— GO Leafs GO! (@43LeafsNation43) December 7, 2014
Well, that was ugly. The Canucks were scored on early and often and in waves from the Leafs bottom-six forwards, and never recovered. It was a night to forget for Ryan Miller, who was pulled on the fourth goal of the night for the Leafs, that came on just the 14th shot he faced. Toronto would add another empty-netter to skate away with a 5-2 victory over the Canucks.
See how it all went down on the other side of the jump.
Vancouver seemed to pace the Leafs for the most part coming out of the gate, but were fairly lax defensively. I did essentially profess tonight’s contest as a gimme of sorts for the Canucks, who had won seven of their last ten since they have been the superior team in nearly every respect. They had the oft-mentioned momentum thing going for them too!
Alas, it wasn’t to be. The Canucks weren’t able to string together many sequences of sustained offensive pressure for much of the first. On those rare occasions when they did, they weren’t able to get a particularly fantastic look on Jonathan Bernier.
As peculiar a notion as this is, for all their struggles as a neutral zone team, the Leafs generate much of their offence on the rush. They made the Canucks suffer with this breakneck pace on the first goal, a rush by Jake Gardiner. The original shot was stopped, then with an attempt to clear (the f%&^) out of that puck, Yannick Weber sent it through Ryan Miller’s 5-hole and into his own net. Peter Holland was originally credited with the opening mark, until the scorekeepers realized Gardiner was the last Leaf to touch the puck.
The second goal you see being scored in that video is by Toronto waiver wire pickup Richard Panik.The Leafs gained the offensive zone with ease and walked around Canuck defenders at will. I honestly can’t say with any conviction who looks sillier on the Panik goal. Is it Kevin Bieksa, who is just walked around and sent spinning? Or is it Ryan Miller, who is faked out to the point where he’s more protective of the corner than his crease? It was a rough start for the Sbisa-Bieksa pairing for sure as they were burned on multiple early Leafs goals.
In retrospect, perhaps that should have been the moment Miller was pulled. That said, a goalie of Miller’s caliber is due a little more leeway than two goals.
Another two goals, though? Maybe not so much. This theory was tested, though as the Canucks would surrender the next two to fall four behind. If memory serves, the Canucks had rallied to win the last contest where they surrendered a 3-0 lead to the Leafs in the ACC. Andrew Raycroft stole the show and didn’t a little jig at the end. It was great! If only it stayed at three…
As for the goals themselves, it was an awful lot of bad Miller. That goal Peter Holland so cruelly had stolen from him was regained in short order on a short-side snipe high on Miller. Miller had been playing deep in the net on that one, but failed to properly track the puck with Bieksa between the shooter and net. On the next tally from Joffrey Lupul, Miller had no such excuse. It was another short-side shot this time much lower. It’s one Miller could (and likely should) have. It’s the difference between a team being in the game and not. Miller didn’t and he was pulled for his troubles, wearing the most sarcastic and defeated grin his entire way to the bench.
It wasn’t all bad in the second though! Daniel Sedin had the late marker to inch the Canucks effort ever closer to some semblance of respectability. All things being relative, of course. The original effort was stopped by Jonathan Bernier, but Daniel hopped on his own rebound to send the puck past a still Bernier.
The goals were one thing. It seemed impossible from the onset of the second for Vancouver to pull this one out. The genuinely frightening moment from that period was Shawn Matthias taking a Stephane Robidas elbow to the chops, knocking him out of the game. Matthias had been playing the best hockey of his career, and to lose him now could really put a strain on the depth that has been playing so well for Vancouver of late.
The Canucks entered the third a much hungrier team than they’d been the entire 40 minutes prior. Mostly score related, sure, but encouraging all the same. The Canucks had a monopoly on the puck in this period and for all intents and purposes dominated the territorial play. This eventually culminated in a Chris Tanev goal on a deflection in close. The Canucks upped the ante, kept on the Leafs case, but alas it wasn’t enough. Eventually a Wendel Clarkson empty netter all but guaranteed the loss and that was all she wrote.
Bro, do you even score effects? Vancouver did tonight. Look at that steep incline, increasing in severity with each passing Toronto goal. In total the Canucks had 45-shots on Jonathan Bernier, who one could argue stole the game for the Leafs. Unless, of course, you acknowledge that Miller already handed the Leafs that game with his sub .800 sv% on the night. Miller let in four goals on fourteen shots.
When a team trails for a solid 90% of the game, it’s easier to put up the Corsis, and especially against a team that goes into a defensive shell like Toronto. That said, there were some Canucks with exceptional possession numbers on the night. At the top of the list are the remaining 2/3rds of the Canucks recently amazing third-line. Linden Vey and Brad Richardson both had Corsi For% of 78% while Shawn Matthias, who left the game in the second, had a Corsi for of 80% on the night. Here’s to a speedy recovery.
How did the former Canucks do? Well, David Booth was a solid 54% Corsi tonight and landed his first point as a Leaf on their second goal. Obviously his first point as a Leaf was against the Canucks, right? Santorelli’s night was a lot less impressive. Santo was a brutal 34% Corsi For matching up primarily against the Sedins, and was held pointless.
Well, the Canucks are going to need to regroup quickly following tonight’s loss. They’re right back at it tomorrow night in the nation’s capital, facing the Ottawa Senators. It will be interesting to see who gets the start tomorrow night. I’m sure the original plan was for the Stork to get the call, but the original plan didn’t include Lack doing mop-up duty tonight as well. Then again, the Senators are really not good, so will it really matter? See you then.