The Canucks entered the Air Canada Centre with a long losing streak, and an inability to score masking that they have actually been playing some decent hockey. They played well in Montreal and Ottawa, but you have to score to win.
They got the first part right, anyhow...unfortunately, it was not enough.
The Canucks started out pretty good in this one. For a bit. When you have a defence that is young, minus your top pairing of Edler and Tanev, mistakes are going to happen ( some by vets too, there is less cohesion in a lineup not deep enough ). They were actually ahead in shots, 3-1, before the Leafs turned it on.
Ryan Miller was up to it. He made stops that could have been goals often and early. It was the Sedans versus the Kadri line, as Babcock went for the matchup all ( well, while he could, more on that on that in a minute ) and after Brendan Gaunce somehow got a penalty for being roughed up by resident Leaf gorilla Matt Martin, the teams were four on four. After a ( one of many offensive zone face off wins for them ) loss on the draw, Zatsev went for a skate, the Canucks lost Kadri, and he made a nice shot to open the scoring.
At that point, the shots were about 14-3, against, as the Leafs seemed quicker. The home team got a lucky one soon after, as another loose play along the boards led to a shot that bounced a bit, before Bozak got the last touch to make it 2-0.
It looked like one of "those games", but Derek Dorsett finally broke the goose egg, off a nice Hansen pass from behind the net, to make it 2-1. It was almost 3-1, but Mathews was robbed on the poke check by Miller to keep it a one goal game.
Stats after one ? Well, of course they were bad. The shots were 17-7 against. ( the Leafs did have 7 blocks to 0 for the Canucks ) The hits were 16-10, and the faceoffs were 11-8 ( though it seemed that the Leafs were winning every offensive draw in the first, and really, all night ). All in all, it was an OK period, but one that they could have done better in.
The lines were in the blender most of the night. Some of that was the coach trying to get things going. Some just because of circumstance. One move that will get the #CanuckTeaParty and TSN1040 callers tongues wagging was Jake Virtanen getting replaced with Bo and Sven by Dorsett, but he did not deserve the ice. ( just a quick thing on that. Nylander is scoring now, and may turn out to be the better pick, for those that like rehashing these things. Remember folks, it is educated guessing, and kids mature in this game at different rates. Virtanen is 19. Settle down ) The team got a good start in the period once again, and this period was more back and forth for a while.
The Canucks got a power play with about eight minutes left, but a sketchy call on Bo Horvat for hooking ( the defender had his stick clasped under his arm, and the ref got fooled ) took them off it 9 seconds later. That led to what was the bane of the Canucks tonight, 4 on 4 play. This time, they got away with it, but after a Hansen high sticking call, the Leafs scored on the power play, as Bozak took a nice Mitch Marner pass and beat Miller for the two goal lead again.
Credit the Canucks battle though. They had a good Sedin shift, and when Larsen held the line and fed Henrik Sedin in front, he showed the guys on his team how to do it, calmly stickhandling the goalie and roofing it to make it 3-2.
After two, it was 30-19 in shots, 25-17 in hits, and 27-19 on faceoffs. The Canucks were still competing, but the Leafs just seemed a bit better. It was only a one goal game, and the Leafs have let in 16 goals in the 3rd so far, compared to scoring 6. So, the game was still there.
Right off the bat though, it didn't look good in the final frame. Hyman got a great chance, but was robbed by Miller. Soon after, the lead was 4-2, when a 2 on 1 was played very well by the Buds, with Bozak finding the tape of Marner, who beat Gudbranson and then the goalie to score. Auston Mathews hit the post, and then on a slightly controversial play ( Hutton was checked, but it looked like the play could have been called icing ), Smith checked the defensemen and fed Soshnikov, who went five hole to make it 5-2.
THAT is when shit really went down. First, Hansen was levelled on a clean hit by Morgan Reilly. I have no problem with that. I do, however, have a HUGE problem with the Kadri hit to the head of Daniel Sedin. Just as he was shooting ( and scoring , to make it 5-3 ) on that rush, Kadri came from the blind side and put his forearm right into his head. It was predatory. It was dirty. And he is a repeat offender. Five games ? Well, we'll see, it was a Canuck that was hit, and Daniel did return from the quiet room. Maybe because it is a Leaf, he'll just get a stern talking to. It shoud be five games though.
That led to a cavalcade of madness. The instigator penalty to Hansen, ( 2 - 5- and a game ) was fine. He did that. But the next two fights that followed soon after, when Dorsett and Komarov went, was a consensual fight, as was Burrows and Reilly ( and maybe Burr did that on purpose, the stick to the chest of Reilly, and maybe he just fell. I don't know. I do know that anyone trying to equate that to the "false equivalence" of "well, both sides were dirty " is a fool ), who wrestled more than fought anyhow. That gave the Leafs an entirely underserved 2 man advantage. The Canucks killed that off, but come on refs!
Oh yeah, there was another goal too. It was between the Hansen fight and the Dorsett one, and three Canucks were below the line on a four on four when the puck was fed to Gardiner in the slot all alone. He had all day to score to make it 6-3.
OK, back to the madness. Matt Martin is the fourth line goon that Babcock never really had in Detroit. The T.O market must demand them. Anyhow, he was upset that Komarov went with Dorsett instead of him, when he asked. So, to show how tough he was, he went in the corner with Troy Stecher. The kid is way smaller, but he twice checked the puck off him, with a good stick. This "being better at hockey" thing upset the gorilla, and he dumped, and then tried to maul the rookie defenseman.
Ryan Miller came to the rescue. Never even hesitated. Dropped the blocker and catcher, and jumped right in there. That led to a melee, and many, many penalty minutes ( scroll down on the final stats here. The third period penalty summary goes on forever ) The funniest one in there is Stecher getting five for fighting. OK then refs ! Maybe you should have given him an "instigator" too. Seemed like you liked that call tonight.
So, that is the eighth loss in a row. The next game is on Monday in Brooklyn, and the Islanders are not an easy out any more. Colour me a positive person, but I think they win that one. Why ? Well, the defensive play has to improve, but the effort is there. They played hard, they scored, but they lost. How can I think they win that one ?
Because hockey is like that. Columbus beat the best team record wise 10-0 the other night. This was one of those games that "brings a team together". Now that they remember how to score ( some of them, Sven Baertschi had a couple good chances tonight. He is still snakebit, as is Loui Eriksson, who also had a couple chances in close. ), they might just get into one of those " "*** it, let's kick some ass " moods teams get after a loss like this. Lots of guys stood up for one another tonight. That matters.
Special mention to a couple guys in the loss. Nikita Tryamkin looked really good tonight. On a night where the "top"pairing ( Gudbranson and Hutton ) was each a -4, he was +1. He had 3 hits, a couple blocks, and a couple shots in 20:02 TOI. Mostly, he played his position really well, and even pinched effectively a couple times. Derek Dorsett had 5 shots, and was a spark on the line with Sven and Bo. I know everyone wants the "Kid Line", but he deserved to be there.
Final stats were 42-29. The hits were 32-24 T.O, and they dominated the faceoffs in the third to win that going away, 42-27. Hey, the Canucks did win the blocks tally, 16 - 13 !
Moral victories don't get you points guys. Love how you "stood up" in this one...but how about a real one on Monday?