December 18 2010 10:51AM
Game Day Recon #30 - Maple Leafs @ Canucks
The Canucks are just better than the Leafs at everything. And have been for a while. On paper, the Canucks should absolutely wreck the Maple Leafs tonight.
So they'd better do it, and not dick around about it. Like the last time they played each other.
Game Time: 4:00 PM PT
Unlike their last game, the Canucks should spend little time searching for a reason to get amped up for tonight's game. They're playing the league's 2nd most storied franchise, they're playing at home during the national prime time slot, and they're facing two of their former general managers. There are LOTS of reasons for the Canucks to find the inspiration they need to kick the snot out of the lowly Maple Leafs.
The last time the Canucks and Leafs played, it was closer than it should have been. Playing at the Air Canada Centre, the hosts jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, before the Canucks turned the tables and came back to win 5-3, with the final goal and empty-netter courtesy of Dan Hamhuis.
This time around, Kessel, Versteeg and Grabovski are the three Leafs who warrant attention from the Canucks defense. And although they don't get a ton of respect from the Canucks faithful, the blueline corps has been pretty solid lately. And given that the Leafs are 28th in goal production, that sturdy Canucks D should hold fine. As well Luongo looks to have found a bit of form lately, looking far more poised and calm in recent games.
As for the Canucks forwards, it looks like they will be facing Jonas Gustavsson, as J-S Giguere is yet again injured, making way for the Monster in net. At 4-8-2, and at 2.91 GAA and a .901 Sv% Gustavsson hasn't been great this year, but neither Leafs goalie is getting any offensive support either. So the Canucks would be well-served to pepper the Monster and get greasy in front of him.
Speaking of which, it might be a great game for the Canucks most recent call-up to make his mark. Aaron Volpatti comes up from the Moose, replacing Jonas Andersson on the fourth line. The Canucks minor league coaching staff have been quite impressed with Volpatti's all-around play this year, as he can skate well, hits plenty and fights when needed. It's that kind of combination that has actually been slightly lacking from the fourth line. We'll see if Volpatti can put his stamp on tonight's game, put putting his stamp on Gustavsson.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Don't play down to the Leafs. The Canucks have historically been bery guilty of playing down to the level of their lesser opponents. This year, they've actually been pretty good about playing to their own level against the weaker teams. Tonight can be no different. They need to use the national spotlight during Eastern prime time to show the entire country how good they really are.
2. Score first. Don't make yourself come back again. The Canucks are 14-1-2 when they score the first goal. The Leafs are 4-13-1 when they let in the first goal. This one ain't hard to figure out, kids.
3. Someone else OTHER than Ryan Kesler needs to be the hero. Kesler has been the Canucks best player for the past three games, most notably in their last game against Columbus, when his hattrick was all the scoring the Canucks needed. From faceoff.com, Tambellini has 0 points in 3 games, Torres has 0 points in 6 games, and Bieksa has 0 points in 4 games. Tonight would be a GREAT night for all three of those players to get themselves off the schneid.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Maple Leafs @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Scrappy Aaron 'Peppermint' Volpatti ready to get gritty for Canucks (The Province)
3. Kadri could sit out against Canucks (Toronto Sun)
4. Canucks notebook: Henrik jolly despite coming season of travel (Vancouver Sun)
5. Kids Will Be Kids (The Leafs Nations) >>> SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!