The Vancouver Canucks’ season opens on Wednesday October 8th, and with less than a week away, everyday until puck drop I will be outlining how the Canucks matchup against each of their division rivals.
The first instalment of this series features the seeming team to beat in the division: the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have surrounded their highly talented core players with a mix of proven veterans and highly touted young guns. While their prospects for a Stanley Cup run may hinge on their young talent, the Ducks’ regular season outlooks appear much more promising as the Southern Californian team has the making of a squad that can push for a President’s Trophy.
Last Year’s Record and Dates to Remember
The Vancouver Canucks struggled mightily against Anaheim last year going 0-4-1 , a record that features a 9-1 drubbing at the Honda Center.
This season’s match ups:
November 9th in Anaheim
November 20th in Vancouver
December 28th in Anaheim
January 27th in Vancouver
March 9th in Vancouver
The schedule is set up more favourably for Vancouver since 3 of the 5 games are at home. Anaheim had home ice advantage last season.
The downside to these dates is that the November 20th game is the second of a back to back for Vancouver where the game the night before is in Edmonton. Also, 3 games take place before New Years, and with the Canucks adding as many new faces as they have, the team may take a while to really gain some chemistry. A team with a slew of players on the wrong page won’t be able to compete effectively against a squad as good as Anaheim.
The flip side to that notion is that Vancouver gets all their games against their toughest division opponent out of the way early. The Canucks’ playoff push towards the end of the season won’t feature a dreaded matchup against the Ducks in Anaheim, which is beneficial for Vancouver.
Scheduling doesn’t determine a series, but Vancouver needs all the help they can get and the schedule is at least adding some relief.
The Vancouver Canucks Go up against a Familiar Face
The biggest storyline surrounding the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks is obviously Ryan Kesler. The Canucks and Kesler’s messy divorce culminated in a draft day trade with the division rival. The Ducks’ got a second line center to help even out the scoring and Vancouver’s Jim Benning garnered enough of a return in the aftermath of a sticky situation that it’s hard to really say who won the trade.
Of course, only time will tell the victors of the deal, but Kesler may be in an all too familiar situation. Slated to skate on a second line with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg , the situation Kesler finds himself isn’t all too dissimilar from centering a line with Chris Higgins and Zach Kassian. One pair is a decent second line, third line tweener and the other an unproven youngster with talent. Silfverberg grades out to have more offensive potential than Kassian, but as of right now, the young Swede is unproven.
How the Vancouver faithful treat Kesler upon his return to Rogers Arena on November 20th will definitely fill all the chatter leading up to the game. Some fans begrudge his perceived selfish mentality and play while others truly appreciate his sometimes unstoppable two-way game. There will be a healthy mix of cheers and jeers when Kesler first steps onto the ice in another team’s colours.
The Key Matchup of the Series: Goaltending
The key matchup seems to be how, or more appropriately if, Vancouver’s defense can somehow stop the duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. But that already seems like a lost battle, since Vancouver won’t be able to stop those two; it’s almost near impossible.
The goaltenders, however, may have a thing or two to say about how this season series turns out. Vancouver Canucks’ goaltender Ryan Miller still has enough talent to steal a game and the Canucks will need a stolen point, or many, against Anaheim.
On the other end of the ice, the situation is a little murkier as young goalies John Gibson and Ferderik Andersen find themselves in a competition to decide who is the starter. Andersen would have been the starter heading into the season if not for his health last year, which prompted Head Coach Bruce Boudreau to give Gibson a shot, an opportunity the American netminder didn’t waste.
Andersen will probably be the #1 goalie heading into the regular season, but he is still young and fairly unproven. If Andersen or Gibson struggle, Vancouver may be able to take advantage of weak goaltending to, at the very least, get more wins against Anaheim than they did a year ago.
Anaheim is a formidable opponent against which points will be hard to come by. There’s enough uncertainty, albeit not a whole lot, in depth and in net for Anaheim that Vancouver can take advantage of these weak points and win a few games.
Check out tomorrow’s sizing up of the San Jose Sharks right here on The Hockey Writers.
Andrew Jow is an English student at Simon Fraser University where he covered the SFU Men’s Hockey team. Andrew is a Vancouver native and covers all things NHL for The Hockey Writers. Follow him on Twitter @MadJowDisease