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Photo Credit: Canucks / Twitter

Vancouver Canucks vs Toronto Maple Leafs Post Game Recap

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.

1st Period:

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.

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.

2nd Period:

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.

courtesy evolving-hockey.com

Third Period:

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.

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.

Wrap-Up:

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:

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.

courtesy hockeyviz.com

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.

courtesy hockeyviz.com

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.

Up Next:

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:



    • Goon

      Sutter and Eriksson are depth players being asked to do way too much because the Canucks lack depth. They’re fine playing in the bottom six. They’re massively outclassed playing top-line minutes against the best players in the league. But the Canucks don’t have other viable options when they get a couple injuries.

      You can’t fault them for getting paid. It’s not their fault someone offered them over $10 million combined…

      • Chalister Court Canuck

        WTF, Is this a joke post?

        Sutter was billed as a ‘foundational player’ by Benning himself, who said “You win with players like Brandon Sutter”.

        When Benning signed Eriksson in 2016, he described him as “an elite scorer and playmaker.”

        His numbers, including four 25 plus goal seasons and a 30 and 36 goal season actually back this up, so to say he is a bottom sixer is laughable – he was signed for big FA bucks as a proven goalscorer, and only fell off a cliff since he arrived here.

        Terrible, ignorant post. *trashed*

        • Goon

          I’ll take the bait on this one, you contemptible, moronic, insufferable, useless, repeatedly-banned, mentally ill basement dwelling troll.

          You, as usually completely misunderstood what I wrote. My point was that criticism should be directed at the person who signed these players, who overpaid these players, and expects these players to play roles they’re not suited to, and that it’s ridiculous to abuse the players themselves.

          • Chalister Court Canuck

            That’s NOT what you wrote, you said they were “BOTTOM SIX PLAYERS being asked to do too much”, and i have proven otherwise with the words of the GM who signed them as ‘foundational’ and ‘elite’.

            Eriksson in particular ‘was’ not bottom six when signed here and HIS failure to produce is all on him, no one else.

            Further to this, if Sutter and Loui cannot adapt to the roles assigned to them as veteran leaders they need to look at another player who was asked to take more responsibility, change his game and help the team as a 200 foot player… his name was Steve Yzerman.

            This is typical Goof folks. It’s ok for him to belittle others (scroll down and see) but when he gets his a$$ handed to him with facts, he resorts to insults and tripping over his own tongue, fuming.

            Like Loui and Sutter, suck it up buttercup.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Presently the Canucks are at one of those low points most clubs go through in a season. You don’t have to be in the Mensa Society to figure out how valuable Petey is to this franchise in and out of the line up. But even when Elias is, this group still lacks depth both upfront and on the blue line, obvious when watching this “game” tonight. This bunch has been fun to watch this year but look for up to a half a dozen guys on the roster now who won’t be here next year. Sorry to say but Pouliot looked like a cigar store Indian on their second goal. Let the rest of the fan base and Benning figure out five other guys who won’t be here. Come back soon, Petey.

    • LiborPolasek

      Ditto: the Canucks are still rebuilding… Just like most of the league’s with salary caps in place parity among teams are very common. Every year there are pretenders and contenders; just look at the Flyers and Devils compared to last year and to there current record this year. Currently, the Canucks would be hard pressed to compete with the contenders in the playoffs. All teams go through a cycle and HOPEFULLY by time our core starts to peak the Canucks would be one of the contenders to make a solid run at the cup. I was expecting this year to still be a part of the rebuild but hopefully starting next year it would be different…

        • truthseeker

          I don’t need a safe space from someone as boring and predictable as you. Making minced meat of your stupid and illogical comments doesn’t take much brain power. But I know it makes you feel better to throw out your predictable little comments right tough guy? So have at it. You’re right at home with the cockroach. cockroach number 2 has a nice ring to it. self loathing cockroach maybe. Yeah…that’s it. Puck the Self loathing cockroach Viking.

          Oh…did you hear? EP’s out for a week or two. Tell us again how he’s “done for the season”. lol. self loathing cockroach stalker….haha….

    • El Cid

      Hate to say it but without stinky Pete the Nuks will be fighing with the Oiler’s for last in the division. You can have Hughes … and with the first overall pick the Oiler’s choose Kappo Kakko.

        • Freud

          The Oilers will be the Oilers?

          Benning and Chiarelli share the same brain. They largely value the same things and make the same type moves. They both have one superstar centre and 2 other all-star forwards. The rest of the forwards and defence they have brought in is largely garbage.

          They think in the same, archaic ways.

          Hell, Benning is taking a page from Chiarelli’s playbook with Goldobin. Just like with Eberle, leak to media that you’re not happy with them because of antiquated biases. Show your hand so everyone else knows you’re looking to move him, thereby devaluing him. Then trade him for a lesser player with intangibles because you’re been duped by percentages and a superstar into thinking you’re close to competing.

          Also, just like the Oilers, a majority of Canuck fans are cheerleading the whole thing.

          • Oh, Freud. Just forget the details, right? Benning had no prospects whereas Chiarelli had several #1 overall picks, Benning has a decent scouting department whereas the Oilers still can’t get it right if the pick # exceeds 1, and we have several good A prospects and depth prospects on the way whereas the Oilers have Bouchard, only because they haven’t ruined him like Yamamoto or Puljujarvi. Why don’t you complain about Benning trading away draft picks even though he’s only traded one pick in the last 2 years and is net positive in acquiring picks in that time?

  • Beefus

    Alex I’m a little confused by your comments about it being Jay Beagle’s second game back from injury. Were all of your comments about Beagle meant to be about Brandon Sutter?

  • wojohowitz

    I just wish that Green saw what the rest of us saw. With no Pettersson then Horvat and Baertschi are the best combo to generate offence and Hutton and Gudbranson were a tire fire.

  • Freud

    Roussel-Sutter-Eriksson. Almost $14 million, described as foundational, shut down, energy guys. They do the little things right. They’re all here to bring veteran leadership and show the young guys how to compete. The star goes down, all the eyes are on them during a national broadcast and “they were largely overmatched in this role”. An understatement. I assume the idiot, meddling owner wasn’t tweeting about all the lessons the veterans are teaching the young players tonight.

    This team brought all these guys in, along with the likes of Beagle, Schaller, Motte. Opportunities to sign and flip players or use cap space to build for the future passed on so that millions and millions in long term contracts could be handed out to at least have a veteran, defensive presence to match up against other team’s top lines. Or so management told us.

    Vancouver gave up 45 scoring chances tonight. 45! A complete and utter failure.

    In comparison, the Flyers gave up only 12 to Calgary. Ottawa gave up only 15 to Minnesota. Montreal gave up 14 to Nashville.

    The garbage Benning has brought in to surround Horvat, Boeser and Pettersson was on full display tonight. They failed spectacularly at everything management said they were brought in to do.

    • Bud Poile

      The PP has gone 0 for 8 in the last two games – and losses.
      Then there was the 0-4 PP and 4-0 loss in NJ prior to those debacles.
      That’s directly on the celebrated future captain,NHL All-Star MVP along with the other offensively gifted players.
      All eyes are on those players that get paid to score along with coaches Brown and most especially Green.
      No score.No win. Maybe begin to protect your franchise player,coach.
      Then again,losing looks good on you.

      • Challister Court Canuck

        Another day, another pathetic troll for attention… but l will let Elias speak for himself, no goonery either necessary or required – like life, the game has passed you by…

        Elias Pettersson says the awkward collision between him and Jesperi Kotkaniemi was an honest accident and that there was no malicious intent behind the way the Montreal Canadiens forward hauled him down.

        “He hooked my leg a little bit – I was going to reverse him or stop him – and it was an accident,” Pettersson told Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. “We got tangled up, we both fell down and I got in an awkward position. It wasn’t a dirty play or anything. He apologized afterwards, which shows good sportsmanship from him. So it was really just unlucky for me and it’s nothing too serious.” – Elias Pettersson

      • Goon

        No, it’s on the other players on the team, and on the person who built the team. If Pettersson and Boeser aren’t scoring, no one is, and the Canucks are getting shut out. You can’t expect Pettersson and Boeser to win every game for the team – you need other players who can score when your point-a-game players go one or two games without scoring a point.

        When the Sedins were putting up 90-112 points, they had Kesler, Raymond, and Samuelsson on the second line putting up 50-70 points each. If the Sedins had a quiet game the Canucks were still a threat to score four goals. If the top players on this team don’t score, no one does.

    • Kanucked

      I think Benning and Green need to rethink how they want to build this team. I don’t understand the reason to have shut down lines. I think this is defensive thinking.

      Why not have 4 lines who can score and let the opponents try to shut you down?

      Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but having 2 shutdown centres is idiotic.

      Horvat can handle defensive zone coverage and Pettersson has shown he’s not a one way player.

      Green can keep Roussel, Eriksson and Beagle (because of their contracts), but Sutter, Motte, and Grandlund need to go.

      The Canucks need to build 3 offensive lines if they’re going to be cup contenders. The Leafs are a good example of this.

      • Nuck16

        While I do think it’s important to have one line filled with character shut down, shot blocking, penalty killing guys, I agree that a rebuild should be about developing offensive players. Once we have established our offensive core for the future, it’s easy to pick up shutdown players in trades, free agency, waiver wire…to fill any such needs.

        • canuckfan

          I agree having more than one shutdown line makes it tough to score. But having a couple good penalty kill units makes good sense. You can’t just get these goal scorers they have to come through the draft or trades but will need something to trade if we are going to get anyone who can score.

        • bobdaley44

          Maybe because scorers don’t block shots, kill penalties, play physical or back check as hard. If Sutter, Motte and Granlund have to go who would you replace them with? You think quality NHL guys are available out there?

  • timmay

    Humiliating blowout that showed just how far this Canucks team is from the textbook rebuild Toronto is benefitting from in spades… now, how did it go again

    “This is year 2 and by our 4th (2017-18) or 5th (2018-19) I hope and expect that we are right there with the elite teams in the league” – Jim Benning

    So, who goes first, Benning or his mentor and ex boss Chia in Deadmonton… tick tock.

  • 51Geezer

    Everything will be fine as long as Markstrom retains the starter role. IMO the real problem is Edmonton. The Canucks must make every effort to help them out of a lottery spot and into the playoffs. Puljujarvi?

  • Fred-65

    Three games in four days should be banned. It’s not a good look for the NHL, it makes players more likely to be injured and frankly offers little benefit to the “best league in the world”

  • A few days rest is just what the doctor ordered. Next game isn’t until Thursday, so now is a good time to regroup.

    The panel on HNIC had plenty of good things to say about Van, not about the Oilers though.
    We saw two match ups for Saturday’s prime time TV and both were lopsided affairs. Not just that, but shutouts. Kind of disappointing.

  • tyhee

    It was disappointing, but I don’t like to take too much from one game, especially the 3rd game in 4 nights and 4th in 6 at the end of a 6 game road trip missing the team’s best player and where everybody is tired. Not knowing who is playing with small hurts, it’s hard to make much in the way of conclusions from such a game.

    I was wondering which of the two poor options Green would go with in goal. Markstrom performs better when he gets reasonable rest, which he hadn’t had, but playing Demko would have been throwing the rookie into the fire behind an overtired team. Unfortunately for Markstrom, he got the nod.

    On to the next one.

  • Rodeobill

    The silver lining in a game like this is that is brings us back down to reality. We STILL need to focus all our efforts on the rebuild. Yes, we can compete with the best now on a good night, but hopefully benning still understands that we are not buyers and rush the rebuild and still have a lot of work to do. EP has been vital on key plays he doesn’t even get credit for, and puts a huge bandaid on things. Him being in the MVP conversation on this team might to be a good thing in regards to he is single handedly making us competitive. We still need depth and a lot of help and tonights game really shows how much.

  • LACANUCK

    THUD!

    This happens. Long road trip, EP and TO is a really good team. Sutter and Beagle are good slotted in 3/4 center, anything above is a disaster. Salary is a whole other deal. Good thing Erikisson and Sutter could be traded or at least when their salaries drop off the books, the Canucks will be in playoff mode. GMJB can use those salaries to pay our own RFA or FA. Most Stanley Cup champs build their own base then grab a high profile FA. Ala Hossa in Chi or Pitt.

  • crofton

    Thanks for the write up Alex. Please pass along to Ryan or whoever is in charge of banning trolls that our resident troll is back. The current alias is Chalister Court Canuck. Apparently there seems to be no permanent ban, and I have asked for this before, but I will ask again… If we can’t root out the garbage, could we please get an Ignore button?

  • Kanuckhotep

    Yeah, losing to Hogtown sucks but consider this. Canucks won 31 of 82 last year and have won 20 of 45 so far this year. Improvement. Petey is a world class talent who is as valuable to his team as anyone in the NHL. Improvement. The last 3 years were mostly snooze fests but are fun to watch this year, Improvement. There is still much for Benning to do however and they aren’t there yet but you can see progress, something you couldn’t say since the days of Torterella and Willie. There are some unnamed guys on the roster who have 37 games left (or less) who must prove they’re worth going forward with. Have to quit relying on Petey for everything.