clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game Preview #45: New Jersey Devils at Vancouver Canucks

After a solid win in Calgary, the New Jersey Devils will visit the Vancouver Canucks for what should hopefully be a less violent affair than the last Devils-Canucks game. This post previews the game, including a summary of what Vancouver has done this season.

Vancouver Canucks v New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall had a very good night on Friday. Can he have another one tonight against Bo Horvat and the Canucks?
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Fresh off a win, can the Devils make it two in a row?

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (17-18-9)at Vancouver Canucks (20-19-5, SBN Blog: Nucks Misconduct)

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV – MSG+; Digital Audio – The One Jersey Network

The Last Devils Game: On Friday night, the Devils visited Calgary. They have not won in Calgary since 2007, but that night would be different. The Devils came out and stormed the Flames with all kinds of offense. Kyle Palmieri beat Chad Johnson with a great shot off a 3-on-2 rush to open the scoring. Later in the period, Taylor Hall finished an actual good play on a power play with a wonderful shot. That made it 2-0 and the Devils were just dominant in the first period. The Flames awoke in the second period and peppered Keith Kinkaid with plenty of shots. But the Devils kept the Flames more than honest. Calgary would pull within one when Sean Monahan was left alone in front of the net to pot home a rebound. But the Devils kept those kinds of errors in coverage to a minimum and impressively never sat on the lead. In fact, they out-shot the Flames in the third period while up 2-1. It was tense at the end, but the Devils held on to win in Calgary for the first time since 2007. More relevant to the 2016-17 season, the Devils win broke a four game winless streak. My recap of the solid performance is here.

The Last Canucks Game: Back on Thursday, the Canucks visited Philadelphia. The game would turn out to be filled with goals. The scoring started when Daniel Sedin converted a power play just before halfway through the first period. That lead did not last long; Travis Konecny converted a power play too to tie up the game in the first. Markus Granlund kicked off a second period that featured five goals with an early one to put Vancouver up. Philadelphia matched it and went up one when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Sean Couturier both scored within the ninth minute of the period. Granlund responded less than a minute later with a goal at 10:01. Brandon Sutter capped off the goal-fest with a score to put Vancouver up 4-3 a few minutes after Granlund’s second of the night. Philly replaced Steve Mason with Michael Neuvirth for the third period. Neuvirth was perfect in relief and the Flyers would get an equalizer with an early power play goal from Brayden Schenn. That would be that for scoring through regulation. The Flyers carried most of the play in overtime, but Ryan Miller stopped all four shots in the fourth period. Therefore, a shootout was needed. Claude Giroux was the only one to score in the three frames so the Canucks lost 4-5 through a shootout.

The Last Devils-Canucks Game: The Canucks came to the Rock on December 6. The Devils came out hard and Taylor Hall scored to reward said efforts early in the game. This game was known for its violence as much as its actual result. Near the end of the first period, Michael Chaput shoved Travis Zajac, who went face-first into the boards. Out of that, John Moore fought Chaput and the Devils’ bench was hot as Zajac went to the back. At least Zajac only had a broken nose from the incident. The penalties resulted in Moore receiving two for instigation plus a five and a ten and a bench minor for whatever was said to the ref out of anger. The Devils began the second period with a two man disadvantage. Daniel Sedin finished a play to make said disadvantage count and tie it up. A little later into the second period, Hall absolutely demolished Phillip Larsen behind his net with a clean hit. Larsen’s head hit the ice and was lying motionless, even when Chaput tried to start a fight over him. Eventually Larsen was stretchered off. Shortly thereafter, Erik Gudbranson and Alexandre Burrows tried to start something in response and both received roughing minors (DSP got one too for his eventual involvement). The Devils made Vancouver pay for that as Kyle Palmieri scored a power play goal. Minutes later, Ben Lovejoy scored his first goal as a Devil as a long shot beat Jacob Markstrom through a screen. Early in the third period, Henrik Sedin beat Cory Schneider in close to make it 3-2. That led to a period of not much happening in terms of shots; but the Devils managed to protect the score at that point for the win. At the time, it was their first regulation win since November 12. My thoughts on the win are in this recap. For the other side, OffThePostComic had this to say about Vancouver dropping the first game of a five-game road trip in this recap at Nucks Misconduct.

The Goal: Keep up the good work. Seriously, how the Devils performed and executed in Calgary was very good. If they can replicate that tonight, then A) this Devils team may be enjoyable after all and B) they’ll have a good chance of getting a result tonight. I liked what I saw against the Flames from smart passing, players being options for each other, and pushing forward for shots. I want more of it, please.

The Devils After Calgary: The Devils did indeed practice after Friday’s win in Calgary. I would not expect too many changes in the lineup for this game, though. According to Andrew Gross, he reported through Twitter that Cory Schneider will start this game and that Andy Greene and Vernon Fiddler will still be out for this one. Greene and Fiddler did practice but they’re not ready for action just yet. I’m not surprised with Schneider getting to start this one. Schneider has played really well to start 2017 and he’s been the starter in most games.

The only other change I can think of would depend on the status of Sergey Kalinin. Kalinin was held out of the game in Calgary, but he did practice on Saturday. If he is good to go, I would not mind seeing him replace Devante Smith-Pelly for the night. Not that either has been all that effective as of late. However, the bottom six mostly did well against Calgary except for DSP, so that’s why I would make that switch. We’ll see if that is something that will happen or not. I doubt there will be other changes with the lineup given how the team played against Calgary.

The Collection of Scorers: The Canucks and the Devils are at the bottom of the league in terms of SF/60 according to Corsica. The Canucks have had better luck at shooting the puck in 5-on-5, which would explain why they’ve scored more goals. The thing about Vancouver is that it’s not just the Sedin twins just controlling the offense. It’s a collection of players who have contributed a good number of goals so far in this season.

According to, they have seven players with at least nine goals and at most thirteen goals: Bo Horvath, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Sven Baertschi, Brandon Sutter, Markus Granlund, and Loui Eriksson. Each of those players except for Henrik Sedin has at least 70 shots on net, which means that they can and will fire away (especially Daniel Sedin, who leads Vancouver with 110 shots). Per Left Wing Lock’s combinations from their last game, these seven are split across three lines. Horvat, who is Vancouver’s leading scorer at the moment, has been skating with Baertschi and Alexandre Burrows. The Sedins have been with Eriksson at right wing. Granlund and Sutter have been with Jayson Megna. Should a few of these groups get going, then match-ups will be even more of an issue for the Devils. It’s why I want the Devils to keep up what they did in Calgary because that was a game where multiple Devils lines had good games and won their match-ups. Doing it again could yield success tonight.

The Back End of Vancouver: Vancouver have been better defensively than the Devils this season. Their SA/60 is just above 30 according to Corsica. Their first pairing by way of average ice time would be Alexander Edler (just over 24 minutes) and Troy Stecher (just over 21 minutes). Stecher represents an offensive threat as he leads Vancouver defensemen in shots (84) and points (13) per Both Edler and Stecher are on the higher end of CF% among Vancouver defensemen even though they are both below 50% according to Corsica. In fact, no regular defender on Vancouver is above 50%. Still, with Erik Gubranson and Ben Hutton on the shelf due to injury, I would expect that pairing to see plenty of Taylor Hall tonight. Chris Tanev has had arguably tougher minutes in 5-on-5 play with a higher defensive zone start percentage; but with Luca Sbisa as his partner, I’m not so sure they’ll be the “tough minutes” pairing. We’ll see. All the same, the Vancouver blueline hasn’t exactly been a feature of the Canucks’ performance this season. If the Devils are able to execute and generate offense against a Flames blueline that features Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton; then they should be able to do so tonight.

Vancouver has received good goaltending in this season. According to Corsica, both Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom have positive GSAA values. They’re not large values, but they are above average. Their results have also been very similar. According to, their save percentages at even strength are both at 92.1%. Their penalty kill save percentage is only separated by 0.1%: Miller is at 87.3% and Markstrom is at 87.4%. Basically, whoever starts for Vancouver tonight should be able to provide an acceptable level of goaltending. According to this post by Gross at Fire & Ice, Miller is expected to start.

Speaking of Similar, Vancouver’s Power Play is Also a Blight on the Eyes: Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province has a regular feature called the Provies where he takes an in-depth look at the Canucks’ most recent performance. This is what he wrote about the Canucks-Flyers game and it includes a closer look at their power play. Based on Botchford’s post, Vancouver has had power play issues for a while. For this season, Vancouver’s power play success rate (13.7%, 19 for 139) performance is on par with New Jersey’s (13.3%, 20 for 150). That’s rather awful. Back to Botchford’s post, a key to stopping their top power play unit would be to prevent Troy Stetcher from doing much of anything. I think that’s something to look for from the Devils penalty killers if/when the Canucks go on a power play.

As for the flipside of special teams, well, Vancouver’s penalty kill has not been so strong. It’s not that their goaltenders have been particularly porous in shorthanded situations. Their defense has been. According to Corsica, Vancouver’s SA/60 in 4-on-5 situations is the third highest in the NHL at 52.3. That’s led to their success rate at home (77.6%) and overall (79.7%), which both rate in the lower third of the NHL right now. If there’s a night for the Devils power play to start functioning like one - like they did in their second power play against Calgary - then this is one to do so.

One Last Thought: If you want a sense of how different the Eastern and Western Conferences are this year, then consider where each team is in the standings. The Devils have 43 points and are fourteenth in the East. They are seven points and four teams behind the East’s second wild card spot at this moment. Vancouver is only two points and two teams (before late night games on Saturday) behind the West’s second wild card spot. The Canucks can still believe in a playoff run. New Jersey, not so much. So it goes.

Your Take: The Devils can win a second straight game and guarantee a positive result on this road trip. It’s exciting to think about. Will they get it? Can the Devils build on what they did in Calgary? Please let me know your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Devin will take care of the recap of this game; I thank him in advance. Thank you for reading.