Unlike previous years, no one is penciling Vancouver in as early Stanley Cup favourites, and there are plenty of critics who think the club is bound to finish outside of the playoff bubble. There’s plenty cause for concern; the Sedins are a year older, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, Zac Dalpe, and Ryan Stanton are the only additions from last year’s team, and the club success likely hinges around the health of Ryan Kesler and David Booth. Oh, and we haven’t even delved into the gong show that is the Roberto Luongo saga.
Nevertheless, it ultimately still is a brand new season. As quickly as things can go wrong, a team’s misfortune can turn into opportunity. The Canucks embark on a new season tonight against the Sharks, where the newly-named SAP Center (formerly the HP Pavilion) will be the site of the renewed rivalry between Vancouver and San Jose.
Last Year’s Meetings
Fans will remember last year’s humiliating four-game sweep at the hands of the Sharks; the Canucks were outscored 15-8, but two of those losses came in overtime and in actuality the series was closer then the combined score indicates. Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler led the way with a pair of goals each, but the trio of Zack Kassian, Chris Higgins, and Jannik Hansen were held pointless. (Dearly) departed trade deadline acquisition Derek Roy had one assist, so yeah, he won’t be missed.
Who to watch
Booth will play in the regular season opener for the first time as a Canuck after missing last year’s debut with injury, and like stated above, he’s a wildcard for any potential team success. Simply put, John Tortorella is banking on him to returning to his 20-goal form.
It’s also the first time fans will get a look at waiver wire pickup Ryan Stanton on the blueline; he’ll start the game on the third pairing with Chris Tanev. Ditto for recent acquisition Zac Dalpe, who will play between Dale Weise and Tom Sestito on the fourth line.
Roberto Luongo will get the start… Wait, we’re not playing that game anymore?
For the Sharks, keep a close eye on Tomas “Teenage Mutant Ninja” Hertl, San Jose’s 2012 first rounder who will start the year on the top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. Former Penguin-turned-Shark Tyler Kennedy will flank Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau for the second line.
Tonight’s Line Combos
Sedin – Sedin – Burrows
Higgins – Kesler – Hansen
Booth – Santorelli – Richardson
Weise – Dalpe – Sestito
Edler – Garrison
Hamhuis – Bieksa
Stanton – Tanev
For San Jose
Hertl – Thornton – Burns
Marleau – Couture – Kennedy
Nieto – Pavelski – Wingels
Sheppard – Desjardins – Hamilton
Irwin – Boyle
Vlasic – Braun
Stuart – Demers