Vancouver Canucks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
7:00 p.m. E.T. Thursday on TSN4 and Sportsnet Pacific (regional game - blackouts in effect)
SB Nation Opponent’s site: Nucks Misconduct

The Leafs are back in action tonight after a short four day break in games. They face the Canucks, who are the last team in the division the Leafs have yet to play this season and the Leafs will spend a whole six days with them for three consecutive games.

Why We Hate The Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks’ 6-7-0 record for the season-to-date is worse than where most had pegged the team to be. Indeed, many had them as certain to be in the top three of the division, yet, here they are with 25% of the season complete sitting instead in the bottom three, and that record even includes a generous allowance for beating up on the comically bad Ottawa Senators over three games in mid-January where they outscored them 16 to 3.

After beating up on the Senators, the Canucks were then completely destroyed by the Canadiens earlier this week, with ex-Canuck Tyler Toffoli leading the charge and beating them in two games straight. So if you look at the Canucks record minus the Senators it’s a poor three wins and seven losses. This is not what was expected.

Projected Leafs Lines
(no changes from previous game; source: Sheldon Keefe via Lance Hornby)

Zach Hyman — Auston Matthews — Mitch Marner
William Nylander — John Tavares — Wayne Simmonds
Jimmy Vesey — Alex Kerfoot — Ilya Mikheyev
Nic Petan — Travis Boyd — Jason Spezza

Morgan Rielly — T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin — Justin Holl
Travis Dermott — Zach Bogosian

Frederik Andersen is the presumed starter
Michael Hutchinson

Projected Canucks Lines
(previous game, source Nucks Misconduct)

J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Nils Hoglander
Adam Gaudette — Brandon Sutter — Zack MacEwen
Jake Virtanen — Jay Beagle — Tyler Motte

Quinn Hughes — Jordie Benn
Nate Schmidt — Tyler Myers
Alexander Edler — Jalen Chatfield

Thatcher Demko (expected starter Thursday)
Braden Holtby

Injured: Antoine Roussel (undisclosed), Travis Hamonic (upper body), Jayce Hawryluk (undisclosed), Micheal Ferland (head)

The Game

Yes, that’s Braden Holtby sitting there for the Canucks in case you forgot they snagged him form the Washington Capitals in the off-season. There’s certainly some Leafs who will remember him from that 2017 “not Bruins” playoffs series where the Leafs were eliminated in OT of game 6 where Holtby made 37 saves on 38 shots-on-goal. Time for some revenge! A winning record in this three game series for the Leafs will put the Canucks in a really bad position in the division.

We are of course going to watch Elias Pettersson feeding the puck to Brock Boeser very closely tonight. The duo is mostly responsible for the bright red blob of death in front of the opposing team’s net and in their slot on this 5v5 shot-attempts chart from HockeyViz.

Boeser sits with 8 goals in 13 games, putting him tied for second in the league for scoring (behind only the previously mentioned Tyler Toffoli who got most of his goals against the Canucks). Pettersson has set up a lot Boeser’s goals, but he’s an elite shooter too, which is especially dangerous on their power play. You certainly shouldn’t just stand and watch him take the shot like Ben Chiarot on the Habs does here.

Then there’s Quinn Hughes on defence, whom they are keenly aware of as well.

You know what would be a great idea? Have the Leafs not take dumb penalties that give the Canucks power play opportunities, though, will the officials go along with that plan? We shall see tonight. Let’s just hope Sheldon Keefe doesn’t get a bench minor for falling into the stands.

Which North Division team will be the Leafs greatest nemesis after tonight’s game?

The Canucks26
The Leafs themselves251