Luke Schenn gets his ring as the Canucks get set to meet the Lightning
Thursday, January 13 - Vancouver Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning - 4 p.m. PT
Defenseman Luke Schenn has picked up his Stanley Cup ring on Thursday, as the Vancouver Canucks continue their road trip in Tampa against the Lightning.
Though Schenn was a depth defenseman during his two seasons with the Lightning, he ended up playing quite a bit. In 2019-20, he got into 25 of Tampa Bay's regular-season games, then suited up for 11 out of 25 games in the playoff bubbles, including six against the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final and one game in the Stanley Cup Final.
Last year, he dressed for 38 of the Lightning's 56 regular-season games, plus eight of 23 in the playoffs. He played three games against Florida, three against Carolina and two against the Islanders, but didn't see any action against the Canadiens in what was a relatively easy Stanley Cup Final series for Tampa Bay.
While watching the Coyotes take down the Leafs last night, I caught an interview with Lightning coach Jon Cooper on TNT, where he didn't shy away from talking about wanting to three-peat — something that hasn't been done since those Islanders dynasty teams of the 1980s, and something that Wayne Gretzky failed to accomplish in Edmonton.
That's the motivation that has Tampa Bay tied with Florida at the top of the NHL standings — although the Panthers do have two games in hand. And while the Lightning have dealt with plenty of injury issues already this season, they're now basically healthy.
Ryan McDonagh, who is an important defenseman for them, is on the sidelines with a lower-body injury. But Brayden Point has 11 points in eight games since returning from his upper-body injury right after Christmas, Nikita Kucherov has five points in three games since his return and put up a hat trick in Tampa Bay's last game against Buffalo on Tuesday, and Steven Stamkos is now back to full health and sits sixth overall in the NHL scoring race heading into Thursday's game, with 44 points in 37 games.
The Lightning have shown a little bit of inconsistency this season — and the number of Stanley Cup ring ceremonies and tributes they've had for visiting players really underscores how much their lineup was decimated last summer due to salary-cap issues. But they're getting nice contributions this season from some young players they've had marinating in the minors, like Ross Colton, Mathieu Joseph, Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk. And free-agent signing Corey Perry remains a premier agitator — and has 10 goals and 20 points. Expect to notice him on Thursday night.
All things considered, I thought the Canucks' return to action against the Panthers on Tuesday played out pretty much as I expected. There was some bad luck — but when you're as good and as deep as the Panthers, luck also has a tendency to break your way. And while it's been awhile since we saw Thatcher Demko get lit up for five goals, it's not like he had a poor outing, really.
It was impressive to see the Canucks generate 44 shots on goal against Sergei Bobrovsky, led by J.T. Miller, Conor Garland and Tanner Pearson with five apiece. Every forward logged at least one shot, and it was nice to see some depth scoring off goals from Jason Dickinson and Juho Lammikko — giving him the win in his revenge-game battle against Olli Juolevi.
Thursday's game is nearly as tough a test. The Lightning aren't quite as airtight at home as the Panthers — their record at Amalie Arena is a just-very-good 12-4-3.
And while the order of the games is reversed, things went very poorly for the Canucks the last time they went to Florida, two years ago. They lost 5-2 to the Panthers on that trip, too, on Jan. 9, 2020 — two days after a crushing 9-2 defeat by the Lightning.
Here's hoping history doesn't repeat itself on Thursday. This is our first chance to see how Bruce Boudreau can help his squad regroup and reverse their fortunes after a loss.
In other news — rosters for next month's All-Star weekend in Vegas are set to be revealed on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. PT — an hour before the Canucks meet the Lightning.
It's been a couple of years, so here's the reminder: the 3-on-3 tournament format remains. Each division will feature seven forwards, three defensemen and two goaltenders, and each team must have at least one representative.
The key Canucks in the mix are J.T. Miller at forward, Quinn Hughes on defense and Thatcher Demko in goal.
Points aren't the be-all, end-all in these selections — especially when so much of the math is about making sure that every team is represented. Having a Pacific Division host team may cut Vancouver's representation, too — the home squad usually gets an extra spot or two.
Anyway, here's a look at how the Canucks' candidates stack up against their division rivals, numbers-wise.
Thanks to the lull in the Canucks' schedule, Miller has slipped out of his top-10 spot in the NHL scoring race. He's in a tie for 16th as of Thursday morning, with 36 points in 35 games.
The Pacific Division forwards above him: McDavid and Draisaitl (53 points), Timo Meier (39 points) and Johnny Gaudreau (38 points). Miller is tied with Troy Terry of Anaheim and Chandler Stephenson of Vegas at 36.
Now with 28 points in 36 games, Quinn Hughes sits ninth in the league in scoring by defensemen. He's tops in the Pacific Division, points-wise, with Brent Burns (26 points), Shea Theodore (25 points) and Alex Pietrangelo (24 points) just behind him.
As for the goalies — even with the break, Thatcher Demko still sits fourth overall in minutes played and tops the Pacific Division, just ahead of John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck.
Demko's 15 wins has him tied with Robin Lehner for tops in the Pacific. Hellebuyck has 13, while Gibson, Jacob Markstrom and Mikko Koskinen (!) each have 12.
Of the goalies with 10 or more wins, Markstrom has the best save percentage in the Pacific (.926), followed by Jonathan Quick (.921). Demko and Gibson are tied at .917.
The order for goals-against average is exactly the same: Markstrom (2.15), then Quick (2.4), then Demko and Gibson deadlocked (2.64).
With those numbers, Quick could get the nod for the Kings — especially since he has been far-and-away the best player on his resurgent team this year. Johnny Gaudreau could certainly represent Calgary, so I don't know if Markstrom's a lock. But the veteran Gibson could grab that second spot, especially if the powers that be don't want to use a forward spot on Troy Terry.
All Star is a nightmare for goalies anyway, right? It'd be an honour for Demko to get selected, but he'd probably rather take a pass.
I think Hughes will get a spot and that might be it, especially if the first-place Golden Knights grab three out of the 12 available slots.
Enjoy the game!