Vancouver Canucks Game Review / Previews: Canes Crunched, Islanders Next
Friday January 15 - Vancouver Canucks 3 - Carolina Hurricanes 2 (OT)
If the Vancouver Canucks played the Carolina Hurricanes 82 times a year, Bo Horvat would be on pace for a 164-goal season!
For the second time in nine days, Horvat's two goals and Jacob Markstrom's solid goaltending led the Canucks to a 3-2 win over Carolina—this time as the second game of their six-game road trip.
Here are your highlights:
The Canucks were outshot 40-22 and the penalty kill gave up its first goal in five games while Brandon Prust was serving a first-period holding penalty, but there were plenty of positives in this game—especially coming on the heels of the Washington game in which the Canucks were dominated.
• For the first time in nine games, Vancouver managed to be the first team on the scoresheet when Linden Vey sniped a short-side wrister past Cam Ward at the 13:41 mark of the first period. Vey has been quietly effective since being called up by the Canucks in mid-December, with three points in 11 games, and has played more than 15 minutes in each of Vancouver's last three games.
The goal was his first of the season—and first in the NHL since March 31, 2015. Now that he has broken the goose egg, will we start to see more offensive contributions?
• Taylor Fedun made his debut as a Vancouver Canuck in place of Yannick Weber, and looked just fine. Playing 18:58 on the right side of a pairing with Ben Hutton, Fedun blocked three shots, dished out three hits and was a plus-one on the night. The 27-year-old even picked up the seventh point of his NHL career (in his 12th career game), earning the primary assist on Horvat's first goal.
The organization has been reluctant, at times, to give much opportunity to their minor-league callups, so it's interesting that Fedun was summoned almost immediately after he recovered from his recent hand injury—and that he was rushed into the lineup with Weber as a healthy scratch. If Fedun can fit in as seamlessly as Alex Biega did, that would give the Canucks four legit right-side defenders including Weber and Chris Tanev. It would create a bit of a logjam on the left side, where players had been shuffled over to the right earlier this year.
If Fedun stays in, it looks like Matt Bartkowski could be the odd man out when Luca Sbisa gets back into the lineup, probably Sunday against the New York Islanders. He'll join Alex Edler and Ben Hutton on the left side.
The Canucks currently have one roster spot open, which I assume will be used on Sbisa, but when Jannik Hansen gets back they'll need to move somebody to Utica unless another injury pops up. Right now, I don't think that person will be Vey or Biega...and maybe not Fedun.
After last week's Chris Higgins move, I wouldn't be shocked if we ended up seeing Weber or even Bartkowski as the next name on the waiver wire.
• Perhaps for the first time all year, the Canucks outshot their opponent in overtime! Bo Horvat's shot was the fourth of the extra frame for Vancouver in just 3:25, compared to one from Carolina—pretty amazing considering the team managed just six shots in the entire first period, five in the second and seven in the third.
The team's fortunes after 60 minutes have changed dramatically over the last month. In the first two months of the season, the Canucks were 1-8, with their lone win coming in the shootout against Anaheim. Since December 18, the team has gone 5-2 in extra-time games, with shootout wins over Detroit and Anaheim, overtime wins over Edmonton, Florida and Carolina, a shootout loss to Florida and their lone OT loss last weekend to Tampa Bay.
Those extra points are the difference right now as far as continuing to hang in the Western Conference playoff race. After Friday's games, the Canucks are slotting into fourth place in the Pacific but are tied with third-place San Jose with 46 points. They're also tied with Nashville, one point behind Colorado for the second wild-card spot.
• Jacob Markstrom is not stepping quietly into the backup role now that Ryan Miller is healthy. He was especially impressive during the second period, stopping 19 Hurricanes shots as they dominated the middle frame and giving his team the chance to win.
Today, the Canucks are enjoying a day off in the Big Apple, sampling the sights and sounds of New York City.
The team's next game is at 1 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, their first visit to the quirky Barclays Center to take on the New York Islanders. I'll quickly set that up here, then catch up with you with a game review on Monday morning.
Since Sunday's game is at 4 p.m. ET, we might get a glimpse of how the lines will shake down at a brief morning skate but that'll be about it.
I'd love to see Markstrom get the nod again, but suspect that Willie will go back to Ryan Miller. The games from now till the All-Star Break are nicely spaced out, with at least one day between each one, so there's no slam-dunk plan of attack laid out for the next five games.
I'm expecting to see Luca Sbisa back in the lineup. Not sure about Jannik Hansen. And not sure what's up with the last-minute flu diagnosis that pushed Derek Dorsett to the sidelines on Friday night, or whether he'll be ready to play again on Sunday.
As for the Islanders, they leapfrogged the New York Rangers to move into second place in the Metropolitan Division after coming from behind in the third period to beat the Rangers 3-1 in their last game on Thursday night. They'll be coming into Sunday's game on two days' rest.
The Islanders have built nicely off their breakout season in 2014-15, but one player who hasn't maintained his pace from last year is captain John Tavares. After challenging for the scoring title last year, he's currently second in team scoring behind Kyle Okposo, with a relatively low-for-him 31 points in 41 games.
Brock Nelson is the Islanders' current hot hand, leading the team with 18 goals including a hat-trick last Tuesday in the team's 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The islanders will be missing two of their most important defensemen on Sunday. Johnny Boychuk has been out for a couple of weeks with a shoulder injury, and trade target Travis Hamonic has missed the Islanders' last three games and is said to be out for two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.
Even before Hamonic was hurt, it was expected that he'd stay with the Islanders for the foreseeable future as the blue line depth took a hit after the Boychuk injury.
It's too bad we won't get to see Hamonic play on Sunday. The Islanders don't visit Vancouver until the day after the trade deadline, March 1. I wonder if he'll still be part of their team at that time?
That pretty much covers the news of the day.
The most important games to the Canucks today are New Jersey/Arizona (currently in progress), Colorado/Columbus, Minnesota/Nashville and Dallas San/Jose. We'll also see Zack Kassian's first appearance in the Battle of Alberta as Edmonton and Calgary face off in the late game on Hockey Night in Canada.
And...football, of course. Enjoy, if that's your flavour!