Tonight, the Vancouver Canucks have a chance to extend their winning streak to three, after beating the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild.
After 23 games, the Vancouver Canucks sit in sixth place in the Pacific Division. With a win against the Anaheim Ducks tonight, they could get within two points of the second-place Ducks. The playoffs are still a realistic goal.
But, as always, getting there won’t be easy. There is no perfect recipe for success. There are some important keys that could lead to a win tonight, though.
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1. Shut Down the Top Six
The most prominent names in the Ducks lineup are, of course, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The duo has been incredible for Anaheim for many years, and they are still the ones the team relies on the most. But, Anaheim has more to offer.
Six of the Ducks’ forwards have recorded at least 10 points, three of them have more points than Vancouver’s top scorer, Bo Horvat. Anaheim has two superb lines that know exactly how to score.
If the Canucks want to win, they need to find a way to shut those lines down. Whether it is done by spending every one of their shifts in the Ducks’ zone with Henrik and Daniel Sedin cycling until their opponents get tired, or by pressuring them with a gritty fourth line, Vancouver cannot afford to let the Ducks’ top six play.
The Ducks rank 16th in goals scored, at 59. Yet, they sit in second place in the Pacific Division and 11th league-wide. The reason: they only surrender 2.35 goals against per game — only six teams are better.
While Anaheim takes pride in two strong offensive lines, their defence has become the standout group. Players like Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm can not only produce offensively, but keep the puck out of the net as well.
Starting goaltender John Gibson has not been outstanding so far, recording a .912 save percentage along with a 2.52 goals-against average. Backup Jonathan Bernier has better numbers — a .933 save percentage and a 2.02 goals-against average — but it is the defence Vancouver needs to beat.
It actually worked quite well against Minnesota. Sbisa and Erik Gudbranson had defensive deficiencies, but that’s nothing new. Overall, the group did a very good job. Especially Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton did not look like a rookie and a sophomore, respectively.
Yet, the Canucks allowed four goals against in the game against the Wild. There is still a lot of room for improvement. In order to beat the Ducks, one of the Pacific Division’s top teams, the Canucks need solid performances from their defencemen. That’s the only way to shut down the top six.