Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Showdown with New and Improved Vancouver Canucks
We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at the Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.
Vancouver Canucks (18-7-1) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (13-9-3) 7:00 p.m. CBC
The Leafs went 1-1 against the Canucks last season
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Leafs Injury Report
Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain.
Roman Polak is out with a knee injury.
Leo Komarov is questionable with an upper-body injury.
Canucks Injury Report
Dec 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New Jersey Devils right wing Steve Bernier (18) celebrates his goal with teammates in the third period as Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) looks on at Air Canada Centre. The Devils beat the Maple Leafs 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Just when we thought the Leafs were developing some momentum they have a game to forget against the New Jersey Devils losing 5-3. At this point the players, coaching staff, management even fans know what the issues are with this team but the real question is, who is going to step up and fix the mistakes? We as fans cannot even if we plead and show are frustrations sometimes. Now I understand that it is one game but we have seen the team play like this many times before and it simply cannot continue to happen. Here is what Randy Carlyle and a couple of players had to say after the game.
Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning announces Jake Virtanen (not pictured) as the number six overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
While the Leafs go back to the drawing board the Canucks look like they have found a way to forget the circus show from last season. They now sit in a familiar spot at the top of the Western Conference, they have not been there since Alain Vigneault was their coach. Now the credit cannot be given to just Willie Desjardins , GM Jim Benning has made crucial moves to address the mistakes that former GM Mike Gillis failed to fix. The deal that sent Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks has benefited both teams with Nick Bonino performing very well so far.
Dec 2, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller (30) talks with goalie Eddie Lack (31) while leaving the ice after the Canucks
The goaltending situation in Vancouver was a mess over the last few years where they had two number one goalies in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider to an inexperienced Eddie Lack. Now it looks like they might have their goalie for a while in Ryan Miller who I was surprised to see go to Vancouver. The Canucks also got rid of David Booth and Mike Santorelli who now play in Toronto and trade Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay. Another key acquisition was signing free agent Radim Vrbata who has played well with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the brothers have not played to their potential in the last few years but it looks like things are turning around.
Dec 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) talks to center Nazem Kadri (43) against the New Jersey Devils at Air Canada Centre. The Devils beat the Maple Leafs 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The struggle now for the Leafs is their upcoming schedule. In their next seven games they play against the Canucks, then the surprising Calgary Flames make a stop in Toronto followed by a home-and-home against the Detroit Red Wings, then it ends with games against the Los Angeles Kings and Ducks. If there is a time for the Leafs to silence their critics this will probably be their best opportunity.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Feb 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) looks for a pass as Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) defends at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Vancouver 3-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs VAN: 8 GP – 5 goals – 3 assist – 8 PTS
James van Riemsdyk career vs VAN: 5 GP- 2 goals- 0 assists- 2 PTS
Dion Phaneuf career vs VAN:38 GP- 7 goals- 11 assists- 18 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs VAN: 6 GP- 1 goal- 4 assists- 5 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs VAN: 2 GP – Record: 2-0 2.00 GAA – .937 SV%
James Reimer career vs VAN:2 GP- Record: 0-2 5.26 GAA- .877 SV%
Feb 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin (22) carries the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Vancouver 3-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Henrik Sedin career vs TOR: 21 GP- 4 goals- 16 assists- 21 PTS
Daniel Sedin career vs TOR: 21 GP- 9 goals- 12 assists- 21 PTS
Radim Vrbata career vs TOR: 13 GP- 3 goals 4 assists- 7 PTS
Nick Bonino career vs TOR: 2 GP- 1 goal- 0 assists- 1 PTS
Alexander Edler career vs TOR: 10 GP- 0 goals- 6 assists- 6 PTS
Ryan Miller career vs TOR: 50 GP- Record: 32-15-3 2.47 GAA- .921 SV%
Keys to Victory for Toronto
Jan 15, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul (19) tries to get a shot on Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller (30) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Buffalo 4-3 in an overtime shoot out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Miller has a 13-10-2 record in 25 games at the Air Canada Centre with a 2.56 GAA and .913 SV%. Now let’s not forget that those games were during his days as the number one goalie for the Buffalo Sabres. This time around expects the Leafs to struggle scoring goals against Miller unless he has an off-game.
The Sedins are not the same threat that they used to be but they are still a dangerous duo adding Vrbata they are going to be hard to contain. The Leafs have to avoid losing position on them in their own end and watch out for their trademark play which is to set each other up in front of the net.
Dec 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) skates with the puck as Dallas Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) defends during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The top line has to respond after a poor effort against the Devils they need to avoid the turnovers and get out of their own zone. The defence has to be more sound in their defensive zone coverage and avoid chasing the puck in their own end. The Devils outworked the Leafs badly in the last game and although the Leafs will not outwork their opponent every night,they have to be able to push back when their opponent tries to be aggressive against them. There are some nights where the Leafs good and horrendous, it is time that they find some middle ground and the Canucks provide the best test for them.
Dec 4, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin (33) is checked by Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Steve Downie (23) during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Vancouver won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Canucks are ranked 10th on the power play on the road at 19.6 percent. The Leafs are ranked 17th at 81.5 percent at home on the penalty kill. Against the Devils the Leafs took an unnecessary penalty to start the game and it gave the Devils some much needed confidence to start the game. The Leafs cannot let the Canucks get the momentum early in the game, They cannot simply sit back and play it safe and hope that Bernier bails them out. They have done a good job in making sure that Bernier is not being over worked but at the same time Bernier is still trying to regain his play from last season.
Feb 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson (4) knocks down Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen (36) in front of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
If the Leafs lose to the Canucks, it would not be a total disappointment if they play well. If they let them run all over them then it could be time for the Leafs to step back and make some changes. Nothing drastic, but they cannot continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. One thing I can say about this team, when they lose they deserved to lose. But when they win they played well enough to win. Hopefully more things continue to trend upwards.