After 13 games without a regulation loss, the Vancouver Canucks' strong play and (in many ways) good fortunes finally caught up to them against a technically sound Nashville Predators team. Tuesday night’s loss might not at first glance seem like a good thing for the Canucks, but in reality, it might be the best thing for them in the long run.
Of course, with a loss comes the questions of what exactly went wrong, and the answers highlight the same problems that the team has recently overcome against some of the top teams in the NHL.
For starters, Henrik and Daniel Sedin struggled once again when facing an elite defensive pairing, after having feasted on two subpar defensive teams over the weekend. In addition, the entire team didn’t play well for a full 60 minutes, and they relied on their goaltender to keep them in the game on too many occasions.
The only difference was that it finally caught up to them last night, which could provide the wake-up call needed to sort out their issues before heading into a showdown for first place in the Western Conference with the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings' 23-game home winning streak has been highly publicized (and deservedly so), but if the Canucks can play the way they’re capable of playing for all three periods, Detroit might finally come up on the losing end of a home game for the first time since November 3, 2011.
One thing working in the Canucks' favor is the absence of Pavel Datsyuk from the Red Wings' lineup. Datsyuk underwent arthroscopic surgery to his right knee on Tuesday and won’t play again for at least two weeks.
Datsyuk's importance to his team is obvious to even the most casual fan, but his absence might be even more glaring against a team like the Canucks, who boast two of the game's best puck-possession forwards in the Sedin twins.
In addition to his marvelous offensive talents, Datsyuk is arguably the game's best defensive forward because he specializes in takeaways: he has led the league in this category for three of the past five seasons. Because he’s so great at getting his stick in the way and stripping his opponents of the puck, he could cause problems for players like Henrik and Daniel—if only he were in the lineup.
Regardless, Detroit is still a dangerous team, and has many striking similarities to the Sedins and the rest of the Canucks in terms of how well they maintain possession of the puck once they gain control of it. The Canucks will have to be mindful of this because it was a big factor the last time these two teams faced each other, when the Canucks fell in a shoot out on February 2.
The Canucks' 13-game streak without a loss in regulation time may have provided some positive storylines, such as the strong play of David Booth and the emergence of Byron Bitz. However, the team needs to get a more consistent effort from their top forward line, and if they want to defeat the Red Wings on Thursday, they’ll be best served if they don't rely on Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider to bail them out too often.