2011-12 has, to a large extent, been like the two seasons preceding it. The Oilers have iced some good young talent. The team has had a bunch of obvious weaknesses that were obvious weaknesses in the summer, and has suffered for not addressing them in a satisfactory manner. And meaningful games were more or less finished by the time the Christmas break rolled around.
There are, however, exceptions. Judging by what fans here and elsewhere have told me, a game against the Vancouver Canucks is always a meaningful game.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Canucks, personally. My dad’s a Canucks fan, and has been for his entire life. Unlike a lot of fans, for who last year’s finals appearance was the only one they remember, my dad has seen three – 1982, 1994 and 2011. He’s never seen them win it all, and when I think about a long-suffering fan who has been through the tough years, my dad comes to mind.
(I took after my mom, who fell in love with the Oilers during the dynasty years.)
Still, my dad isn’t the image most people have in mind when they think of Canucks fans. The Stanley Cup riots, and the perception that many fans are indifferent people jumping on a trendy bandwagon have given even good hockey fans a bad name.
It’s one of the reasons that people tell me they like to see the Canucks lose. Others commonly mentioned are the Bertuzzi/Moore incident, the Cooke/Ruutu years, and the current peskiness of players like Burrows, Kesler and Lapierre. Whether or not it’s a deserved reputation, there’s no denying that the Canucks are not a team well-loved on the whole by other Canadian fans.
The Status Quo
According to associate coach Ralph Krueger, the Oilers will roll with the same group up front and on the back end as they did against Colorado. From the official website:
"(Corey) Potter and (Theo) Peckham are both really close and they could in an emergency be put in, so that’s going forward, but tonight we’ll go with the same defencemen and the same forwards.”
Also according to the official site, Nikolai Khabibulin will get the start in net. This isn’t a surprise after a weak performance by Devan Dubnyk against the Avalanche.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will come out fired up, but the Canucks will dominate the play. Khabibulin will have a great night, and the Oilers will force overtime but lose 3-2 in the extra frame.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Two of the Canucks’ goals will come off Cam Barker giveaways, while Jordan Eberle will score one for the Oilers.
NOT-SO-OBVIOIUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The camera will turn to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the press box, where we’ll see him paying rapt attention as Darcy Hordichuk gestures wildly and makes insane faces. It will turn out that Hordichuk, just like Jason Strudwick, has a few Krzysztof Oliwa stories that he was sharing with the Oilers’ rookie.