Rogers Arena; Vancouver, BC
4:00 p.m. PT, the best time for hockey; CBC (National)
SBN Opposition Blog: Nucks Misconduct
Remember four weeks ago? The world was a crazy place. The Cubs were fresh off their first World Series title in 108 years; we still believed Donald Trump was about to lose the presidential election; Seth Griffith was still Leafs property. What a time to be alive!
You may also remember a certain game played between these two teams in Toronto four weeks ago. Leafs won 6-3, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner sang a duet, fun was had by all. Oh yeah, and Nazem Kadri nearly killed a Sedin and a WWE Royal Rumble ensued for the entire third period. And we were....[holds fingers very close together]...THIS close to a goalie fight! Hmph!
Anyway, the Canucks kinda sorta want revenge; in particular, Erik Gudbranson threatened Matt Martin's life after he jumped Troy Stecher. There will also undoubtedly be some bad blood against Kadri, intensified by the fact he did not receive a suspension for that hit. Morgan Rielly also launched a hit on Jannik Hansen that, while 100% clean, may have contributed to his subsequent injury. Rielly, a West Vancouver native, might be just behind Milan Lucic in the list of local NHLers that have become persona non grata in their own hometown.
Or, perhaps, under the watchful eye of roughly two dozen NHL officials that will issue a major suspension to a player for so much as sneezing the wrong way, we'll get nothing more than a weak staged fight one minute into the game and can focus on hockey.
The Leafs are on the third and final game of their Western Canadian road swing before playing six of their next seven games at home. They followed up a pair of solid 4-2 wins over the Capitals and Oilers by completely laying an egg in a 3-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
Frederik Andersen did not practice with the team on Friday, but Babcock allayed concerns and confirmed he is still expected to start. Based on line rushes at Friday's practice, Martin Marincin may draw in for Connor Carrick, but there are no other expected lineup changes.
The Leafs will go as far as their young rookies will take them, but all eyes tonight will be on Nazem Kadri. He's been used to being Public Enemy #1 on the Leafs roster this trip, as he made Oilers fans irate for committing the mortal sin of defending their team's best player. Considering he bestowed a rather blindsided hit on half of the Swedish Hydra that is the Canucks' best player, he will no doubt be jeered by the hometown crowd (assuming they aren't drowned out by the hordes of Leaf fans expected to be in attendance).
The Canucks, like the Leafs, lost their most recent game after a two-game win streak, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Ducks on Thursday. Since the Leafs have last seen them, the Canucks have basically alternated between wins and losses, amassing a 6-5-1 record. Due to injuries and otherwise just being a very bad team, the Canucks have a lot of guys you've never heard of. Here is a sampling of names currently in the Canucks lineup: Michael Chaput (pronounced like "shampoo" minus the 'm'); Jayson Megna; Joe Labate; Alex Biega; Philip Larsen.
The Canucks have been fairly dominant against the Leafs at home since the 2005 lockout, with just one loss. That loss, however, came last year in a 5-2 Leafs decision in February.
But, I'm probably boring you. For making it this far, your reward is this compilation of Canucks fans complaining about the 4 PM local start time:
Of course the Canucks have a 4:00 start when Toronto is in town #centeroftheuniverse— Curtis Toneff (@UncleTonny) March 14, 2015
Why does the hockey world have to cater to Toronto so much? Saturday's Leafs/Canucks game starts at 4 pm, not the usual 7 pm home game time.— Ian Gooding (@Ian_Gooding) December 16, 2010
The Canucks game is at 4 PM tomorrow? Why are we having to bend over backwards to accommodate the Leafs?— Naazia Ebrahim (@anaazia) October 24, 2009
But, without a doubt, this one is my personal favourite:
Kind of unfair that the league makes the Canucks play on this rink when the Maple Leafs are in town pic.twitter.com/p9aIvjmzpl— Jolly NHL Dinger (@atf13atf) February 13, 2016