Yep, it’s a biggee, the Vancouver Canucks visiting the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
As we mentioned, Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford said, “It’s the biggest game of the year for our team.”
Stars General Manager Jim Nill responded to us with, “A game with significant playoff implications for both teams.”
Keeping it simple.
And why not, because it is simple. Win in regulation and the Canucks move to within two points of the 2nd wild card spot. Lose in regulation and fall six points behind the Stars. Thus the term, ‘a four-point swing’.
Regardless, when the game’s over, Dallas will still have three games in-hand on the Canucks.
There are other variables. If the Vancouver Canucks beat the Stars in regulation and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Chicago Blackhawks, Vegas would hop past Dallas into the playoff spot. The problem for the Golden Knights; they’ve played one more game than the Canucks and a whopping four more than the Stars.
That’s why Dallas is the wild card focus. Plus, Vancouver has three more games head-to-head against Vegas and only one more after tonight (April 18th at home) against the Stars.
Tale of the Tape
After a collective 0-for-6 during the three games against the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, and Calgary Flames, the Vancouver Canucks power play then clicked at 3-for-9 over its last four games. That’s a highly impressive 33%. Even with the dip in the middle, stretch it back over their last ten matches and the Canucks are 7-for-24 (29%).
During the same 10-game span the Vancouver penalty kill has taken care of business 81% of the time. Not world beaters but not bad either, especially when you consider they killed off four of five against the vaunted Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
Season: PP% PK%
Vancouver 21.6 71.9
Dallas 23 78.3
While Vancouver still possesses the NHL’s worst penalty kill overall, Dallas’s isn’t exactly crushing it. They’ve given up a power play goal in eight of their last eleven matches including a recent kill rate over their last five games of 15 for 21 or 71.5%. Not good.
The Stars power play is 3 for its last 10 with two of those goals coming in the March 20th game against Washington. It’s heated up a bit coming off a 1-for-12 stretch just prior to that.
Dallas has the 5th most home wins in the NHL: 21-8-and-1, while the Canucks road record stands at 17-13-and-4
Thatcher Demko starts in net for the Canucks while Jake Oettinger goes for the Stars.
Demko’s season record stands at 27-19-and-5 and he’s coming off the overtime loss Thursday night to the Minnesota Wild. Season: 2.69 GAA, .916 save %.
23-year-old Oettinger has a record of 22-10-and-1 and has won three of his last four starts. Season: 2.49 GAA, .917 save %.
A Lock of Sorts
Will Lockwood, officially an emergency call-up from the Abbotsford Canucks, will get a look with the big club in Dallas. The physical 23-year-old right winger has 25 points in 46 AHL games this season.
“Just bringing physicality aspect to the game,” Lockwood said Saturday morning. “Keeping it simple, I’m not going to go out there and try to do too much and that’s been kind of the message.”
Matthew Highmore is out of action with an upper-body injury that Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said is not a concussion.
Boudreau also summed things up for Saturday night.
“It’s gonna be a battle,” ‘Gabby’ said. “Right now it’s about winning this game and staying tight, close … today’s game is going to be like a playoff game, for them as well as us. They’ve won three in a row against three good teams so we’ve got a our work cut out for us.”