After surrendering Game 1 to the Calgary Flames in heartbreaking fashion, a Kris Russell game-winner with less than 30 seconds remaining, the Canucks skated to a well deserved 4-1 victory in Game 2, and now head to Calgary with a chance to take back home-ice advantage. After multiple years without playoff hockey, the Saddledome will be a tough place to scratch out a win, and here’s what the Canucks need to do to take a 2-1 series lead in Game 3.
Take the crowd out of it early
The Saddledome will surely be bumping on Sunday evening, and it would be in the Canucks best interest to take the energy out of the building early. Flames fans are hungry for playoff hockey, and you know that they are absolutely going to be into it when these teams meet on Sunday evening. It won’t be an easy task by any means, but considering the Canucks’ elite record away from Rogers Arena of 24-14-3 and Calgary’s fairly ordinary home record of 23-13-5, it’s not impossible to think that the Canucks could come out on top when all is said and done.
Continue the shutdown of Jiri Hudler, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau
Heading into the series, Canucks fans were worried about the damage that could be done by the Flames’ top line of Hudler, Monahan and rookie Gaudreau, and for good reason. They were arguably the best line in all of hockey down the stretch, and many feared that they would badly exploit what is widely regarded as a slow Vancouver blue line.
However, the Canucks’ top-pairing of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev has done a masterful job shutting down the trio, as they’ve combined for a mere two points (one assist a piece for Gaudreau and Monahan), while Hudler, who finished the season white-hot and placed within the top 10 of NHL scoring, has just one shot on goal through two games. Should they continue their dominance over this line, it would be hard to bet against the Canucks throughout the remainder of this series.
Continue down the Flames big three of T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell
When captain Mark Giordano went down, the entire hockey world was talking about how that should be the nail in the coffin of the Calgary Flames, and it probably would have been, if it wasn’t for the remarkable play of Wideman and Russell, who, along with the aforementioned Monahan line, put the team on their backs over the last month and a half of the regular season. When looking at the Flames defensive depth chart, there isn’t a whole lot outside of those two, along withBrodie (who is anchored down by Deryk Engelland to an extent), as the likes of Corey Potter and David Schlemko rarely play more than ten minutes per game, leaving those three to be pushing 30 minutes each and every game. The Canucks have some forwards that could cause some problems for these defenders, Ronalds Kenins and Shawn Matthias to name a couple, and if this one goes to six, or even seven games, as many have predicted, they may not have enough gas left in the tank to handle the top forwards of the Canucks.
Shelter Kevin Bieksa and Luca Sbisa
It may sound silly, but the fact of the matter is that the Canucks bottom defense pair of Bieksa and Sbisa is without a doubt the weak link on the roster, and if there’s any combination of players that are going to be exploited by the Flames and their speed, it’s this pair. Give them their minutes against the depth lines, but avoid putting them out against the big-guns of Calgary at all costs.