November 02 2013 09:20PM
More than the victory, what should really matter for the Vancouver Canucks is that they were able to get out of Saturday afternoon's chippy affair with the Maple Leafs in good health. After taking an early 1-0 lead, the game turned bleak, with Phil Kessel fighting Alex Burrows, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren's presences looming large, and perhaps a Leafs team looking to send a message after an unfortunate collision between Zack Kassian and David Bolland left Bolland en route to surgery on his leg in Vancouver tonight.
For an early season non-conference game, it was a very violent game, and you could tell that the result meant more to the players in the game than the value of the two points up for grabs. There are going to be theories as to why, but both the Leafs and Canucks play aggressive styles that happened to clash tonight. Because the game was pretty one-sided even before the score was one-sided, tempers flared over.
Vancouver won 4-0.
Here are the shot counts in Toronto's recent wins:
43-22 for Calgary.
43-26 for Edmonton.
38-30 for Pittsburgh.
The formula for the Leafs has been simple all season. Have the goaltender weather the storm, respond on the powerplay or get a fluky goal on a rush, usually from Phil Kessel, and grind out a victory relying on the goalie. Looked that way early. After the Canucks dominated the first period with several early chances, the score was just 1-0 headed into the break.
That goal? Daniel from Henrik, but not exactly Sedinery:
Early in the second though, the game broke the way of the Canucks. Zack Kassian banked a goal in off of Cody Franson. Christopher Higgins took advantage of a rare lapse of concentration from James Reimer on a partial two-on-one, and the Leafs took four minor penalties that prevented them from being able to generate or sustain an attack. This was when it got a little silly, and the Leafs soup can-niest player Frazer McLaren waved a white towel like a white flag in the penalty box to protest a penalty call for boarding Alex Edler. Some of the calls broke the Canucks' favour and Vancouver got some things uncalled, but the Maple Leafs skating around making borderline plays isn't exactly safe.
Darren Archibald earned his first career point in the third period when Dan Hamhuis chipped a stray puck in from the front of the net. Though the Canucks heavily out-shot the Leafs, Roberto Luongo made the Leafs go off script, stifling the Leafs on several good chances before the score got out of hand. He stopped all 21 shots he faced, including six on Leaf powerplays, and opened his November with his second shutout on the season.
WHY THE CANUCKS WON
Better team. Duh.
But is it that simple? I thought the Canucks did a good job after the second period of not coming fully unglued, and though they certainly got the benefit of the calls tonight, they began to skate away from the after whistle stuff. Or so it seemed. Who knows.
But, yes. It was a 63-30 unblocked shot differential, 44-19 at 5-on-5 and 20-12 in close score situations. James Reimer was lights out, but he would have had to have been even more lights out for the Leafs to have even a chance.
Towards the end of the first period, you can see the Leafs making an attack. Fun fact: the Canucks held the Leafs to 13 unblocked shots between their first goal and the end of the first period, and then held them to 15 unblocked shots in the last two periods:
The big line was Mike Santorelli, Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, who had that amazing first sequence that required Reimer to make three (or four, depending on your count) highlight-reel stops. More than that, they dominated possession, with Corsi numbers of +19, +17 and +15 respectively. That was against the Maple Leafs' big line of Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk (Santorelli saw 7.7 minutes against Kadri) and kept that line out of the offensive zone, where they are really, really dangerous.
Also, Dan Hamhuis and Chris Tanev had similarly high Corsi numbers (figures all from ExtraSkater by the way) and perhaps they had more of a role in keeping the Leafs big line off the board.
Canucks again generated a lot of powerplay shots. Eight at 5-on-4 and three at 5-on-3. It's only a matter of time before this really blows open, I think.