Maple Leafs-Canucks Preview
As the Toronto Maple Leafs try to end one major drought that
dates to before the NHL lockout, they can address another run of
futility that has lasted just as long.
It won’t be easy, however, for the Leafs to enter a hostile
atmosphere Saturday and snap a nine-game losing streak to the
Vancouver Canucks, who haven’t lost in regulation in more than a
Toronto (29-23-6) hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2004, but
coach Ron Wilson’s club has a chance to finally bring postseason
hockey back to Canada’s largest city as it clings to eighth place
in the Eastern Conference.
The hockey-crazed nation’s most successful franchise lately has
been Vancouver, which has showed in this matchup. The Canucks have
outscored Toronto 38-19 while winning each meeting since a 2-1 road
defeat Nov. 24, 2003.
“The Leafs have always been a team I hated as a kid,”
Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows said after scoring the game-winner in
a 5-3 victory at Toronto on Dec. 17. “I know a lot of fans in
Vancouver don’t like this team. … It just makes it extra
The Canucks (36-15-6) haven’t discriminated – they’ve been tough
on every opponent for the last several weeks, going 8-0-3 in their
last 11. Seven of those games have gone to shootouts, but they
finally escaped with a regulation win Wednesday over Colorado.
David Booth scored for the third straight game and Jannik Hansen
broke a tie with a third-period tally before Burrows’ empty-netter
sealed the 3-1 victory.
“We get off a little earlier than normal,” Hansen said. “It’s
nice to only have to play 60 (minutes).”
The Leafs needed more than that Wednesday in Edmonton, but they
were simply happy to get a 4-3 victory and snap a four-game losing
Tim Connolly scored 1:39 into overtime – his first goal in 18
games – as Toronto won despite squandering a 2-0 lead it had built
1:38 into the first period.
“We’ve been in a little bit of a rut,” Connolly said, “and to
come out and battle in a game like that where it’s going back and
forth, and really grind it out and get the win is a huge two points
Wilson, however, is wary because the Leafs’ previous win also
came against the Oilers, 6-3 at home Feb. 6. The coach said
Edmonton’s uptempo style may have been partly responsible for
getting Toronto, which was outscored 16-5 during its slide, out of
“That’s the way Edmonton plays. It actually set us off on this
little losing skid, I think,” Wilson said. “You get into a flow
that’s going back and forth, and sometimes when you get some free
looks like we were getting, you forget about playing in your own
The Leafs will certainly have to be sharp defensively against
one of the league’s most prolific clubs, and their impressive run
of success on the penalty kill might be tested.
Opponents have scored once in 34 power-play chances over 20
games since the start of 2012 after a dreadful start to the season
for the unit. Vancouver, though, leads the league at 22.1 percent
with the man advantage despite its current 2-for-23 stretch.
The Canucks had only one power-play chance – failing to convert
– at Toronto earlier this season, but they’re 12 for 50 (24.0
percent) during the winning streak in the series.