After Montreal skated circles around a flat Vancouver squad Thursday afternoon, the Canucks took on arguably the second-best team in the league on Hockey Night in Canada in hopes of redeeming themselves. The puck dropped at Scotiabank Arena at 4:15 pm PST as Auston Matthews and John Tavares looked for a bit of redemption themselves after a tough loss to Minnesota at home Thursday morning.
Unfortunately, the Canucks were fighting an uphill battle from the moment the puck dropped as they were without the talents of Swedish phenom Elias Pettersson. They would need to find some depth scoring and lean on their defence if they wanted a chance to steal one from Toronto on the road.
With EP40 out, Sutter moved up to the second line between Boeser and Goldobin.
Toronto is one of the deepest teams in the league, as each forward line beside their first is ranked in the top six in the league according to Corsica.hockey via dailyfaceoff. More surprisingly, all three of their defensive pairing rank inside the top ten.
Yes, even the Hainsey pairing.
Michael Hutchinson drew the start after Garret Sparks went down with a concussion while filling in for Frederick Andersen. Freddy is out with a groin injury he nursed all December and it appears he and the Maple Leafs want his lower body issues squared away for a deep playoff run. The Dane is arguably one of the best goaltenders in the league this year, short of John Gibson, and is a large part of why the Leafs have been dominant this year.
Hutchinson, still sporting his Panthers gear, had made five NHL appearances coming into this game, four with Florida and one earlier this week after being claimed by Toronto. He’s stopped 103 of 121 shots for an .851 all-situations Sv% in his two starts and three relief appearances. Also, it was a hot topic Thursday that he catches right hand.
Markstrom got the start for Vancouver, with the freshly recalled Thatcher Demko taking Mike McKenna’s spot on the bench. Michael Del Zotto was back to being a healthy scratch. He was replaced on the third pairing by Derrick Pouliot.
At 16:22 into the first, we found out that Horvat manning the pivot between Roussel and Eriksson was just a ruse. He slid in-between Goldobin and Boeser as he was swapped with Sutter in Travis Green’s dangerously top-heavy approach to generate some scoring. This approach would prove fruitless for the what would end up being six straight shutout periods for Vancouver.
Looking at the matchups it appeared that the coach tried to line Roussel-Sutter-Eriksson up predominantly against the Tavares and Matthews lines. To his frustration, they were largely overmatched in this role and took roughly third line minutes.
Toronto opened the scoring 8:54 into the first period. The sequence started as Markstrom played the puck around the board to Jake Gardiner. He fed the puck to not-an-all-star Mitch Marner in the high slot. Marner missed wide, but Connor Brown was able to cycle the puck to Morgan Rielly at the blue line. He winged the puck on net where Tavares was waiting to tip the puck up and over Markstrom’s blocker shoulder, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead.
Bo Horvat had Vancouver’s first great opportunity of the night when Edler fed him a bank-stretch pass off the far boards, landing on the center’s stick just as he entered the offensive zone. Horvat dragged a Toronto player with him all the way to the net where he stuffed it against Hutchinson’s pads to no avail.
These two plays were basically a microcosm of the whole game, with Toronto generating opportunities from solid counters and sustained possession in the offensive zone and Vancouver labouring to force a mediocre shot that would end the sequence.
The Maple Leafs nearly made it 2-9, but Markstrom made a remarkable save on Kadri in close with 7:20 to go in the first. Hainsey shot the puck through traffic to Markstrom’s far pad where it was kicked directly to Kadri standing on the doorstep.
A giveaway from the Vancouver fourth line deep in the Toronto zone led to Trevor Moore scoring his first NHL goal at 14:30. Moore got the puck from Ozhiganov in his own zone and walked Pouliot to get a 2-on-1 with Par Lindholm against Gudbrandson. The recent Marlies call-up elected to keep the puck and went forehand-backhand, five-hole to beat Markstrom.
So nice, let's see it twice. pic.twitter.com/1mn96UeNmc
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 6, 2019
The Canucks offered little in the way of pushback on the home team after the second Toronto goal and looked over-matched on both ends of the ice. The Canucks generated one last dangerous even strength scoring chance when pressure from Granlund and Baertschi forced a Toronto turnover. Sven, in tight, played the puck right into Hutchinson’s leg pads with 2:14 to go.
Andreas Johnsson took the first penalty for either side when he tripped up Alex Edler with 25 seconds left on the clock. After a face-off win, the Canucks power play had a couple of good looks in the remaining time from Boeser and Horvat, but Hutchinson fended them off.
While shot attempts remained even at the end of the first period thanks to the late power play, xG was disastrously in favour of the home team.
Starting with the power play, the Canucks had a number of quality chances in the first 1:35 of the second period. They clanged two off Hutchinson’s face mask and fired a couple just wide. Pouliot had a great opportunity driving the net but was denied when he tried to go five-hole.
A minute-and-a-half later Tanev broke up what would have been a surefire, classic Tavares tip-in goal as Marner attempted to feed him a cross-ice pass. As has been noted elsewhere, Marner and Tavares look like they’re two halves of the same person out on the ice and would cause havoc for the Vancouver defence the rest of the night.
The Canucks had a nice opportunity on the counterattack. The Beagle line got the puck in deep and set things up. Hutton fired the puck to the front where Jay Beagle was waiting for the tip which landed harmlessly in Hutchinson’s pads.
Kasperi Kapanen had a 2-on-1 with Connor Brown on Pouliot with 16 minutes to go in the second, but the defenseman made up for his gaffe in the first with a strong poke check to knock the puck off the young Finn’s stick, defusing the situation.
Kapanen later got in past Stecher to go one-on-one with Hutton and again Markstrom stood strong. In making the save, he kicked a dangerous rebound right to Ozhiganov coming in on the rush. The Swedish goaltender made an impressive push post-to-post in time for the backhander from the first year Russian defenseman. As so often happens with these Maple Leafs, they came in waves, with Marleau following up for a third try on the sequence. He fired high as Markstrom stood tall, taking away any opportunity to go up and over the shoulder.
Goldobin went off cradling his wrist with 12:20 to go after taking a strong hit from Zaitsev at the Toronto blue line. He dropped his stick immediately after taking the hit awkwardly while trying to tip a pass to enter the zone. He would thankfully return on his next regular shift.
Jay Beagle, in his second game back from injury, only took three shifts in the second. Beagle’s left ankle collapsed awkwardly around the 17:05 mark while skating backwards to win the puck in the neutral zone in front of the Toronto bench. His second shift only lasted eight seconds, starting in his own zone with 15:12 to go. The shift was short because the Canucks were able to get a freeze in the offensive zone. He lost the ensuing face-off against John Tavares and went off. Beagle’s third and final shift of the period was uneventful and ended at 13:04 with Hutchinson making an easy glove save to stop play. Linemate Tim Schaller took a shift without Beagle with 7:01 left in the period, but Beagle would not return until the third.
The middle of the second was all Toronto as the offence was unable to get anything going and the defence little in the way of relief for Markstrom. To the dismay of the home crowd and the delight of the weary Canucks, they received a gift of a waved off icing on a beauty of a clear from Boeser. He had been in his own zone for 1:15 with the Leafs swarming before the clear allowed him to get off.
As was the case when the Canucks had chances Thursday evening, there was little to no sustained pressure. This was exacerbated by Toronto’s impressive counter and speed through the neutral zone.
The first bit of sustained offence for Vancouver came off a slick move from Bo Horvat driving the net after he froze Mitch Marner with a fake shot and toe drag. Vancouver was able to follow up for second and third chances that just missed as a result of the smart play from the team’s top center.
Brandon Sutter was tripped up by Jake Gardiner with 3:58 to play and received their second power play of the game. After the first power play unit generated a number of opportunities, they were given the opportunity to kick this one off as well. They had a couple of chances coming from good zone entries but the Toronto penalty kill prevented the Canucks from getting their power play formation set up.
The second period ended with no additional scoring, but during even-strength competition, it was all Toronto. Vancouver was able to take the lead in all situations shot attempts, but at even strength Toronto was dominant. The home team led by eleven shot attempts after two (45-34) and nearly 1.5 xG with 2.31 to Vancouver’s 0.84.
In a bright spot, Jay Beagle returned to start the third. This was good news for Travis Green whose depleted center depth had forced Granlund back to center before the game started due to Pettersson’s injury. Green had relied heavily on Beagle to take important draws in the first and second before his departure.
The third period was all Toronto to start, with Auston Matthews breaking a five-game goal-less streak. Matthews scored on the wrap-around as Markstrom faltered really for the first time all night, not getting his leg pads tight enough together or to the ice in time, allowing the puck to slip through the five-hole.
Matthews was able to walk unimpeded around the net as a slight fake froze Hutton, who stumbled and watched as the two-time All-Star to the puck to the net.
— Mark Blinch (@mblinch) January 6, 2019
Markstrom responded on the next Toronto scoring chance with a strong save on a nice shot from Andreas Johnsson. Johnsson, like the Canucks, had been quiet most of the night to that point.
After Toronto scored their third goal via Matthews, it was more of the same from the Canucks. You could honestly take any of the periods from their game Thursday post-EP40 and just swap it in for one of their periods of play tonight in Toronto.
Coming off a Ron Hainsey error, Antione Roussel managed to squander a decent rush opportunity for Vancouver with 9:20 to play by meandering through the slot and making a poor pass the Sutter, the trailing man.
Andreas Johnsson, coming on strong in the third period, scored a save-able goal of Markstrom’s glove shoulder 11:55 into the third. It’s not quite fair to solely blame Markstrom, as Hutton gifted the puck to Toronto. He turns the puck over behind his own net after failing to make an exit pass and getting hemmed in by the Toronto forecheck with little-to-no close support.
After a long stretch in the offensive zone, Ozhiganov scored off Gudbranson’s stick trying to feed the puck through the low slot to a streaking Auston Matthews looking for his second. This was Gudbranson’s fourth on-ice goal against.
The Canucks were gifted a third power play with 4:10 to go. Jake Gardiner tripped over his own goalie’s stick, causing him to trip Bo Horvat. Unfortunately, the best opportunity on this final power play belonged to the Maple Leafs as they broke up a point pass for an odd-man rush. Virtanen and Boeser had a shot each, but like the previous five periods, they were one-and-done.
There’s not a whole lot to say here. I could trot out some fancy stats but it doesn’t take a genius to pick these charts apart:
— alex (@gableingaround) January 6, 2019
You could buy into one of a couple of narratives here:
- This was the third game in four days for the Canucks
- It’s the end of a long road trip for the Canucks
- They’re deflated after the Elias Pettersson injury
- All of the above
Pick your poison.
I think what’s most concerning in a post-EP40 world is that while Canucks have zero answers for teams with more than one good forward line. It was easy enough for Babcock to get defensively favorable matchups against the Goldobin-Horvat-Boeser line and from there Toronto’s depth ran circles around the other three lines.
Maybe you’re okay being shut out by All-Star Carey Price, but no one can be happy with tonight’s performance against fringe-NHL’er Michael Hutchinson. I would try to say more about the forward group tonight, but to be honest I’m not sure they’ve shown up in Toronto yet.
They were content continuing to let the defence fire away from the blue line, but few were willing and/or able to get to the front of the net for a second chance.
When they were needed most tonight, Vancouver’s defenseman contributed directly to three of the five Toronto goals. Erik Gudbrandson was on the ice for four of the five goals against and changing for the fifth. Pouliot got walked by a rookie playing on the fourth line. Hutton had a giveaway leading directly to a goal and at least it was Matthews when he got beat 1-on-1.
Markstrom played well for two more periods than his peers tonight, but let up a couple of soft goals in the third. Like Thursday, you could say he gives the Canucks a chance to win. No one gets a free pass in a five-nothing loss and if the Canucks have any hopes of making the playoffs, which they should, Markstrom has to play better than he was tonight.
If you picked any of the choices above, the good news is the Canucks aren’t back on the ice until Thursday at home against Arizona. The time off should help with all three, especially given this news for our favourite Swede:
Travis Green, on Pettersson's injury: "He's got a slight sprain in his MCL. It's not too bad, we'll have our doctors re-evaluate him when he gets home. It was probably as good of news as we could receive." #Canucks pic.twitter.com/j90SmX2iQ4
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) January 6, 2019