As the losses continue to pile up, the Vancouver Canucks have one last chance at redemption before an extended Olympic break. Will Vancouver continue it’s dominance over the Toronto Maple Leafs? Or will the streak (and our hearts…) be broken at the hands of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul? Hold on tight because we are about to find out.
Last Game: The Montreal Canadiens
The Canucks were in Montreal to face the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday night. In keeping with current trends, Vancouver continued it’s charitable ways by donating a 2-0 lead to the Canadiens.
Chris Higgins cut the lead in half with a power play goal early in the second period but the Canucks felt bad about spoiling the party in Montreal so they spotted Max Pacioretty a penalty shot which was stopped by Roberto Luongo.
Pacioretty, not happy with his first penalty shot attempt, was granted another chance about two minutes later but failed to capitalize again. I think he will find consolation in the fact that he still got a hat trick despite missing two penalty shots.
The Canadiens went on to win the game 5-2, handing Vancouver their sixth loss in a row.
If you can believe it, The Canucks have not yet slipped from their eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference as the Winnipeg Jets (yes, we are competing with the Winnipeg Jets now, let that sink in) lost their game as well.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
It is a perfect storm for the Maple Leafs. At the moment, Toronto looks unstoppable offensively yet pretty average on defence. So who better to play than the Vancouver Canucks who can’t score or defend to save their lives?
Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Tyler Bozak lead a potent attack that has been on fire lately. They will have plenty of help from Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk, who provide consistent secondary scoring for the Leafs.
The Leafs are currently sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference which is right on par with their level of play this season. Things are going well for the Maple Leafs and they are no longer the most embarrassing thing about Toronto. He is:
Dan Hamhuis makes his return to the lineup after missing two games with a groin issue. Expect Roberto Luongo to make the final start before the Olympic break.
D. Sedin – Schroeder – Burrows
Higgins – Kesler – Hansen
Kassian – Richardson – Booth
Pelletier – Dalpe – Sestito
Hamhuis – Stanton
Garrison – Diaz
Edler – Corrado
1. Shut Down Phil the Thrill
Shutting down Phil Kessel is going to be a tall order for the Canucks. He is currently tearing up the league with 30 goals and 33 assists on the season, good for forth (or third if you don’t count scoring leader Sidney Crosby who no one will catch anyway) in the National Hockey League. Kessel can beat any goalie with his lethal shot and even though he appears to be a little on the pudgy side, he has underrated speed and can easily burn defenceman who take that for granted. It’s a good thing Hamhuis is back in the line up because the Canucks can ill afford to make mistakes with Kessel on the ice. However, judging by his Team USA photo, it looks like the only scoring he is doing is on the ice.
2. Stop Giving Teams a 2-0 Lead
That seems pretty obvious, but the pattern keeps repeating itself and it is getting frustrating. The Canucks can always seem to claw back into the game and give us some hope, only to see the other team score that dreaded third goal. I would really enjoy watching the Canucks play with the lead. I miss that.
3. Dear Canucks…
I can accept that things are not going well at the moment. I understand that every franchise in the National Hockey League goes through cycles of dominance and utter incompetence. Heck, even the Chicago Blackhawks seemed to be finished in 2012 and look how they rebounded. While the Canucks ship has probably sailed, you are still a proud franchise that will continue to do everything to be competitive in a very tough league. I will always thank you for that and accept that we are currently in the downturn of the cycle.
However, one thing I will not accept, is losing to the freaking Toronto Maple Leafs. I am in no way a religious man, but for the love of God, don’t do this to us! Perhaps the only thing we have left as Canucks fans is routinely embarrassing the Leafs twice a year. We already have to endure media outlets such as CBC and TSN parade the Leafs around Canada. But if you lose to Toronto, the garbage we have to listen to gets taken to a whole other level. We are talking an 11 on a scale of 10.
“Eleven. Exactly. One louder” – Nigel Tufnel
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Every Canucks fan. Ever.
If this was any other team, I would be predicting a loss for the Canucks. The Maple Leafs are a different animal though. I think there is enough motivation there to build off of their “improved” play and sneak out an overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre.
Bonus Prediction: I invent a series of new swear words to describe CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada panel.