Found February 13, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Driving in the Rain Sucks!

If there was ever a must see game in the NHL, Vancouver’s tilt vs. Phoenix Monday night is it.

Now I could be serious, or I could just be making light of the fact that this is quite possibly the 2nd to last time the Phoenix Coyotes as we know them, come to Rogers Arena.

Coyotes in Glendale Game 56 Coyotes vs. Canucks: Desert dogs driving hard into Vancouver

The way the Yotes have been able to hang around in Glendale this long is baffling.

Enter the Seamilton NorMetro-PoliDiques.

The way the Yotes have been able to hang around in Glendale this long is baffling. They will not be there forever and they will be somewhere far north of their present location soon.

Whether their jet lands in Seattle, Hamilton or Quebec City is yet to be seen, but you can be sure of one thing; better crowds will make for a more competitive and entertaining team in the near future.

So that being said, here are some of the arid story lines going into said tilt.

Who’s More Desperate?

These Desert Dogs have won a season high 5 games in a row. Why have they been able to do that? It comes down to desperation.

On paper, we all know they aren’t very good, but the players have heart.

They want to make the playoffs.

In fact, the Coyotes have the 4th best road record in the Western Conference. At 30th in home attendance, it’s almost as if playing in front of more fans in other cities helps.

Do I have to say I told you so? (NHL Attendance Records for 2011-12)

That being said, the Coyotes are only 2 points ahead of Calgary (60) for the 8th and final playoff spot and will be in that dog fight until the bitter end, especially with the Flames coming on at just the right time as Canucks fans found out Saturday.

Calgary isn’t the only team though. Colorado has 60 points, the Stars have 58 and Minny has 58. Heck, LA is one point AHEAD of Phoenix and Chicago is only 3 points ahead. A team in the Coyote’s position is scary.

Obviously what we’d like to see from the Canucks is more desperation but they just don’t seem to have it right now. They should have white washed Calgary on Saturday but had to come back from two down. While pretty secure in 2nd, 8 points ahead of the Sharks, they need to push for 1st place in the West; now only 2 points behind Detroit with a game in hand.

Advantage: Phoenix

Beast Mode Activate

Ok, so I’ve been pretty blasé the last couple games not giving opponents very much credit. Frankly, I was right in the fact that on paper, the teams the Nucks have faced should have been squashed but that simply didn’t happen.

Not only did I do it, but the Canucks have taken their opponents for granted.

Having said that, the Canucks and Coyotes played once this season, back on November 25th, and the dingos were decimated 5-0.

Sami Salo, Ryan Kesler, David Booth, Maxim Lapierre and Alex Burrows all scored en route to a Cory Schneider shutout.

The other factor here is goal differential.

At this point of the season, Vancouver has a +40 GD (178-138). On the flip side, Phoenix has a GD of +4 (148-144).

A major problem Vancouver has had lately is winning the shots battle. It’s been especially bad in the first 30-40 minutes of games where the Nucks have been outshot by margins of two to one and worse. They need to shoot more; it’s that simple.

Heck, even in the 3rd period Saturday, Henrik had a marvelous chance as he strode up the middle and into the slot unmolested, but chose to pass it to his winger heading into the corner.

It’s like these guys never learned the lesson, “Good things happen when you put pucks to the net.”

Advantage: Vancouver

Surprise Leader for Yotes

If you thought 41 year old Teemu Selanne leading the Ducks in points was impressive, how about Ray Whitney?

Coyotes vs. Canucks Keys To The Game 630x472 Game 56 Coyotes vs. Canucks: Desert dogs driving hard into Vancouver

Game 56 Coyotes vs. Canucks: Desert dogs driving hard into Vancouver

The 39 year old would obviously be expected to be a leader in the dressing room but he has also done it on the ice. In Whitney’s last 11 games, he has 15 points (2g, 13a). That takes the cake for team scoring with 51 points on the season.

The Fort Saskatchewan boy who turns 40 in May is also a +19, good for 16th league-wide.

On the other hand for the Canucks, their leaders are possibly starting to come around. While the Twins were shut out in Calgary, Henrik Sedin does have 5 points in his last 5 games and Daniel Sedin has 3 in his last 3.

Additionally, Ryan Kesler has 7 points in his last 8 games.

Unfortunately, his seven game point streak was ended in Calgary but we can still say he is almost back to his old self.

Of course we can’t forget “muh boi” Cody Hodgson who scored the Canucks’ first goal against Calgary. That marker pushed him into 6th in team scoring and 4th in NHL Rookie scoring with 31 points, only 4 behind the Devils’ Adam Henrique and the Oilers’ injured star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Perhaps it’s fitting though that Ray Whitney tops the list of Coyotes scorers. While he won a Cup in 2006 with the Hurricanes, he is in the twilight of his career and leading the team is his way of saying I want to win one more time.

It’s kind of heartwarming and pitiful that he thinks there’s any chance of that happening with Phoenix; and hey, who am I to say anything? No one expected Carolina to win it.

However, Monday night, if the Canucks aren’t careful, they could wind up being snake bitten once again by their Arizona adversaries.

Advantage: Even

BEST BET TO WIN: Vancouver

I still take Vancouver to win based simply on the fact that they are better and are due to blow out a team. Again, that may not happen against a team as desperate as Phoenix, but there is no way one can say Phoenix has the overall edge.

I don’t do betting, but take the Canucks by a couple.

Puck drop is at 7pm on Sportsnet Pacific or on TEAM1040 Radio.

Follow me on twitter @vancan19 for some great in-game tweets.

Also, if you haven’t read it yet, check out my exclusive interview with Canucks #1 goalie prospect and Chicago Wolves Starter Eddie Lack. READ HERE!

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSPORTSBEAT!

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Post tags: 2012, Alain Vigneault, Alex Burrows, Calgary, Calgary Flames, Canucks, Canucks Blog, Canucks Matchups, Canucks vs. Flames, Canucks vs. Flames Gameday, Canucks vs. Flames Preview, Cody Hodgson, Cory Schneider, Cory Schneider vs. Roberto Luongo, Flames, Game 55, Game Notes, game preview, Gary Bettman, glendale, hamilton, hockey blog, injured, Maxim Lapierre, NHL, NHL Preview, Phoenix Coyotes, quebec nordiques, Rogers Arena, Ryan Kesler, seattle, Seattle Metropolitans, Shane Doan, Sportsnet West, Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver vs. Calgary, Vancouver vs. Phoenix

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