Game 46: Canucks vs. Blues (1.10.14)
Often times when a team is mired in a slump, they find ways to lose games that they perhaps deserve to win. Eventually though, as long as they keep doing the little things that give them a chance at succeeding, they'll ultimately get back into the win column. The Canucks are hoping that their last two games are a sign they're slowly finding their way even though results have been disappointing. On Tuesday, for the second time game in a row, the Canucks managed to carry a lead against one of the NHL's top teams late into the third period only to let it slip away. Their 5-4 shootout loss three nights ago to the Penguins was particularly heartbreaking seeing as how they managed to storm back from a 2-0 deficit only to blow a two-goal lead with just 71 seconds left in regulation.
If the Canucks are going to finally break out of their winless skid tonight, they're going to have to do it against the hottest team in the NHL right now. The Blues come into the game as winners of seven straight contests, most recently blanking the Flames 5-0 last night, and have just regulation loss in their last 15 outings (12-1-2). Their surge has allowed them to climb all the way into a first place tie for top spot in the Central Division with the Blackhawks which is where they begin this night. The Canucks might get a boost ahead of tonight's tilt against the red hot Blues as both Alex Burrows and Alexander Edler took part in team practice yesterday although neither have been officially cleared to play. Eddie Lack is expected to be between the pipes for Vancouver while St. Louis will likely go back to Brian Elliott after Jaroslav Halak got the start yesterday.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT - Live on Sportsnet Pacific, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Fight until that final buzzer. For whatever reason, closing out games has been a real big problem for the Canucks lately. In four of their last five outings, the Canucks have blown third period leads – three of those in the final two minutes. At some point the Canucks have to learn how to finish the job they started.
Zack attacks. Kassian had arguably his strongest game of the season on Tuesday after getting a chance to play in a top-six role alongside Kesler and Higgins. He's expected to get the chance to stay in that top-six mix tonight and the Canucks need him to make the most of his opportunity.
Keep spreading the O. The Blues, by reputation, aren't a team known for their offence but this season all they're doing is score. They have the league's top offence averaging 3.63 goals per game – ahead the powerhouse Blackhawks, Penguins and Ducks. Their offence has come by committee as well. They have five players with 15-or-more goals and seven players with 30-or-more points.
By the Numbers
Combined shot differential for the Canucks over their last four games (104 shots for; 166 shots against).
Goals scored by Ryan Kesler in the first meeting against the Blues this season, including the OT winner that night.
Straight games the Canucks have surrendered three-or-more goals.
Blues named to Olympic team rosters, including two for Canada (Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo).
Consecutive time of shutout hockey for the Blues as a team entering tonight's game.
Career games played by Tom Sestito after tonight when he suits up against the Blues.