The Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders both appear to have the pieces in place to make deep runs in their respective conferences.
While the Canucks looked every bit like a contender last time out, the Islanders are coming off a performance to forget heading into the teams’ first matchup of the season Tuesday night at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks (22-12-3) are tied for second in the Pacific Division, and New York (26-12-1) sits in a tie atop the Metropolitan with Pittsburgh. Daniel and Henrik Sedin lead Vancouver with 35 and 34 points, respectively, while Islanders forwards John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have combined for 70.
This game could also feature two of the game’s hottest goalies. Jaroslav Halak has gone an NHL-best 18-3-0 with a 1.91 goals-against average for New York since Nov. 5. While he’s fourth in the league with 21 wins, Ryan Miller is tied for fifth with 20 after going 4-1-1 with a 1.66 GAA over Vancouver’s last six games.
Miller came up with 29 saves and Henrik Sedin scored two empty-netters to surpass 200 goals for his career in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Detroit. Daniel Sedin added three assists for Vancouver, which went 2 for 4 on the power play after getting only two chances over the previous three games. The Canucks are 7 for 16 with the man advantage in the past six games.
"The last two, three weeks it’s felt really good," Henrik Sedin told the league’s official website. "It’s been tough to not get the amount of power plays we want, but tonight we got four and sometimes that’s what you need to start feeling the puck and make plays."
The Islanders’ power play also has been outstanding lately, scoring seven times in 20 chances over the past four games.
However, that’s the only way they scored Sunday in what some called their worst display of the season, losing 5-2 to league-worst Edmonton. Tavares and Johnny Boychuk had two points apiece for New York, which had won three in a row and seven of nine but lost to an Oilers team which entered having lost 22 of 24.
"It was an unacceptable game from us," forward Matt Martin said. "There’s no way we can just give these two points away, or worse, not even show up. We had small spurts of playing OK, but then we were making bad decisions on both sides of the puck."
Halak stopped just 18 of 22 shots as his personal seven-game winning streak was snapped.
"I thought we had some guys that were downright pretty bad," coach Jack Capuano said. "We were physical, we did a lot of good things, but at the end of the day it’s about execution and there are some guys that need to look in the mirror."
The Islanders had dropped three straight in this series before storming back to win 7-4 in Vancouver on March 10. Okposo had three assists as New York scored all seven goals over the final 20 minutes, tying the team record for most goals in a period.
Tavares didn’t play that night, but he has three goals and five assists over four matchups in the series. Halak is 5-2-1 with a 1.99 GAA in his last eight starts against the Canucks.
Miller has gone 5-1-0 with a 2.24 GAA versus New York over the previous three seasons. Henrik Sedin has totaled five goals and seven assists during a nine-game point streak against the Islanders, while Daniel Sedin has notched 11 points in his last eight against them.
The brothers have combined for three goals and 14 assists over the last six games overall.
Vancouver owns the league’s third-best penalty-kill percentage at 87.2. The Islanders have allowed one power-play goal in their opponents’ last 23 chances.