The 5-5-and-0 Nashville Predators visit the 4-5-and-1 Vancouver Canucks Friday night at Rogers Arena. A few of us broadcasters were contemplating this morning that if the Canucks win this game in overtime or a shoot-out, both teams would skate away with identical 5-5-and-1 records. You know what, the Canucks would take it, although they’d much prefer to beat a potential wild-card playoff-race rival in regulation. One never knows where one will be come March and April.
The Predators leading scorer happens to be a defenceman, the former Norris Trophy winner and current captain Roman Josi, who has 11 points in ten games. Centres Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen, a Vancouver native, are next with nine and eight points respectively. (We had a 4-1/2 minute audio interview with Johansen this morning)
Having defencemen ruling the offensive roost in Nashville has been a bit of a tradition. Predators fans will recall fondly when General Manager David Poile remarkably managed to fit them all under the salary cap on multi-year deals, having Josi, Ryan Ellis, PK Subban, and Mattias Ekholm all working the same blueline. Depth guys Yannick Weber and Alexei Emelin weren’t too shabby either. Only two remain, Jose and Ekholm, from that ‘murderer’s row’.
One of the more recent replacements, since the start of last season, is the nephew of Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning, Matt Benning. The 27-year-old right shot, formerly of the Edmonton Oilers, signed as a free agent in October of 2020. His head coach John Hynes sang his praises Friday morning.
“To be honest I can’t say enough good things about him,” Hynes stated. “As a person, a teammate, being around the organization, he’s a really good person, he has a great attitude, works hard, coachable, his game’s been very good. Last year we went through it with him, in and out of the line-up, but we had a pretty good run in the second half of the year and in the playoffs and he was a big reason for that, and he really solidified himself as part of the D-corps.
“He’s a very good penalty killer, he’s hard to play against along the boards and in the net-front. I think he’s really found his identity just in his puck movement and he keeps it simple.”
His uncle Jim, and his dad Brian, who both spent time as players in the National Hockey League, would be proud.
Speaking of the penalty kill, neither teams’ has been very good. The Pred’s are 22nd best in the NHL with an overall kill rate percentage of 77.1%, at 75% on the road. The Canucks sit 27th in the NHL at 70%, with an even more abysmal 64.3% rate at home.
That could continue to be challenging tonight for Vancouver as the Predators come in with a 25% success rate with the man advantage. Which by the way is a distinct advantage over the Canucks power play (lack of) proficiency of 15.8%. Grab something to hold on to, or bite down hard … Vancouver’s power play rate at home is … not a typo … 6.7%. It’ hard to believe there’s actually three team with worse, Colorado (!), Vegas (!), and Seattle. It’s early yet, the Canucks have only played four home games. Things should begin to even out.
“Last meeting” is a bit meaningless. The rosters have changed dramatically since the last time the two teams squared off back on February 10th 2020 when the Canucks won 6-2. Vancouver has won the last three match-ups overall.
The Predators are playing their third game in four nights on what is the first half of a six game road trip, having defeated the Calgary Flames 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night and then losing in Edmonton 5-2 on Wednesday. The Canucks come in off their dramatic come from behind 3-2 overtime home win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Thatcher Demko and Juuse Saros get the respective starts in net for Vancouver and Nashville.