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Preview: Leafs host the Canucks for their last two matches of the season

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It’s Canucks time again.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens
MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 28: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs congratulates goaltender Jack Campbell #36 after a win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on April 28, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Game 50: Vancouver Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs

Time: 4:00 PM PDT
Place: Scotiabank Arena
Channel: TSN4

Game 51: Vancouver Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs

Time: 4:00 PM PDT
Place: Scotiabank Arena
Channel: CBC, Sportsnet Ontario, West, and Pacific

SB Nation Opponent’s site: NucksMisconduct

After handily beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1, the Leafs travel back home to play the Vancouver Canucks for two games. The Leafs have been rolling of late, winning three straight since the last mini-series with the Canucks.

The power play looks significantly improved with both John Tavares and William Nylander scoring on the man advantage in the past week. Funny how good an idea that was. Even without Zachs Hyman and Bogosian, the Leafs have comfortably found leads and run with them for relatively easy-peasy wins. With the goaltending finally settling into a groove, the Leafs finally look streets ahead of the rest of the division.

Looking at the last three games against Montreal and Winnipeg, the Leafs have had the edge in shots after you adjust for score. What’s better, they have a dominant expected goals share against two potential playoff rivals, hovering around 60%.

You probably already know, but with this winning streak (and a little help from Ottawa) the Leafs have officially bagged a playoff spot. I’m sure many fans hoped it would be touch-and-go for a while, but alas. The next pebble to walk over will be clinching the division for the first time since 1999-20 (oh my god, really?) and for the ninth time in franchise history.

The Leafs have a seven point lead over Edmonton as of Thursday morning. They’ll need 10 points in their final seven games to be sure of top spot, but the magic number will come down every time Edmonton loses.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

Nick Foligno - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Alex Galchenyuk - John Tavares - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - Alex Kerfoot - Wayne Simmonds
Joe Thornton - Adam Brooks - Jason Spezza

Defence

Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Travis Dermott

Goaltenders

Jack Campbell
David Rittich
Michael Hutchinson

Vancouver Canucks

Lines from last night’s loss to Ottawa.

Forwards

Tanner Pearson - Bo Horvat - Brock Boeser
Nils Hoglander - J.T. Miller - Zack MacEwen
Tyler Motte - Brandon Sutter - Jayce Hawryluk
Matthew Highmore - Travis Boyd - Jake Virtanen

Defence

Quinn Hughes - Travis Hamonic
Alexander Edler - Nate Schmidt
Olli Juolevi - Tyler Myers

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby
Arturs Silovs

Thatcher Demko, just back from a lower body injury, took the loss to Ottawa yesterday, so it’ll either be Holtby or 20-year-old Latvian rookie Arturs Irbe Silovs.

The Canucks are coming off a 6-3 loss to the Senators, a game that helped the Leafs clinch their playoff spot. At this point, they’ll really need a miracle to catch the Montreal Canadiens, who are also floundering. Their games this week mark the last time they play the Leafs this season.

The key for the Leafs tonight and Saturday will be to shut down the Horvat line. That line has been pretty dangerous against the Leafs all season, beating the Matthews or Tavares line (but not both) fairly regularly. The Tavares line had a tough night against Nick Suzuki, mustering one chance while giving up a dozen at 5v5. It wouldn’t surprise me if Keefe goes to Matthews for the tough assignment tonight (maybe that was always the plan on the SEGABABA).