Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
When: 4:00 pm PST
Where to Watch: SN, CBC
SB Nation Opposition Blog: Pension Plan Puppets
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: This is always one of the games that’s circled on the schedule. Whether it’s just the excitement of playing one of the other Canadian teams, especially on Hockey Night In Canada, to the added effect of it being one of the measuring stick games, this should have been something to look forward to. And then Montreal came along and ruined everything.
Sure, there’s still Brock Boeser, who had a hell of a game the last time the Canucks were in town. And guys like Bo Horvat and Chris Tanev will be fired up to be playing in front of family and friends. They’ll also likely be pumped to put a bad game in Montreal behind them tonight. But the excitement that was building up to see Elias Pettersson going head to head against Auston Matthews has been taken away and now this game feels as pointless as visit to Phoenix in the last week of March. Add in the disappointment of Josh Leivo having a big game against the team that traded him away and any storyline of significance is gone from this one.
Hyperbole? Perhaps. But the Pettersson effect is real, and the ripples that his absence cause through this lineup change this team. It especially changes the way Brock Boeser plays the game. It means Tim Schaller stays in the lineup. They’re likely not to start Thatcher Demko, called up from the Utica Comets in the wake of the Anders Nilsson trade that could give this game the spark needed for the Canucks. It’s a sign that the Canucks aren’t where they need to be just yet that one player’s absence can derail a team (I mean, one doesn’t ever want to go full Edmonton Oilers, right?).
The test shifts from being ‘can they compete against upper echelon teams’ to ‘can they remain competitive without Petey in the lineup?’ and while that should be something that intrigues us, we’ve seen the way injuries to key players have impacted the team this season. The Canucks were a .500 team without Pettersson during the 6 games he missed following the Mike Matheson incident, and those 3 games required to OT’s and a shootout. In the losses, they were outscored 13-4, and the first game back for EP saw them stomped 5-0 by the Penguins.
Michael Hutchison will get the start for the Leafs tonight, who have goaltending issues even worse than the Canucks right now. Frederik Andersen practiced with the team yesterday, but hasn’t been cleared to return to the lineup after suffering a groin injury. If there’s anything that gives the Canucks a fighting chance tonight, it’s that they’ll be facing AHL goaltending. Of course, that hasn’t exactly gone well for them if you look back at some of the games they’ve played this season. It will almost certainly be Jacob Markstrom again tonight, which should concern you. Markstrom was again solid in the loss to Montreal, but this will be 3 games in 4 nights for the Canucks, so it seems like a perfect opportunity for Demko to get the start. Maybe they’ll actually do it, but so far it doesn’t appear they will.
In order for the Canucks to get a win tonight, they’re going to have to step up their D game and that’s top to bottom, not just the 6 guys on the back end. They’re also going to need to give whoever’s in net some goal support, and that means guys like Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen getting off the schneid and potting some goals. It also seems like a good game for Nikolay Goldobin to slot back in and show the coaching staff he hears what they’re saying to him. Once again, not sure this is going to happen, and it’s maddening because there’s not anything that shows, stats or eye test-wise, that the Canucks are better with Schaller in the lineup.
From the Province, here’s what we can expect lineup-wise (and as it notes, the Canucks still have some decisions to make here:
MAPLE LEAFS’ LINES
LW – C – RW
Andreas Johnsson – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Connor Brown – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Patrick Marleau – Nazem Kadri – Kasperi Kapanen
Par Lindholm – Frederik Gauthier – Trevor Moore
Morgan Rielly – Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner – Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott – Igor Ozhiganov
Michael Hutchinson, To be determined
LW – C – RW
Sven Baertschi – To be determined – Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel – Bo Horvat – Loui Eriksson
Markus Granlund – Brandon Sutter – Jake Virtanen
Tim Schaller – Jay Beagle – Tyler Motte
Alexander Edler – Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton – Erik Gudbranson
Michael Del Zotto – Troy Stecher
Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko
Canucks: C Elias Pettersson (knee), LW Josh Leivo (back).
Maple Leafs: LW Zach Hyman (ankle), F Tyler Ennis (ankle), G Garret Sparks (concussion), G Frederik Andersen (groin).
Canucks: 17.9% (20th)
Maple Leafs: 22.9% (9th)
Canucks: 78% (20th)
Maple Leafs: 79.8% (16th)
We’ll give you updates throughout the day, including any news on Elias’ MRI results. And make sure to check out the preview over at PPP...
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
Once again, a situation of how do you pick one band from a city that’s provided so many great acts over the years. So I am just gonna lay out some of my favorite TO bands for ya, a little smorgasbord of metal.
Enjoy the game, I guess...