Game 56: Canucks at Jets (1.31.14)
You know things aren't going well for you when, in the midst of your season and you're still sitting in a playoff position, there are suggestions from some that it's time to throw in the towel and begin a rebuild. But such is the way of life in the NHL and for the Canucks lately with their current slump approaching the point where panic is starting to set in. Then again, if Vancouver can rattle off a few wins in a row heading into the Olympic break, then miraculously all will be well in Canucks Nation. They certainly have the ability, you would think, to pick up their fair share of wins on this five-game road trip starting tonight against a Jets team that sits in last place in the Central Division.
Winnipeg, though, isn't the same team that stumbled to a 19-23-5 start under former bench boss Claude Noel. They've won six of eight games since Paul Maurice took over behind the bench including knocking off the likes of the Ducks and Blackhawks along the way. They are, however, coming off just their second loss since the arrival of Maurice dropping a 4-3 home decision to Nashville on Tuesday. Tonight's game will be a homecoming of sorts for a number of Canucks who plied their trade in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose before graduating to the NHL including Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen. One ex-Moose that won't be in the lineup is Kevin Bieksa, who is not with the team on the trip due to a foot injury. Frank Corrado, who was recalled yesterday from Utica (AHL), will take his spot. This is the second of three meetings between the Canucks and Jets this season and the first of two trips to Winnipeg for Vancouver. The Canucks knocked off the Jets 2-1 back on December 22 at Rogers Arena.
Puck drop at 5:30 pm PT - Live on TSN, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Learn to finish. Strong starts are great but they don't mean anything if you can't finish properly. In their 10 losses in the month of January, the Canucks have blown leads in six of those outings including squandering two-goal advantages on three occasions. If they are able to get a lead again tonight, they need to work at keeping it instead of handing it back.
Luongo leads by example. The normally steady Luongo has put up some very un-Luongo like numbers in his last three starts giving up 11 goals on 91 shots for a save percentage of .879. While it's true he hasn't gotten much help from the defenders in front of him on many of those goals, he needs to find a way to shut the door and come up with a critical save or two as well especially if his team builds a lead.
Use Buff's backside. It's been a while since the days when Byfuglien was able to use his heavyset frame to wreak havoc in the Canucks' crease. With Buff recently moving from his familiar position on the back end to up front, the Jets would be wise to have him play that crease-crashing role again.
By the Numbers
Points percentage for the Canucks so far in the month of January (10 out of 28 possible points).
Win percentage for the Canucks without John Tortorella behind the bench (2-3-0).
Win percentage for the Jets since Paul Maurice took over as head coach (6-2-0).
Road win for the Canucks in the month of January (1-4-1).
Jets named to Olympic team rosters: Pavelec (CZE), Frolik (CZE), Jokinen (FIN) & Wheeler (USA).
Perfect power play efficiency rate for the Canucks this season. Winnipeg had the worst power play in the league last season at 13.8 percent.