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GAME DAY PREVIEW- Game Forty Four: Canucks @ Toronto

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We’ve seen a lot of demoralizing, soul-crushing losses over the years, but last night’s might have been one of the worst.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (19-21-3) vs TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (31-13-5)

ROGERS ARENA- VANCOUVER, BC

4:30PM PST

TV: SPORTSNET PACIFIC, TSN4. RADIO: SPORTSNET 650

OPPOSING BLOG: PENSION PLAN PUPPETS

I suppose if you had to point to a bright spot in that game, it was that no one got hurt by the time it was all done. You can’t even point to them getting the bottom six production last night that’s been lacking since the dawn of time, because they literally made no difference in the game whatsoever. I honestly hope you didn’t waste a beer doing a #ShotgunJake. Who cares if he scores now. If there’s any justice in this world. he’s gone next season and it can take it’s place alongside the Brabarian and #VoteForRory as quirky distractions from the misery that is Canucks fandom.

And while some of you will continue the charade of thinking that the Canucks are still in the playoff hunt, it’s time to take a realistic and humane approach to this. They’re not going to be able to do this. It’s fine, because the circumstances that were thrust upon them would have crippled any team. It does not change the fact that many said from the start that they wouldn’t make it. When your expectations are low, it’s hard to be disappointed.

Even if they hadn’t been punished with a cruel bookended schedule that the league bestowed upon them, at the end of the day the team that is on the ice has to find a way to win. And the team that we saw this season was not as good as the one we did last year. Period. That’s on Jim Benning primarily, and to a lesser extent Travis Green and the coaching staff.

There have been personnel and ice time decisions from Green that left many fans frustrated this year, but the biggest problem is the same one that has hampered this team for the entirety of Jim Benning’s tenure as GM: Ridiculous overpayments for bottom six players that have handcuffed this team’s ability to add players that can actually help the team. This has been an ongoing battle for years now, but I honestly have not a second more to give anyone who cannot see that Jim Benning is the architect of the chaos here. I don’t care that he drafted Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Nils Hoglander. This team is paying millions of dollars to players who bring exactly nothing to the table. I mean, one could forgive you for thinking maybe Jake Virtanen was finally gonna show the promise some felt he had when he was on pace to eclipse 20 goals last season. This year, he’s been terrible, and despite all the opportunities he’s been given, simply couldn’t replicate his best season when the Canucks desperately needed ANYONE not in the top 6 to show up.

Maybe a change of scenery will help Jake. A fresh start in Seattle would do him a world of good. But Jake’s days as a Canuck, along with guys like Brandon Sutter, Antoine Roussel, and Jay Beagle all need to be elsewhere next season. And while we’re at it, I am not okay with Alex Edler returning unless it’s for a 1 or 2 year deal for not a penny more than $3 Million, and even that is pushjng it. Edler was a good soldier, and the last of that 2011 roster that just about won it all. Perhaps it’s fitting that on the 10th anniversary of the most recent disappointment, we part ways with him and start retooling that back end to get Quinn Hughes some actual help?

And now as I step off the soap box, we turn to tonight’s game against the first place Toronto Maple Leafs. With the Leafs beating Montreal last night, they were able to clinch their ticket to the post season with just seven games remaining in their season. One would think this could see them primed for a letdown game, and playing right into the Canucks hands.

I prefer to see this a different way. Did you ever see a fight where someone got knocked on their ass, and people tell the person to stay down, because getting up is only going to see them get fed another fist? This is how the Leafs should approach this game. The Canucks, if they were able to scrape together enough wins combined with Canadiens losses, would have to take on these very same Leafs if they do make the playoffs. If I am Sheldon Keefe, I want my players to have this mindset tonight and Saturday. Make the Canucks feel like they don’t have a prayer should they pull this off. Show them that those losses last week were a blip, a product of the Canucks gritting it out on pure adrenaline. They’re not at the same level as Toronto, especially as banged up as they are.

LINEUPS

Courtesy of nhl.com this is what we’re gonna be stuck with tonight, I guess...

Canucks projected lineup

Tanner PearsonBo HorvatNils Hoglander

Tyler MotteJ.T. MillerBrock Boeser

Zack MacEwenBrandon SutterKole Lind

Matthew HighmoreTravis BoydJake Virtanen

Alexander EdlerTyler Myers

Quinn HughesTravis Hamonic

Nate SchmidtJalen Chatfield

Braden Holtby

Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Marc Michaelis, Jimmy Vesey, Jayce Hawryluk, Olli Juolevi, Arturs Silovs

Injured: Justin Bailey (upper body), Elias Pettersson (upper body), Jay Beagle (undisclosed), Antoine Roussel (lower body)

Maple Leafs projected lineup

Nick FolignoAuston MatthewsMitchell Marner

Alex GalchenyukJohn TavaresWilliam Nylander

Ilya MikheyevAlexander KerfootWayne Simmonds

Joe ThorntonAdam BrooksJason Spezza

Morgan RiellyTJ Brodie

Jake MuzzinJustin Holl

Rasmus SandinTravis Dermott

David Rittich

Jack Campbell

Scratched: Pierre Engvall, Michael Hutchinson

Injured: Frederik Andersen (lower body), Riley Nash (lower body), Zach Bogosian (shoulder), Zach Hyman (MCL)

As Trevor Beggs pointed out earlier today, Kole Lind will be making his NHL debut tonight, playing on the 3rd line with Zack MacEwan and Sutter. Jalen Chatfield draws in, but at the expense of Olli Juolevi for some reason. At least Virtanen was given chances. Juolevi can’t stay in the lineup no matter how good he plays.

The Canucks go back to Braden Holtby tonight, though honestly I thought they should have played him last night. Thatcher Demko, who made a couple jaw-dropping saves, did not look like he was ready for action, and the thought of him being rushed back to try and clinch a next to impossible playoff spot is just gross.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Also, a sticktap from all of us at NM for Ryan Miller, who announced he is retiring. Miller was a Canuck for two seasons, but had an incredible career with Buffalo, St Louis and Anaheim. I loved his energy, and the fact that he had a genuine personality. I don’t think enough of us appreciated how good he was on a couple pretty bad Canucks teams. Congrats on an amazing career, and sorry about that one game 11 years ago, bud.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Another Pandemic colab for ya today! We showed you one from Montreal’s SLAVES ON DOPE earlier this season, who covered FAITH NO MORE’s ‘We Care A Lot’ with the help of some friends. They’re back with another legendary track: PUBLIC ENEMY’s ‘She Watch Channel Zero’. This was on their breakthrough album ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’, and also featured ‘Bring The Noise’. This track drew a lot of attention for its use of the sampled main riff from SLAYER’s ‘Raining Blood’. They’ve brought in Mike and Billy from Faith No More, Bill from MASTODON, plus members of CYPRESS HILL, SEPULTURA, BEASTIE BOYS, 311, 3RD BASS and H2O.

Enjoy the game.

Go Canucks Go.