Opening night

Vancouver (0-0-0) vs. Calgary (0-0-0)

The Canucks start the season with a divisional match-up, at home against the much despised Calgary Flames.

Serious hockey talk aside, my hatred for the Flames is limitless. Some might say it reflects poorly on me and that it makes me a very small man, but I freely admit that I feel a tremendous sense of edification every time the Canucks beat the miserable bunch of green hard hat-wearing, handlebar moustache aficionados.

At any rate, it is important for the Canucks to get a win in their home opener, for a couple of reasons.

Generally speaking, winning at home often separates playoff teams from non-playoff teams. One need look no further than the difference between the Canucks of 2006-2007 (Northwest Division champions) and the Canucks of 2007-2008 (11th place and out of the playoffs):

Last season, only 10 teams lost more games at home than they won. For their part, the Canucks (21-15-5) barely finished above .500 at GM Place. (See picture above.) The year before, their home record was markedly better at 26-11-4.

Orland Kurtenblog

More pertinent to this season, the Canucks immediately head out on what can best be described as a monumental kick-in-the-ass road trip. After playing the Flames at the Librarythe Saddledome on Saturday night, the ‘Nucks head out east for a five game road trip taking them through Washington, Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago and, finally, Columbus. Getting a precious win at home will help mitigate some of the difficulty the Canucks are bound to face over the next six games.

A few things to watch for in tonight’s game:

  • Whether and to what extent RW Steve Bernier clicks with the Sedin twins. The line looked downright impressive towards the end of the preseason. And, as a I mentioned in my 2008-2009 Season Preview, one of the criteria for the Canucks’ success this year will be Bernier scoring 30 goals-plus.
  • Whether the Canucks get some much needed offensive punch from their second line, likely to have Pavol Demitra playing between Mason Raymond and Taylor Pyatt.
  • Whether Roberto Luongo outplays Mikka Kiprusoff.
  • Oh, and of course, whether former Canuck Todd Bertuzzi can be effective as a front line offensive contributor again.

Go ‘Nucks.

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