The Vancouver Canucks will look to win their fourth game in a row when they host captain Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at Rogers Arena on Friday night. The crowd should be rocking for a number of reasons … it’s Friday night in Vancouver, the Canucks are on a roll, the somewhat controversial (at the moment) ‘Ovie’ is looking to break a major NHL milestone, and the crowd can shed their masks.
That’s right, no mask mandate. Drink and scream to your hearts content without breathing your own carbon dioxide.
While the Capitals are coming off an overtime loss on Wednesday night in Edmonton against the Oilers and playing their third game in four nights, the Canucks are settling into game two of a seven game homestand. Vancouver won their first effort on Wednesday night 5-3 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Vancouver has actually won six of their last seven, riding a power play that’s clicking at better than 31% over their last dozen games.
Balanced scoring has also been key, led of course by JT Miller who now has 23 goals and 67 points on the season, with four points in his last game against the Habs and 21 points during his current 10-game point streak.
Elias Pettersson has also heated up lately with points in nine of his last dozen games, 17 points total over that stretch. Six of those points have come on the power play.
Thanks to Russian president Vladimir Putin and his country’s invasion of Ukraine, things have become a bit dicey for the NHL’s most popular and famous Russian. It’s expected that Ovechkin will be booed by fans at Rogers Arena on Friday night. ‘Ovie’ initially spoke out in favour of ‘my president’ after the invasion began two weeks ago, although not necessarily the invasion itself, and carefully added that he was simply hoping for peace and didn’t want people to get hurt or killed.
Ovechkin clammed up since. His family, as in his wife and children among others, remain in Russia. There is very little likelihood that anything would happen to his family if Ovechkin spoke out against the military action ordered by Putin, but at this point there’s no reason to take that chance.
Meanwhile, the spectre of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and Ovie’s relationship with Putin hangs over the proceedings as the superstar looks to jump into 3rd place all-time in NHL career goal scoring. Ovechkin could separate himself from Jaromir Jagr tonight. Jagr retired with 766 goals.
“There’s support for Alex in our room, he’s a hockey player,” Capitals Head Coach Peter Laviolette said after morning skate. “All the Russian players are in a tough situation and nobody will be able to control what happens in the building if that (booing) happens, but there’s a lot of support for him in our room.”
Russians around the NHL remain silent. We’ll see how long that lasts.
The Canucks lone Russian player, 20-year-old Vasily Podkolzin, finds himself in the position of not speaking English well enough to express an opinion to the local media one way or another. For his sake, very likely not a bad problem to have.
Same line-up for the Vancouver Canucks that won the last three games including number-one netminder Thatcher Demko getting the start. While winning his last three games “Demmer’s” save percentage in those matches slipped down to about .890%. That might be a simple indication of the quality of chances that opponents are generating although he wasn’t the key factor in the victory over the Canadiens. Most nights, he is the main reason behind a Canucks victory.
Demko’s season save percentage is at .917% and his goals against sits at 2.64. Due for a shut-out?
On the other end it will be Czech goalie Vitek Vanecek getting the start. The 26-year-old is 13-7-and-5 on the season with a 2.32 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. He gave up four goals in his last start and took the loss Tuesday night in Calgary against the Flames.
The Capitals own 72 points and presently occupy the 2nd wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and will make the playoffs barring an utter and complete implosion. The next closest team is the Columbus Blue Jackets with 59 points. A battle for seeding remains the only interesting thing about the playoff picture in the east at the moment.