Canucks vs. Oilers: Round 7

The last time the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers played each other was just one of those nights when apparently all of hell had broken loose in General Motors Place.

The two teams combined for over 190 penalty minutes and the last minute of the game took a lot longer to play than usual because of the one…no two…no three line brawls that broke out after Alex Burrows made it 4-2 Canucks with an empty-net goal to stop the Oilers.

 Don’t expect that type of game to happen on Thursday night when the Canucks and Oilers meet for the first time since that hockey game-slash-bar room brawl back on Feb. 16.

Now don’t get your knickers in a knot just because there won’t be three line brawls.  The only reason we won’t see a repeat performance of Feb. 16 is because, right now, there is just too much at stake for both teams as they head into the final nine games of the season.

The Oilers have won nine of their last 11 games, albeit most of them in a shootout, and have climbed back into the playoff picture quietly as most of the focus has fallen on teams such the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.  Not only are the Oilers just hanging around and going about their business with much of the hockey world oblivious to their shenanigans, but they’re doing it with the likes of 18-year-old Sam Gagne, Andrew Cogliano, Tyler Brodziak and a supporting cast of players that doesn’t include Shawn Horcoff -who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury- or Ryan Smyth or Chris Pronger, both have moved onto different teams in the west.

Give the Oilers credit.  They’re a young team for the most part, but they give you an honest effort every game and they don’t back down. 

The Canucks still remain the biggest mystery in the NHL’s Western Conference because they can go from a group of tough, ornrie, focused hockey players with one common goal to a team that looks better suited for the exhibition season.  The last two games for the Canucks have been some of their best hockey.  In a 4-3 win in Dallas on Saturday and a 3-1 home victory over Phoenix last night, the Canucks have looked in sync, they have played tough hockey and haven’t backed down from their opponents.  Compare that to the two losses in Phoenix and Anaheim last week where the Canucks looked demoralized and scared of their opponents.

For the Canucks, they have nine games remaining against nine Northwest Division rivals, so they basically get a three week head start on playing playoff hockey.

To make the playoffs, the Canucks need wins.  Thank you Captain Obvious!  The Canucks also need courage.  These next nine games are going to be the toughest hockey of the season because there is very little room for error and the price will be paid physically and mentally.

For both teams, the next game and the eight that will follow are going to be what tells us what either team has.  The Canucks have had their leadership, their grit, their character questioned almost everyday since the All-Star break, so Thursday in Edmonton will be a good way to test their metal.

There won’t be 192 penalty minutes again because neither team can afford to goon it up.  Don’t kid yourself though.  Thursday will be a hard-hitting, nasty dog fight where the winner will be determined by how badly that team truly wants to win.

Saddle up, buckle your seatbelt, get strapped in, use whatever cliche you want for Thursday’s tilt, because it’s going to be a doozie.

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3 Responses

  1. All of the divisions have some crazy cross-divisional play going on down the stretch. It makes it exciting, that’s for sure, and even more so in a division like the Northwest where the teams are spread out by no more than a handful of points.

    Not quite sure why there’s all this hype about Edmonton, though. Yeah, they’re sneaking away the shootout wins like mad. But they would have to go 8-1 to pass Vancouver if the Canucks even played .500 hockey — not really all that hard a task.

    I worry more that Nashville will sneak in, leaving the Canucks and the Oils both on the outside looking in. But the Canucks do okay against divisional rivals, so hopefully they can pull off more than a few points!

  2. Oh for sure the odds are greatly stacked against Edmonton to get in, but did anyone think at the beginning of February that the Oil would somehow get back into a playoff race? Three weeks ago, TSN had them as their top 5 teams for the Steve Stamkos Sweepstakes, now they’ve won nine of their last 11 and have crept up into a position to at least have a shot at the playoffs.

    They also disposed of Phoenix 8-4 last night, so the Oilers are no pushovers and shouldn’t be taken lightly by any of the teams in the Northwest heading into this final stretch.

    Edmonton’s young players have played well and risen to the occasion. I doubt very highly they will make the playoffs, but give them credit where credit is due. No one believed they would have an above .500 winning percentage or a shot at the playoffs this season.

    Cam T

  3. Also, Nashville has hit the skids lately and i don’t think their goaltending will hold up in the next eight games, they also need to go 8-0 and the Canucks would have to literally fall apart for Nashville to get in.

    I guess we’ll know in nine games thought, won’t we?

    Cam T

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