While that seems to make the result most predictable, games between these teams on the West Coast have been anything but.
Vancouver has won the last two at GM Place but just barely and history isn’t completely on their side. The Leafs have won on five of their last nine visits and some of the games have been wildly bizarre.
There was the night Glenn Healy (he’ll be between the benches with a mic this week) coughed up a 5-1 lead only to have Mats Sundin bale him out in a 6-5 overtime win. Another time the Leafs spotted the Canucks a 3-1 lead and came back to win 5-3 on a late goal by Robert Reichel. Or how about the time Vancouver gave up five goals on 16 shots then mounted a comeback on a Markus Naslund hat trick only to fall 6-5 in that one too.
The games are never boring on the ice or in the stands, third periods always seem to be crazy and the Leafs should never be counted out in a building where they’ve staged some wild wins.
So expect the unexpected.
On the hot stove:
It’s been interesting to watch player rankings around the league in recent years.
While Vancouver’s Sedin twins have had almost identical numbers there is a school of thought that Daniel is the better player and would be best equipped to go it alone.
I’ve posed the question many times to players and coaches who know them well and almost unanimously they’ve said Henrik would survive best because he’s the centre and a playmaker.
Now, for the first time in his career, Henrik is without Daniel (broken foot) and the Canucks need him to produce more than ever. He’s got five assists in five games without Daniel playing mostly with Alex Burrows and Mikael Samuelsson, but he hasn’t had a point in the last two games and his team has struggled to score.
ISO camera on:
How can you not watch the Toronto net closely?
Even though the Leafs have scored only two first-period goals, haven’t had a lead since the opening game of the season and haven’t scored the first goal of a game yet, they need something more than an early goal. A big save!
Teams can’t play any sort of aggressive game when they don’t trust their goalie and Joey MacDonald (likely) or Jonas Gustavsson (maybe) simply must give them some confidence or shoulders will slump and the skid will continue.
Even with injured Daniel Sedin and Pavol Demitra in the lineup, Vancouver seems short of top six forwards.
The Canucks need to get some production out of one, or both, of the homegrown products who are getting valuable ice time because of the injuries.
Mason Raymond and Michael Grabner are playing on a second line with Ryan Kesler and had a pretty good performance in Chicago where Grabner scored his first NHL goal. The line has 28 shots in the last two games and needs more finish.
Which is the Leafs top line? It should be Mikhail Grabovski with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jason Blake. Blake is finally starting to shoot the puck. Grabovski has neither shot the puck (two per game) nor passed it well (three assists) and needs to do both if he wants Phil Kessel as a linemate in a few weeks.
Grabovski is often the most noticeable player on the ice because he’s so fast but there are nights when he skates a million miles and goes nowhere!
From the stat pack:
These two franchises have shared more players than most. Seventy-five, in fact, have donned both the blue and white and the many colours of the Canucks.
From Claire Alexander to Mats Sundin, they have continually tried out each other’s castoffs with similar results.
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