Nils vs Washington

After splitting the opening two games of their five-game road trip, the Vancouver Canucks are in Detroit to battle with the Red Wings on Saturday morning and will follow that up with a Sunday affair against the Washington Capitals.

It’s time for a double preview.

Let’s go!

The Canucks have their eyes on a bounce-back response after picking up their first regulation loss since January 4th. Over the last 13 games, the Canucks are 10-1-2 but aren’t going to rest on their record. The team wants to get back into the win column and this weekend will see a pair of early games for them to get back on track.

Please note the most important sentence in this article: Saturday’s game is a 10:00 am PT start time and Sunday will see a 10:30 am PT start.

The Red Wings are having a strong season and are holding onto the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also in the middle of their best stretch of the season and hold a 9-2-2 record over their past 13 games. They’ve outscored their opponents 44-33 through their hot streak and have been led by their captain, Dylan Larkin.

Larkin has picked up 10 goals in his last 13 games and has been clicking well with his linemates Alex DeBrincat and 21-year-old Lucas Raymond.

The young Raymond is having a career year and is on pace for 67 points. He was selected 4th overall in the 2020 draft and is in his third NHL season with the Wings. Raymond isn’t the only young player making an impact on their roster. Mo Seider is the leading man on the backend and he has been eating up a ton of minutes this season.

Seider is playing on both special teams units and is paired with Jake Walman on Detroit’s top pairing. The defence corps includes some known names like Shayne Gostisbehere, Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta, and Jeff Petry.

Between the pipes, Alex Lyon is beginning to separate himself from the pack as the number one goaltender. He’s holding a .922% save percentage through 21 starts and is 13-6-2 on the season. Lyon has one of the league’s top goals save above average stat with an 11.8 GSAA.

Quick Hits on the Competition (DET):

  • The Red Wings have the 11th-ranked penalty kill in the league and have killed off 81.3% of the penalties they have taken this season. They have been hot on the PK lately, killing off 17 of their last 19.
  • Their power play also ranks 11th in the league. It’s clicking at 22.7% and the leaders in power play goals are DeBrincat and Larkin, who are tied with eight.
  • Veteran NHLer Patrick Kane is expected to return from an injury that has kept him out since January 14th.
  • Mo Seider is one of the five players in the NHL with over 100 hits and blocked shots this season. Ben Chiarot will be joining that club soon as he just needs seven more blocked shots and two more hits.
  • The Red Wings have scoring throughout the lineup and have 10 players on their roster with double-digit goals. Larkin leads the way with 23 and is the only Red Wings player with over 20 goals.

Now, let’s dive in on Sunday’s opponent, the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals will also be on the second day of a back-to-back as they battle with the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The Caps have been struggling lately, they have six straight losses but still sit just seven points out of a wild card spot.

Dylan Strome is beginning to evolve into the offensive leader of their team while Alex Ovechkin is still producing at a high level. Strome and Ovechkin are tied for the team lead with 33 points this season. The big difference between Strome and Ovechkin’s production has been the efficiency of their shooting. The season has not been nice to Ovechkin, he has a 6.9% shooting percentage while Strome’s has been much better, clocking in at 17.6%.

Ovechkin and Strome are joined by All-Star Tom Wilson on the Caps’ top line and they headline a top-six that sees a second line of Max Pacioretty, the speedy Connor McMichael, and T.J. Oshie.

On the backend, offensive-minded defenceman John Carlson is joined by Rasmus Sandin, Joel Edmundson, and former Canuck Ethan Bear on a defence corps that has combined for 10 goals this season.

Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren have basically been splitting starts this season and Lindgren has much better counting stats in his starts – picking up a .912% save percentage compared to Kuemper’s .894%. With the Caps playing in back-to-backs over the weekend, we will have to check in on Saturday to see who they start against the Bruins.

Quick Hits on the Competition (WASH):

  • Alex Ovechkin’s shooting percentage has never been this low in a season and he has only ever finished one season shooting under 10%. He looks due for some regression to the mean.
  • John Carlson is third in the NHL for average ice time per game. Carlson is averaging 25:36 a night right now. It will be interesting to follow how he looks on game two of back-to-back and the Capitals’ third game in four nights.
  • The Caps have the 27th-ranked power play in the league and though Ovechkin has fired 130 shots at the net, he only has five goals with the man-advantage this season.
  • As for their penalty kill, it ranks 17th in the league with a 79.3% kill rate. Tom Wilson and Connor McMichael each have a shorthanded goal this season.

The Canucks are looking to regroup and get back to their winning ways this weekend and we once again have these early start times for their road games on the weekend.

Checking in on special teams, the power play has been hot of late, scoring 10 goals on their last 27 attempts. That’s good for a 37% conversion percentage. The problem has been that the Canucks have allowed four shorthanded goals against over their last three games. Look for this to be fixed quickly.

The Canucks are currently five points clear of the second-place team in the Western Conference and remain at number one in the league for goal differential at +56. The team has been extra motivated after losses and has put up six goals in each of their last two games following a regulation loss.

Since the turn of the calendar to 2024, Elias Pettersson ranks second in the league for goals with 14 and is fifth in points with 22.

J.T. Miller is tied with Connor McDavid for seventh place in points since we began 2024. Miller has seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 15 games.

The Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek pairing has now played over 715 minutes of five-on-five play together and their numbers are showing extremely well. When Hughes and Hronek are on the ice together, the Canucks have scored 53 goals and allowed 29. That gives them a 64.3% control of the goal share.

No pairing has been on the ice for more goals scored; in fact, no pairing is that close. The second-best offensive pairing in the NHL is the duo of Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns, which has been on the ice for 42 goals – which is 11 less than Hughes and Hronek.

Backup goaltender Casey DeSmith could see action this weekend and he has been great over his last six starts. DeSmith has just one regulation loss over this period, giving him a 7-3-4 record on the year. DeSmith has a .916% save percentage over his last six games and had one shutout in that period.

Canucks’ Top Performers over the Last Five:

Brock Boeser: 3g-5a-8p
Quinn Hughes: 1g-7a-8p
Pius Suter: 4g-2a-6p
J.T. Miller: 1g-4a-5p
Elias Pettersson: 2g-2a-4p

A final reminder that both of the games are early ones this weekend.

Saturday’s game is a 10:00 am PT start against the Detroit Red Wings.

Sunday’s game is a 10:30 am PT start against the Washington Capitals.

Both games can be watched on Sportsnet and the radio broadcast is available on Sportsnet 650 with Brendan Batchelor on the call.

Get your coffee going and enjoy the weekend games.