As if this week can't get any worse, the Canucks, still at risk of catching leprosy in the hellhole state of Florida are now teed up for another potential embarrassment: the OEL Revenge Game.
CANUCKS (2-2-0) at PANTHERS (2-2-0)
4:00 PM PST
It all started so good, didn't it?
That 8-1 win, followed by the 4-3 win over the Oilers back to back to start the season, and it felt, even with a few hiccups in that second game, that things might be different this season. And yeah, we should know better, so shame on us. Since then, it's been deja-vu all over again, as we've been treated to two straight losses in oh-so familiar ways.
Despite Thatcher Demko starting the season with a vengeance, and the outstanding defensive work of Quinn Hughes, the jaw dropping emergence of JT Miller as the Canucks best two way player thus far, and Brock Boeser on a heater to start the year, they're still getting worked by shitty teams, and when they show up against better teams, unable to overcome errors that always end up in their net.
They had a sniff at a win in Tampa, but the same piss-poor defensive play that has plagued this team for years was once again the reason they lost. And the ringleader? Tyler Myers. How bad was he on Thursday night? He was 'I don't even wanna talk about him scoring a goal because it doesn't matter' bad. Glaring, head shaking mistakes that led to goals, and as the cherry on top, taking out Elias Pettersson with a slapshot late in the third to just compound the Canucks' problems.
So they head south for a game against the Florida Panthers, who have their own struggles so far after making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in June. One guy who hasn't struggled for them so far? Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Yeah, that OEL. And while the Canucks struggle with the reality of having to give Tyler Myers icetime, the Panthers appear to be just what Ekman-Larsson needed to rejuvenate the tail-end of his career.
And unlike the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Panthers have won two straight, but that doesn't mean they're gonna be any less of a challenge today. So what do the Canucks have to do in order to bump this slump and move back into the win column?
First, they need to come out and play pissed off. And they should be. Despite a better performance, this team has not been good to start this season, and quite literally wasted a couple fantastic performances from Demko, they'd love nothing more than to give him an easy night.
Secondly, and probably the most important factor in securing a win tonight, the Canucks absolutely cannot play another second period like the ones they've put forth so far this season. It's become their trademark over the past few seasons: just completely and utterly disappearing in the middle frame of games, regardless of being in the lead or not. So many losses because they simply couldn't be arsed to give a 60 minute effort. It's frustrating as hell to watch and has to change if they don't want to fall out of the race before Christmas. Yes, it's that dire.
And finally, they need to stay out of the penalty box. While the penalty kill does appear to be better after last season's historically bad performance, it's still not where it needs to be. So that means being smart about antagonizing their opponents, and especially tonight, not getting suckered into retaliation penalties against Matthew Tkachuk. The Canucks are definitely moving towards a team that's not fun to play against, but even teams with a power play as weak as Florida will take their chances against a 72% penalty kill.
This potential list was found scrawled on the belly of a gator that wandered into a Miami Beach Hardee's, though it may have also been from nhl dot com.
Canucks projected lineup
Phillip Di Giuseppe -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser
Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Andrei Kuzmenko
Dakota Joshua -- Pius Suter -- Sam Lafferty
Anthony Beauvillier -- Jack Studnicka -- Conor Garland
Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek
Ian Cole -- Tyler Myers
Carson Soucy -- Mark Friedman
Scratched: Noah Juulsen, Nils Hoglander
Injured: Teddy Blueger (lower body), Guillaume Brisebois (undisclosed)
Panthers projected lineup
Evan Rodrigues -- Aleksander Barkov -- Sam Reinhart
Carter Verhaeghe -- Eetu Loustarinen -- Matthew Tkachuk
Nick Cousins -- Anton Lundell -- Justin Sourdif
Ryan Lomberg -- Kevin Stenlund -- Steven Lorentz
Gustav Forsling -- Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Niko Mikkola -- Dmitry Kulikov
Josh Mahura -- Uvis Balinskis
Scratched: William Lockwood, Mike Reilly
Injured: Johan Gadjovich (upper body), Sam Bennett (lower body), Brandon Montour (shoulder), Aaron Ekblad (shoulder)
So, if this lineup holds, it'll be the return of Ilya Mikhayev to the Canucks lineup, and that is definitely something that will make them better. Mikhayev's speed and skill could also be the catalyst that gets Andrei Kuzmenko going. It's unfortunate that it means Nils Hoglander has to come out, but it should put the other bottom six wingers on notice that they'll replace him in the press box if they don't perform.
It's a scheduled start for Casey DeSmith, who was outstanding in his first start, withstanding an Oilers barrage in that 4-3 win over the Oilers to start this road trip. This is a winnable game for the Canucks, if... everything goes right. The Panthers are without Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett and Brandon Montour, as well as former Canuck Jonah Gadjovich. Another former Canuck, Will Lockwood, appears to be a healthy scratch tonight. The Panthers aren't a pushover, but are missing some of their best players, and if the Canucks can get a couple past Bobrovsky early and play a disciplined road game, they should be able to head to Nashville on a winning note ahead of Tuesday's contest.
GAME DAY CHATTER
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
Ex-SEPULTURA mainmen Max and Igor Cavalera have been on an absolute tear over the past couple years, and fresh off their reworking of SEPULTURA's first two albums, they've unleashed a new one from their other other project: Go Ahead And Die. The beauty of this? It doesn't sound like SEPULTURA, SOULFLY, CAVALERA CONSPIRACY or NAILBOMB, yet it's unmistakably got the Cavalera DNA all over it. Gonna have to dig deeper on this one, as this track is an absolute beast!
Enjoy the game, and we'll do this again on Tuesday evening as they wrap up the roadtrip in Music City against the Predators. Go Canucks Go!