FACEOFF: 9pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio 720, and TSN for the hosers
Oh right. These guys. How could I forget?
I think it’s just me, but some of the heat of what had been and might still be the league’s best rivalry has gone out a bit. Might have something to do with the last three season meetings coming after somewhat passionate playoff meetings, and this one doesn’t. Maybe it’s partly to do with both teams coming off first-round exits in last year’s playoffs, and no longer is the target to get past each other but everything is just more focused inward and what each team has to do to go farther. Maybe the rise of genuine threats in St. Louis and L.A. has spread the ire for both sets of fans a little thinner.
Though reading Nucks Misconduct today, I’m guessing they don’t feel the same.
But make no mistake, this isn’t just some road game you have to get out of the way. This one still has an awful lot of extra spice to it, like a jerk-flavored hot sauce (which I just bought myself, by the way. And while a wonderful idea, I need less jerk and more hot. But then again, don’t we all?)
As always, the Canucks can’t go through a season without wailing and yelling about how much drama they have and how hard it is and won’t everyone in the world please notice our drama and how dramatic and special it is?! We can only do this for so long (forever)!!
This season, as you might have heard, it centers around their net. They wanted to start Schneider and trade Luongo. But other teams didn’t see why they had to fork over the farm for a goalie with a Monty Python-foot of a contract that they were desperate to unload anyway, so Vancouver kept him. Now he’s played a little better than the Ginger, so he’s starting tonight and may have gotten his job back. And we’re all supposed to wait to see how it tears the team apart, i.e. provides another handy excuse for when they eat it in the spring again and no one wants to blame what still isn’t a very impressive blue line, a tendency toward cement between the ears, and Kesler physically unable to carry the Sedins when it matters anymore.
I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s a luxury to have two good goalies (how I wish we did so here). If Alain Vigneault wasn’t constantly looking for nails to get himself up on the cross, he could handle this easily. Some of have suggested this is when Luongo’s best, when he can come in and save the day, based on the extremely small sample size of the Olympics. Except then he only had to play four and a half games, three of which came against Germany, a Russian team that decided to not be there, and the Slovkian side that they tried desperately to give the game to. And that was behind a defense with three Norris winners, two sure-fire future winners, and another possible future winner (yes, Seabrook. Could totally happen). Definitely not behind the constant state of bewilderment and anarchy of Keith Ballard, Kevin Bieksa, and newly-signed future-disappointment Jason Garrison.
It’s been an uneven start for the Blue and Green, at 3-2-2. They got pantsed to open the season by Anaheim, and later by San Jose. Their only regulation wins have come in Orange County and last time out vs. what is looking like a disaster of an Avalanche team.
What have been the issues? First one that pops out is that with Kesler out — I think he’s being completely rebuilt from scratch at this point by Dr. Krieger from Isis — this is essentially a one-line team. But that line has a new problem, and thy name is Zach Kassian. While The Children of The Corn have made a lot of bums rich — Anson Carter, Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Burrows all come to mind — Kassian is the type of rugged, huge winger that you fear the Hawks might not have an answer for. While he’s clearly in the remedial reading class, he’s at least figured out to get to the net and the twins will find him. He’s got five goals (other than Raymond, no one else has more than 2). He’s an issue. Be interested to see if Q fights so hard to get Bolland out against them, or fights fire with fire and lets Toews do it. Might be the better option.
And still, while the defense isn’t bad, it’s not convincing either. Only Edler really stands out. Bieksa’s still quite capable of going pyschotic-dumb, Ham-Hock is nothing more than a second-pairing guy, Garrison is slow, and Ballard and Tanev…whatever. Not buying it, and it might explain why their PK is 24th in the league.
Obviously, still lots of danger though. You remember how this has worked out west the previous four years. The Hawks have one game there where they run riot as the Nucks lose their minds and souls. There’s another where Vancouver keep sit together and completely violates Chicago (works almost the same here). There’s only one trip there this season, so the Hawks should choose wisely. Staying out of the box will help, because no matter how well your PK is going you don’t want the Sedins getting too many looks. Take advantage of when they catch the Stupid-Flu, which they always do.
The heat may not be searing as it was, but it’s still there. Fuck these guys. Proper.