It’s been a long time since the Canucks won a game in Toronto, eight years to be exact. December 11th, 2011 was the date and the line up for the Leafs was...interesting.
This was the Maple Leafs' lineup the last time the Canucks won in Toronto: pic.twitter.com/bfxe1AIQ4u— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) January 6, 2019
Tonight we saw a more powerful forward group, a defense group that’s slightly improved but the goaltending? About the same.
A noteworthy start to the game: William Nylander takes the opening faceoff, instead of Auston Matthews. Also noteworthy is that tonight was Mitch Marner’s 200th NHL game, and Patrick Marleau’s 1,161st which moved him into 9th place all time.
The Maple Leafs have a bit of a difficult time outside their own zone at the start of the game, with the Canucks keeping them from much possession time in the neutral and offensive zones. Michael Hutchinson, still wearing the red pads, was able to stop what shots the Canucks got off.
The Maple Leafs get going and start getting more shots off at the goal, with Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner going from the point and Andreas Johnsson and Auston Matthews with some close chances. John Tavares and Mitch Marner will come into the Canucks zone with some good passing that the Canucks defence gets in the way of, but they persevere and come close to a goal, but can’t get the puck past Markstrom.
This offensive sequence from the John Tavares line was strong. The quick passing and efficitent skating has been a theme early and it's prevalent here. #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/thWeQ04gEK— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) January 6, 2019
Not long after this sequence, John Tavares tips in a Morgan Rielly point shot to put the Maple Leafs up 1-0. Jacob Markstrom kicked off this chance by ringing the puck along the boards to get it out, but Mitch Marner interferes on the play to get the puck back to Rielly.
The game continues to go back and forth between the Leafs and Canucks ends, no one really holding the puck very long, and then Nazem Kadri comes close to scoring his tenth of the season, but just can’t get it high enough over Markstrom.
Not long after that, Trevor Moore scores his first ever goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as he brings the puck all the way across the ice into the Canucks zone, one handing the puck around the Canucks defence, and putting it into the net cleanly.
The Canucks keep winning face offs, and losing possession which, in my opinion, is a good thing. Off of one of these face offs, Patrick Marleau gets a long pass off to Morgan Rielly who gets a wrist shot off on Markstrom, who just barely gets his stick on the puck to keep it from becoming 3-0.
The Canucks get a good chance to score as they cluster around Hutchinson, but he holds onto a Sven Baertschi shot for the whistle. Alex Edler gets the puck after the face off and rips a shot at the Leafs net, but Hutchinson is right handed so he easily gloves the puck. As the clock winds down, Andreas Johnsson gets tangled with Edler who falls as Rielly comes into the Leafs zone, and Johnsson is called for tripping.
The Canucks get 24 seconds of a powerplay as the first period ends, and they make Hutchinson work hard, but he’s saved by the buzzer and the first period ends with the Maple Leafs up 2-0.
The second opens with the Canucks resuming their powerplay, and they get a good chance but Hutchinson makes the moves he needs to keep the puck out. The penalty kill is doing an excellent job on this shift, cutting the Canucks off at the blue line, dumping it down the ice, and the Canucks are unable to get on the scoreboard.
Mitch Marner gets a cross ice pass tipped away from Tavares by Chris Tanev, Kasperi Kapanen is denied on a close shot; the Canucks are keeping the Leafs from scoring at the last moment but can’t keep the set ups from happening.
Again, Nazem Kadri and Kapanen are denied a chance as the puck is loose in the Canucks zone, and Markstrom flops around trying to find the loose puck, but the Canucks are able to keep the puck out of the net somehow. Later on Kapanen and Kadri get a two on one that sees the pass get blocked on a good chance for Kadri.
Halfway through the game, the shot clock shows a closer game than it is - 17 for Vancouver, 20 for Toronto - but the Leafs are doing an excellent job at keeping the Canucks away from the net and not giving them any good shots.
In the Canucks end, Auston Matthews gets a great pass out off the face off, but it goes through Dermotts legs, leading to some time in the Leafs zone. Hutchinson again makes the necessary saves to give the Leafs the chance to get the puck out.
Jake Gardiner falls over as Brandon Sutter is skating the puck into the Leafs zone, and Sutter trips over him so this is clearly a case of an intentional trip. The Canucks are given their second power play of the game.
Once again the Canucks can’t keep the puck in the Leafs zone to save their lives, and the Leafs penalty kill is on top of it’s game against the Canucks power play. The Leafs easily kill off the Canucks man advantage.
The second period ends with the game still 2-0 for the Leafs.
Early in the third period Nazem Kadri is one again denied a goal as he comes into the Canucks goal fast and takes a close shot on net, but it’s a bit too close and it’s an easy save for Markstrom. Aside from this moment the Leafs are playing it safe early in the third. Nothing fancy, just keeping the Canucks from getting chances.
As I write that, Auston Matthews gets a pass from Marner, and he goes around the Vancouver net, and wraps the puck around and through Markstrom’s five hole.
On that goal, his 20th of the season, Auston Matthews triggers a bonus in his contract worth $212,500. He can buy Han Solo’s jacket now!
Mitch Marner gets a great chance after the face off, going forehand and backhand in front of the Canucks goal, but the puck is poked away and he loses his chance at a goal. Matthews goal hasn’t spurred the Leafs into action, they’re still playing it safe, keeping the Canucks away from good chances and not risking much themselves. They’re playing this game for Hutchison now.
Kapanen and Kadri take the puck into the Canucks zone on a two on one and, of course, they can’t finish the play. That’s just their night tonight.
The Canucks are getting no chances tonight, the shot clock has added just two more shots for the Canucks this game as we enter the halfway point of the third.
Carter Hutton tries to get fancy behind the Canucks net, but Andreas Johnsson won’t let him. Hutton gets away from him, but then Auston Matthews steals the puck and fires it out front to Johnsson for goal number four.
Shortly after the faceoff, the Leafs are back into the Canucks zone and Igor Ozhiganov goes for a cross crease pass, but the puck deflects off Erik Gudbranson’s skate and into the net to make it 5-0 Toronto.
As we pass the five minute mark, Jake Gardiner is called for tripping once again, and the futile Canucks power play once again takes the ice. The face off happens and the Maple Leafs immediately clear the puck into the Canucks end of the ice, killing 1⁄4 of the power play time. Mitch Marner comes into the Vancouver zone short handed, but doesn’t get it past Markstrom. Half of the Canucks power play goes by without a chance to score, and the power play will eventually end without a goal yet again.
William Nylander gets a drop pass back to Travis Dermott who has a good shot from the point, but Markstrom snatches it out of the air. With 90 seconds left in the game, the Leafs are putting more pressure on Vancouver, and keeping the puck far away from their own goal to preserve the shut out for Hutchinson, which works and the Maple Leafs defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-0, getting Michael Hutchinson his first win for the Maple Leafs, his first NHL shutout in two years.
The Maple Leafs played like they never left second gear tonight, going relatively easy on a bad Canucks team. The next game is Monday night against the Nashville Predators.
It was a great game, and I’m sorry if this ruins it, but I can’t resist ending the recap like this.
Michael Hutchinson stopped INXS of 27 shots to pick up a shutout tonight.— Draglikepull (@draglikepull) January 6, 2019