BY: Jeff Schneberk
Well, after what has seemed like an eternity away from the game with too much time spent on Twitter, hockey night in Canada is back tonight as Leafs take on the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver. This will be Leafs’ first taste of the Canuck regime under new head coach John Tortorella.
It was also be a chance to go undefeated on their first western road swing since last winter.
The last time Leafs were in this building (Canuck Place), it did go well.
On that occasion, the Canucks won 6-2 and the Sedin brothers led the way with 4 points each.
A win would obviously give Leafs their longest winning streak of the season but Vancouver’s home ice is not going to be the easiest place to continue it.
Leafs have been outscored 44-21 in dropping 10 in a row to Vancouver but have been better at keeping opponents out of the net this season, especially Wednesday in Calgary and in particular, the night before in Edmonton.
Toronto has outscored opponents 12-3 during its last three games despite getting badly outshot in each game.
James Reimer made 43 stops in a 4-0 shutout of Edmonton on Tuesday in Edmonton and the Oilers had 17 more shots that Leafs did. These same Leafs also lead the Atlantic division with 2.29 goals allowed per game.
Reimer of course takes the modest approach when trying to set the story straight.
“It’s the whole team. It’s not just me and (Reimer),” Bernier said. “It’s just the way we’re playing. Even if we give up a lot of shots, we’re playing pretty good defensively.”
If he does in fact get the start tonight, chances are likely his team will need him tonight more than in Edmonton earlier this week, the Maple Leafs haven’t been so skilled at stopping the Canucks (9-5-1) in recent matchups.
Vancouver’s 10 straight wins in the series is the NHL’s second-longest active streak versus one opponent behind Chicago’s 11-game run against Columbus.
(Toronto) – Tyler Bozak is out for roughly another week with a lower body ailment. Frazer McLaren left Wednesday’s game due to trauma to the left eye, which he suffered in a fight with Brian McGrattan. However, he did practice yesterday. The good part of that tidbit is that Nazem Kadri should see more time with the other big boys on the top line, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. We all remember what happened last may in Game 6 vs Boston, don’t we??!
(Vancouver) – Jordan Schroeder (ankle), Jannik Hansen (upper body) and Dale Weise (lower body) are all on the injured reserve list for the Canucks. David Booth will be out of the lineup for a week, with a lower body injury.
* Stat line – Phil Kessel leads the way for the Leafs, with 18 points (9 goals & 9 assists, both team highs) in 14 games. Meanwhile, Henrik Sedin is the top scorer for the Canucks, also with 18 points (3 goals & 15 assists) in 15 games.
* Lineup – Mark Fraser practiced yesterday, but has been ruled out of tonight’s game by Randy Carlyle. Carter Ashton’s two-game suspension for boarding, means Nikolai Kulemin could return to the lineup. Yesterday, he skated with Joffrey Lupul and Jay McClement during practice.
* Stat line – The Leafs are 1st in the Eastern conference and 4th overall in terms of goals scored per game (3.36), with the Canucks ranked 16th (2.73). Defensively, Toronto and Vancouver are 7th (2.29) and 13th (2.67) respectively.
* Stat line – One of the keys to victory tonight will likely come in the power play and penalty kill departments. The Leafs are ranked an impressive 2nd (25.5%) and 3rd (86.8%) respectively, while the Canucks are 28th (9.3%) and 4th (86.3%) in the same categories.
Just inside the start of this season, Leafs’s brass opened up their wallets big in order to get Kessel locked down here for the rest of his life, pretty much lol, well two nights ago, Canucks’ management did the same thing with their two franchise players.
Vancouver signed the Sedins to four-year contract extensions Friday, reportedly worth $28 million apiece. Daniel Sedin has a team-best 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) during the win streak over Toronto.
Henrik Sedin is second with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) while Alex Burrows has a team-leading eight goals and seven assists during that run.
Toronto’s Phil Kessel has four goals and two assists in his last five games against Vancouver. Kessel had seven goals and three assists in his previous four contests before being held without a point Wednesday.
Leafs have two members leading the league in their respective categories; Kessel is third in points with 18 points, and tied in third for goals with 9 with Colorado’s Steve Duchene; James Reimer’s .949 Save Percentage is good for best in the league, but not by a whole lot, over Minnesota’s Josh Harding and his .946.