by Nathan Auty
Vancouver Canucks @ Carolina Hurricanes Preview
As the NHL season reaches its halfway point the biggest impact on Canadian sides so far has been that of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has put a recent stop to fixtures north of the border.
Last season, because of strict cross-border travel restrictions, Canadian teams were all placed in the same division and every team played only against divisional opponents. This one-off “North” Division was disbanded upon completion of the campaign and intra-divisional games made their return for this season.
But the impact of new Coronavirus variants has been felt across the NHL with Canadian sides like Vancouver Canucks being hit with more interruptions as they try to keep their season going.
Canadian teams rocked by postponements
A raft of cancellations in the run up to the Christmas period of matches forced the NHL’s hand. League bosses have continued to localize cancellations on a team-by-team and week-to-week basis.
However, several Canadian provinces and local health authorities made their own decisions to initially limit attendance at large events to 50% of capacity and to restrict the sale of food and drinks.
Then the decision was made by some provinces to apply “no fan” restrictions as COVID cases rocketed around the Christmas-New Year period. This has had a major impact on those teams from the Great White North – some of those teams have had all of their home matches postponed since New Year’s, regardless of their opponents.
The league announced in a statement that those cancelled games would be rescheduled later in the season when COVID-19 restrictions may be eased or lifted – the thinking being that having crowds is vital to the game’s appeal. They are hoping that will come next month, with no NHL players being released to the Winter Olympics rosters.
Canadian teams can still fly southwards to play but the nature of this stop-start season and losing any home advantage has not been ideal.
Canucks desperate to get back on the ice
Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat has been outspoken on this issue recently, saying they just want to get back to playing hockey.
At the time of writing, Canucks had yet another game pushed back at just 24 hours notice – their
matchup on Jan. 8 with the Ottawa Senators was called off due to ongoing attendance restrictions.
“We were obviously looking forward to playing and with the game getting canceled and us being off for a long time, we want to play hockey,” Vancouver’s captain told ESPN.
“We feel like we have a pretty good thing going right now and it just keeps getting delayed, which is frustrating. But we can’t let this discourage us. We’ve just got to keep practicing, keep our legs under us and get ready for (next week’s) road trip.”
The Canucks have had seven games postponed since mid-December, haven’t played at all since Jan. 1 and they last hosted a game way back on Dec. 14.
Hitting form prior to stoppage
That last outing on New Year’s Day saw a convincing 5-2 victory over Seattle to return to winning ways after their seven-match streak was ended two days prior by the LA Kings.
Canucks’ form in December has really turned their season fortunes around thanks to a superb record of 8-1-1 helping them to climb up the standings and play their way back into playoff contention.
Compared to their returns in October (3-5-1) and November (4-9-1) which demonstrated a poor start to the season, there has been a dramatic improvement.
It must be said that their home record at Rogers Arena was the key, winning five in a row in the middle of the month. That streak was stopped in its tracks with four subsequent home fixtures postponed, prior to resuming on the road from Dec. 29.
The team has won two and lost one since then – beating Anaheim 2-1 in the other fixture – so it is too early to tell whether they have stepped up their game on their travels. A five-game road trip between Jan. 11 and Jan. 21 will tell us the answer.
Hurricanes tearing it up
The third of those five trips is at Carolina Hurricanes, who will no doubt prove to be a tough opponent. Hurricanes maintain the top spot despite a five-game winning streak coming to an end in an overtime defeat to Florida on Jan. 8.
They also possess the league’s best points percentage and best goal differential. They have no real obvious weakness and have a deep, talented group of forwards, a strong defense, and excellent goaltending at their disposal.
Consistently one of the best teams from the start of the season, their monthly breakdown reads:
October – 8-0-0
November – 7-5-1
December – 7-2-0
It’s a strong record from arguably the strongest team in the league, and it’s a record they will be confident of extending to continue the charge at the top of the standings.
Home success expected to repeat
Vancouver won the last meeting on Dec. 13 by a scoreline of 2-1, with home advantage in that aforementioned great winning streak, but their away form has been average so far and we see no sign of that changing certainly for this fixture.
Although Vancouver has appeared to have turned a big corner lately, it could have come too little too late for a playoff berth. The current situation of cancelled home matches may prove to be too big a mountain to overcome – especially this particular fixture against a tough opponent.
Carolina are by far and away the top team in the NHL so far and show no signs of slowing down. They will be expected to avenge that away defeat a month ago, even if it is by a narrow margin against a similarly in-form side.
They are 4-1 in their last five games against the spread and the totals have gone over in three of their last five outings – and in seven of their last 14 at home. Last season they claimed the Central division with a 36-12-8 record and so far this season they look set to match it.
With an expectant home win on the cards you can review the NHL odds and predictions in the best Canadian betting sites best Canadian betting sites to determine whether that outcome is worth a punt. It is no surprise that Carolina are favourites to win their next few games and their pre-season division odds of +475 are much reduced now.
You can bet on this and many other NHL games in Canada – up to 12 at once on some NHL sportsbooks. Online sportsbooks allow for a decent amount of mixing when parlaying your NHL bets as you can parlay them with other sports, although single-game sports betting has been legal in Canada since Spring 2021.
When to watch…
To see whether our prediction pays off you can find out in a few days time. Will the Hurricanes continue their charge to glory or will the changes in fortune for the Canucks be the difference? The clash between these two teams at the PNC Arena in Raleigh takes place on Saturday Jan. 15 at 1:00 pm EST.