Canucks vs Wild Game Day Report: Marching into Minny

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Canucks Game Day Wild

The Vancouver Canucks face off against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night looking to rebound from a demoralizing loss in the Windy City.

Game Time: 5:00 pm PST

TV: Sportsnet Pacific

The Canucks probably couldn’t have had a worse start to their current six-game road trip.

Although the score wasn’t indicative of the game itself (Chicago scored a pointless two goals in the final minute), two of Vancouver’s main weaknesses reared their ugly heads yet again.

Secondary Scoring and Special Teams.

However, one of the best parts about hockey is that one goal from the second power play unit and all of a sudden two weaknesses disappear at once. The Canucks are definitely hoping that happens against the Minnesota Wild if they are hoping to jump back ahead of the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Standings.

Yes, they need to catch up to the Edmonton Oilers. You’ll see that I won’t get over this very quickly.

Fortunately, the Canucks won’t be drawing the number one goalie in Devan Dubnyk.

So that’s something!

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Storylines

1. Who’s your second line centre?

That’s kind of the question these days isn’t it? With Brandon Sutter out for probably another month with a sports hernia injury, who is the second line centre for the Vancouver Canucks?

So far, it hasn’t been clear. Like, at all.

The only two players that would even qualify as potential second line centers are in some pretty interesting spots in their young careers.

Let’s face it; Bo Horvat is having a miserable season, even by sophomore slump standards. I know that I’ve been one of the people preaching patience, but this is getting pretty bad.

Jeff Paterson said it best in his post-game blog from Sunday

Incredibly, the second year centre scored on the second night of the season against Calgary and has one goal in 29 games since then. ONE GOAL IN HIS LAST 29 GAMES. I no longer care about the role he’s being asked to play or the match-ups he’s getting. Everyone in the NHL draws tough assignments. It’s the best league in the world. And most players are producing with considerably more frequency than Horvat who in no way resembles the kid who played with so much confidence after Christmas a year ago. Any way you slice it, it’s been a disastrous first 10 weeks of the season for Horvat…

Image: TSN

SEE ALSO: GTD Canucks Podcast: Hockey talk with Jeff Paterson

Had Sutter not gotten hurt, it would have been really interesting to see how Horvat’s season would have progressed.

On the other hand, Jared McCann has been steadily improving his defensive play but his offence has completely dried up. Plus, there is still an outside chance that McCann is loaned to team Canada for the World Junior Tournament in Finland.

Are legitimate NHL second line centers ever considered to get loaned out to play in a tournament for teenagers?

Probably not.

 

2. The losses are mounting

This stat may be a bit shocking, but keep in mind that with a coach that knew how to adapt under normal circumstances, The Canucks probably wouldn’t be at 20 losses already. I mean, going 0-7 in overtime is unprecedented.

Vancouver’s ability to squeak away with the loser point has kept them marginally competitive, but there is still no other way to explain the fact that the Canucks and their fans have ended 20 out of 31 games i disappointment.

That’s pretty horrific.

But what may be worse is that the losses aren’t getting any better, despite what the players and coach may say after every single loss.

As the season continues to dwindle down, the Canucks are going to eventually run out of opportunities to prove that they are a playoff team. If things don’t improve, it will be interesting to see how Jim Benning handles the situation.

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SEE ALSO: Jim Benning's trades have turned out better than expected for Canucks

 

3. By the end of the night…

The Canucks could be 13th in the Western Conference, just one step above the Anaheim Ducks who, by the way, also have three games in hand on Vancouver.

Drink it in.

I know it’s the Pacific Division, but it’s still pretty incredible that a team can drop from a home-ice advantage playoff position to last in the Conference in the matter of week. Yet here we are, once again proving that parity in the NHL can be a cruel mistress.

Does it get any easier for the Canucks moving forward? Yes and no.

After Tuesday, Vancouver will still only be two deep into a long six game roady which, I would like to point out, comes at a terrible time considering Christmas is coming up. I know they are supposed to be professional athletes and all, but any human being (especially those with children) that can see a couple days off at the end of the tunnel may not have their heads completely in the game.

The Canucks are not competing against the upper-echelon of NHL teams over the next five games, but road trips are still difficult, especially as they extend over a couple of weeks.

By Christmas, Vancouver’s season could look mighty bleak.

 

Lineup

All of the Canucks survived the game against Chicago so I wouldn’t expect any lineup changes. Vancouver has called up Ronalds Kenins and Audrey Pedan from the Utica Comets but it’s not clear if they are going to get any game action.

*Update: Here’s how the Canucks lined up at practice this morning:

D. Sedin H. Sedin Hansen
Burrows Horvat Baertschi
Higgins McCann Vrbata
Prust Cracknell Dorsett
Edler Tanev
Biega Bartkowski
Hutton Weber
Miller

 

Prediction

Predictions can be a little bit tricky. Case in point:

Check that date. December 14th and the Edmonton Oilers are still competing, just as everyone predicted. And this is all without Mark Messier’s best buddy Connor McDavid.

So, with the Oilers in the playoff race, my comprehension of the world collapsing, and working on the assumption that predictions are a complete crapshoot, I’m just going to swing for the fences and say the Canucks lose again.

3-1.

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Steve Lancashire Canucks Contributor
@lankey22

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