Desjardins still hasn’t named his starting goalie, but the smart money is on Eddie Lack.

D. Sedin H. Sedin Burrows
Higgins Bonino Vrbata
Kenins Horvat Hansen
Dorsett Richardson Matthias
Edler Tanev
Hamhuis Weber
Sbisa Bieksa
Lack

Prediction

Although I am petrified about how the Canucks will start the game (bank on the Flames scoring the first goal), I still think Vancouver will come back and defeat Calgary by a score of 4-2 to take the lead in the best-of-seven series.

Bonus Prediction: It doesn’t take long for things to get chippy.

Strap yourselves in Canucks Fans. It’s going to be a good series:

Image: giphy.com

Image: giphy.com

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Steve Lancashire Canucks Contributor
@lankey22

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