To say Vancouver is hot would be like saying the team plays in British Columbia, it is so glaringly obvious that even bringing it up is redundant (There you go Roberto, I’ve pumped your tires for this post!). The Canucks roll into the Music City on a 10-0-3 run and have the same look of the team that was a juggernaut during last year’s postseason (You know, until their shooters met Tim Thomas and Daniel Sedin met Brad Marchand’s fist). Roberto Luongo has despite all the criticism harped upon him performed admirably this season and is as big a reason as any for the team’s success. He’s become hockey’s “Lebron James” where despite his all world talent and history of success all that is discussed this season is his failure in last season’s finals. He is still a goalie that can steal the show and if last season’s playoff series is any implication the Preds shooters need to be ready for what could be a long night.
I look for Colin Wilson, the hero of Sunday’s game with the winning goal in Dallas to have a big game as he goes head to head with fellow American and alum of the USNTDP Ryan Kesler. Wilson’s grit and hockey IQ will be on full display as Vancouver’s lineup which has been labeled soft is one that he can take advantage of to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates. After outdueling fellow Finn Kari Lehtonen last night in Dallas Pekka Rinne will need to be his usual stellar self because Vancouver’s lineup is one rife with bona fide scorers. Much like the game in Beantown last week against the other team in last year’s Finals while this game may not determine anything more than 2 points in the standings it is still a measuring stick game. The Canucks ended the Preds season last year so it goes without saying each member of the team will have an extra chip on their shoulder; this is also a matchup that is very likely to happen again this year in the postseason.
The only position that Vancouver holds an undisputed advantage in is up front as the reigning Selke trophy winner (Kesler) and the last two scoring champions (Henrik and Daniel Sedin) are in their ever potent lineup. In net as talented as Luongo is his psyche is fragile and at any time he can implode and give up 6 or 7 goals. Rinne on the other hand is possibly the most talented goaltended in the league and is the number one reason the Preds have a shot at making a lengthy playoff run. On the back end Weber and Suter are the league’s best pairing and are light years ahead of the entire Canucks D corps. The addition of Hal Gilll to complement talented youngsters Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis only makes the talented Predators defense even more formidable. If these two teams meet each other in the postseason again I have a very good feeling that the outcome could be vastly different and how tomorrow night’s game goes could paint a vivid picture of just that.
There’s a two part video segment for today as I’m including a player profile on Colin Wilson to go along with my analysis of the trade that sent Hal Gill to the Music City. Enjoy!