As Toronto shows off for the NBA All Stars, the Leafs continued their Western Trip with the traditional 4 PM start at Rogers Arena now an almost expected thing, even if it is an inconvenience to the fans of the home team. Not that it was a crowd of purely Canuck fans. But the transplants were LOUD tonight.
These two teams are examples of the vagaries of the "rebuild". The Canucks are trying to do it on the fly, putting youth in positions where they can succeed, in a "winning environment". Now, I hear the snickers already, but there can be no argument that the Canucks were, until very recently, one of the winningest regular season teams ( 5th from 2004-5 to 2014-15 ) in the NHL. ( and screw the traditionists. The Maple Leaf is an iconic uniform, of course. But the sharpest ones on the ice tonight with those Black Flying Skates. So sharp. )
Of course, the Leafs have had a slightly different way of doing it. Until recently, that was more the "tire fire on the fly"method, overpaying "names" to come, ( or trading, like the one where a pick that became Tyler Seguin went for Phil "One Way" Kessel ) while not playing the kids, and seemingly always being in a losing environment.
Those days are done. The Leafs have bottomed out, and are now managed by a smart GM and a guy in Shanahan that seems to have a vision. Plus, they hired Mike Babcock. Teams have to play hard for that guy !
There are a few things that seem to happen in these games. They usually end in a Canuck victory, ( usually! ) as the Leafs had not won here in a long time, The Leaf fans are going to be loud regardless ( and they were very loud from the get go, which seemed to enthuse the young Buds ), and Craig Simpson is going to bitch about how Willie Desjardins uses the Sedins.
That last one is the most annoying, to tell you the truth. It is also, by far, the most predictable. Like death and taxes.
You have to give it to the Maple Leafs hockey club this evening. Whether it was the crowd giving them an early boost, or that the Canucks were more interested in running Frank Corrado at every opportunity than the two points ( just kidding. They were running the one time teammate all night though. Everyone took a piece out of him, but that is not the reason they lost. ) , the Leafs won because they skated harder and controlled the play for longer periods of time.
It started early on, with Komarov hitting the post on the power play ( after Derek Dorsett took a stupid penalty for roughing Corrado ) , and continued throughout most of the first period. Vey's line had a good chance to score, and the Sedin line on the subsequent shift drew a penalty, but that was another difference on the night. The Leafs got some momentum from their power plays. ( 0 for 4, the Canucks 0 for 3 ) This power play was simply pitiful, as was most of the power plays for the Canucks tonight.
This one had a couple shots, at least. That was an accomplishment on the night, as it turns out ! The Leafs were full value for the chants from their adoring expatriate fans after one, as their team had a 16-7 edge in shots, with a lot of those being good opportunities as well. Thank goodness for Ryan Miller.
The Canucks came out a bit better in the second, and Bo and Sven almost got something early ( I think it was on a shift where Simpson insisted it be the Twins instead ) before a bunch of scoring happened at both ends. First, Daniel Sedin popped one home to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead at the 3:18 mark. Mark Arcobello got the first of two straight just 1:09 later, as Baertschi missed the tip on a clear from the defense, where Arcobello managed to get a slight bounce to get the tying goal.
There was nothing but talent on the next one, just 00:17 later. After an icing, Arcobello won a draw, and Jake Gardiner simply danced Vrbata from the point, before feeding the centreman for a tap in and a 2-1 lead. Of course, the transplanted Easterners in the audience loved that even more.
The Leafs then got another power play, and this one bothered me as a hockey fan. Clune talked from the bench with Derek Dorsett for a full break, and then was out on the ice with him right afterwards. Both these guys, in a situation like that, when they "face off" after a puck drop, hockey fans know what is going to happen, because it is a part of the "code". That Rich Clune dummied his gloves after initiating the "wanna fight" response to the talk on the bench will get around. It was simply something that is not part of the "code". And before you say it's a smart play, he took advantage of Dorsett's desire to fight ", understand that these fights, the ones that are not organic and a result of the play, they happen in this very way. Clune if going to get known as a synonym for a house cat amongst a certain segment of the league pretty damn fast as a result of his actions tonight.
Back to the game though, and thank you for the personal interlude. The Canucks killed off the penalty anyhow, and did nothing with one on Leipsic either. The chippiness continued as well. Burrors and Corrado then took offsetting minors, and Hank Sedin and Komarov went at it and got the same. The ice opened up a bit, and Bo and Sven almost took advantage of it, but the period ended with the visitors up by one.
The Canucks had an early chance to tie it, and it took maybe Reimer's best save on Etem to deny it. Willie changed up the lines, putting Vrbata with the Twins, and Virtanen with Sven and Bo on a reconstituted Kid Line. The early jump from the team even got them a power play, as Corrado tripped Baertschi, but that might have been the worst on a night when the power play was mostly "clownshoes". Give the Leafs credit there too, as they pressured hard, but this was not the best night for the moribund power play.
Young Leipsic then got his first goal in the NHL after a puck that was a failed pass by Bartkowski to Burrows went to the point, and was thrown on net. It went high in the air, and as Miller searched for it, he was going the wrong way when the rookie was the first to spot it, as Leipsic bunted it home.
The Canucks pressed after that, but the Leafs did a good job of killing the game off. Sven Baertschi finally got a goal as a reward for that line's good work, as Bo Horvat worked the puck in the zone well, before a bad break and a bad play ( Virtanen broke his stick as he was set up in the high slot for a prime shooting opportunity, it led to Boyes' empty netter ) sealed the deal. After the stick break, Barykowski made a puzzling pass at the line that led to a dribbler into the empty net for Komarov to end the scoring.
So, two points that they should have had, on paper, get lost. I will give the credit where it is due, to the visiting team, and while there was some troubling moments in this one, there is simply no guessing any more. Although, it is probably only the next five games or so. There are six before the deadline on the 29th, though the Minny and Anaheim home games Monday and Thursday are going to be very important now. With how we hang on every game and watch the standings as we help Jim Benning decide to buy or sell, it will be interesting to see where we are by the time I recap the road game versus the Flames, before the Avs, Sens, and Sharks visit Vancouver before the 29th.
Final Numbers - the faceoffs were 11-10 aftwe one, and 24-18 after two for the Leafs, but it was the Canucks that won that battle, 34-33 on the night. It was the 16-7 after one, 31- 11 after two, and 38 - 19 after three on the shot clock that was the embarrassing part. You never want to get outshot two to one on home ice, in a game where you have more to play for than your opponent. Here are the stats. There are too many players for the visitors with multiple shots to list here.
Let's just say that they played well, the Canucks did not, and now we are in playoff / "seller" "limbo for another week. Shitty for Henrik Sedin that his 1141st game ( most in Canuck history ) was a loss. Did you know that in that whole time, he has missed just 28 games ? Amazing...
See ya Friday.