Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Vancouver Canucks: Game 28
Time: 7:00 PM EST (lol)
Location: Not Yet Burned Down In A Riot Arena
Opponent SBNation Site: Nucks Misconduct
You know, it seems like the Canucks fans hate us for being the rich kids of the hockey world. And to be honest with you? I do feel rich right now. In fact, I feel like a millionaire.
So, yes. After torching the Flames and then watching the Oilers punch themselves the head, the third stop on the Leafs’ annual Western Canada road trip is the lovely village of Vancouver. As is custom, the game is aired to suit the larger Toronto market, and so it’s at 4:00 PM Vancouver time. Here’s how the locals are taking it:
Gosh, I just feel terrible, don’t you?
At any rate, the Canucks are doing better than most people probably expected. They’ve faltered a little lately, but they’re only one point back of a Wild Card spot. They seem to be mediocre rather than abjectly bad, which probably is not a great sign for their eventual drafting position, but their forward group has a few bright lights and their defence is collectively more effective than you might have figured. Combine that with Elias Pettersson being a neat prospect overseas and there’s some cautious optimism on the West Coast. Let’s wreck that.
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Matt Martin - Dominic Moore - William Nylander
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Borgman - Roman Polak
Until we hear otherwise, it looks like it’s going to be the same lineup as previously. William Nylander had a very merry evening against Edmonton, putting up three points as the best 4RW in the NHL, but you’d expect it’s getting nigh-time to return him to the top line, especially against a relatively shallow team like Vancouver. Still, this is an away game, and we know Mike Babcock loves spreading out his offence on the road.
On defence, no, I don’t know why Roman Polak is there either. Freddie will get the start.
Nikolay Goldobin - Bo Horvat - Brock Boeser
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jake Virtanen
Sven Baertschi - Alex Burmistrov - Sam Gagner
Thomas Vanek - Markus Granlund - Loui Eriksson
Alex Edler - Derrick Pouliot
Michael Del Zotto - Troy Stecher
Ben Hutton - Chris Tanev
Brock Boeser, y’all. I will stop trolling for a moment and acknowledge the Canucks have an actually cool forward younger than the Sedins, for once. Our Janik Beichler follows the Canucks in his dark secret life, so I asked him for his thoughts on the rookie:
In my eyes, Boeser is the Calder Trophy favourite. His shot is incredible, and one of the best in the league already. Strictly speaking about his shot, he already compares to guys like Tarasenko thanks to a unique, elite release that gives him surprising power and accuracy. He’s also an extremely smart player who can get himself into scoring positions consistently.
As to why I think he’s more likely to win the Calder than maybe Keller or Barzal, he’s simply in the best position to succeed. He’s spending time on the first line with Horvat and Baertschi and getting plenty of power-play minutes. He isn’t the lone star on a terrible team (like Keller in Arizona), because he still has Horvat and the twins and some others around him, so the pressure isn’t crazy yet. But the Canucks don’t have a Tavares either (like Barzal in New York), so Boeser is already “star enough” to be considered someone who’s carrying the team, without having to take the blame when things don’t go well.
As you might guess, the Canucks are doing a lot of damage with a surprisingly competent power play unit, but Boeser is the real deal, and Bo Horvat has done well with him. Janik will tell you more about Boeser’s shot over here, if you let him.
After the top line, the Canucks have their two veteran twins, with Jake “Not William Nylander” Virtanen riding shotgun. The bottom six has a set of offensive-minded wingers and unimpressive centres, so make of that what you will.
Don’t put too much stock into how DF organized the pairings; Chris Tanev is the Canucks’ 1D at evens, and is one of the few defenders not to get some powerplay time. Tanev is a legit defensive player. Finally, Jacob Markstrom has put up .909, which is not great, but it ain’t abject either.
The Canucks are mediocre, but mediocre as distinct from awful, and the Leafs shouldn’t expect two points just for showing up. Still, if everyone plays to form, the Leafs have both better strength and better depth at every lineup spot except right defence. Let’s ruin Vancouver’s afternoon.
Go Leafs Go!
Edited to add: Late breaking lineup news.
Bozak (illness) out tonight for Leafs ... Josh Leivo draws in— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 2, 2017
Asked if a flu bug has hit the Leaf room, Kadri didn't think so but jokingly advised the travelling media to start washing their hands.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) December 2, 2017
How that exactly shakes out likely involves Marleau at centre, and Nylander back up off the fourth line.