The Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for the first time since a 4-1 win for the Maple Leafs in December. That was a good win for the Maple Leafs on the road. We’ve seen some really good moments this season in Toronto, and there have been some really bad, too. So bad that the Maple Leafs lost to a zamboni driver a week ago. Mind you, the Hurricanes were up 4-1 when David Ayres, but it still doesn’t excuse losing 6-3 to an emergency goaltender.
He played more than a period, so the Leafs had ample opportunities to score a lot of goals. And then there’s been the really good. For instance, they followed that horrendous loss up with a 4-3 win over the Lightning on the road. Following that big win, the Leafs were winners by a score of 5-3 in Sunrise against the Panthers.
The win over the Panthers was a huge win. That was a critical win that gives the Maple Leafs a 4-point advantage over them for No. 3 in the Atlantic Division. It’s either that or a wildcard for Toronto and Florida. It’s highly unlikely that the Lightning are giving up the No. 2 spot in the Atlantic. There’s a better chance of the Lightning catching the Bruins for top honours in the division.
They have a record of 40-19-5 and 85 points, while the Leafs trail with a record of 34-23-8 and 76 points. Could that loss against an emergency goaltender be a positive? Maybe that’s the serious wake up call they needed to get focused. They were lackadaisical even before that game. The Leafs lost three of five games before getting humiliated against the Hurricanes.
Ayres did the media tour after the game and his stick is going in the Hockey Hall of Fame. There can’t be a much worse feeling for players on the Maple Leafs than seeing that news replayed over and over again. It could likely be a situation where they turn a negative into a positive. If that’s the case, we’ll look back at that as the turning point to get things in gear.
The Canucks are in a battle of their own in the Pacific Division. Everything is wide open for the Canucks, as it could be a divisional crown, top-3, wildcard, or no playoffs. The Canucks are tied for second in the division at the moment, with a record of 34-22-6 and 74 points. That only gives them a 1-point advantage over the Flames, who are currently in possession of a wildcard. This should be a good one in Toronto tonight. Head below for our free Canucks vs. Maple Leafs pick.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Betting Odds:
Canucks vs. Maple Leafs Prediction:
There isn’t any secret what has to happen in March for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen has to find his game between the pipes. That goes for the defence that has left him out to dry on more than a few occasions as well. Andersen will get the criticism, but often times he’s getting hit by a firing squad because of shoddy play defensively.
He has a 2.98 GAA and 0.906 save percentage, which has to be better for success in the playoffs. They are not getting past the Bruins in the playoffs with those kinds of results from Andersen. Fans in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena have not seen him at his best a whole lot. Andersen has posted a 3.15 GAA and 0.90 save percentage in 26 games at home.
The loss of Jake Muzzin is going to put even more pressure on Andersen to come up big. Cody Ceci and Morgan Rielly are expected back in early to mid-March, so that’ll put some depth back on the blueline. Muzzin is not going to be back at the earliest in late March. Even with a healthy defence, Andersen was getting hammered with scoring chances around his cage. The Leafs as a team have allowed an average of 3.26 goals per game for 27th in the NHL.
Offensively there hasn’t been issues in Toronto. They have more than enough playmakers on their roster to pile on the goals, but I do worry about their defence in the playoffs, if they do in fact reach the playoffs in April. The Leafs are 1st in the league with 3.51 goals per game. They looked hungrier as ever after the loss versus the Hurricanes. The Leafs scored 9 goals in their previous two outings with wins of 5-3 and 4-3. They should do well against a Canucks team that has gotten beaten for 3.44 goals per game on the road in 2019-20.
Thatcher Demko is likely to get the call for the Canucks tonight. Jacob Markstrom will be re-evaluated in two weeks after suffering a lower-body injury. That leaves a big opportunity for Demko. He owns a 3.08 GAA and 0.903 save percentage in 22 games this year. Demko was not good in his last three starts. He’s allowed a total of 12 goals for a combined save percentage of 0.859. I’d look at a play on the OVER in Toronto with the Canucks in town at Scotiabank Arena.