If the Vancouver Canucks have any hope left of making the postseason, they’ll have to find a way to cool down Auston Matthews and the surging Toronto Maple Leafs. Here’s what to know for gameday.
The Vancouver Canucks return home after a forgettable three-game road trip, having picked up just one of available six points while falling even further out of the playoff race.
Vancouver has dropped 11 of its last 14 games now, and they sit nine points behind the Minnesota Wild for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If the playoffs are to become a reality, this team is going to have to go on a winning streak of five or more games. They’ll need plenty of help along the way, too.
But it won’t come easy tonight, with Auston Matthews and the surging Toronto Maple Leafs making their way into town. The Leafs have won five of their last six games now, scoring at least five goals in each of those victories.
As usual, the crowd at Rogers Arena will likely be divided by Toronto and Vancouver fans. But unlike the first decade following the 2004-05 lockout, it’s not the Canucks getting the last laugh anymore.
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The Maple Leafs are headed for a third straight playoff appearance, while Vancouver is on the verge of missing out for the fourth consecutive year. The days of Canuck fans making those jokes about the Maple Leafs’ perennial failures are long gone.
But there is good news for Canuck fans: Rogers Arena has been extremely unkind to the Maple Leafs. Vancouver has only lost once at home to Toronto since the 2005-06 season, and that was three years ago. The Canucks have won the other nine meetings.
This should be an exciting contests between some of the top young stars in the NHL. Calder Trophy favourite Elias Pettersson will look to score his first goal since Feb. 14 against the Los Angeles Kings. Speaking of droughts, Brock Boeser will look to end a six-game goalless drought himself.
As usual, the Canucks will lean on the big three of Pettersson, Boeser and Bo Horvat to lead the way. It’ll be a fun matchup against the likes of Matthews and fellow superstars John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
Toronto has scored 239 goals this season, second-most in the NHL. They’ve allowed the 10th-fewest goals at 188, along with the Calgary Flames In comparison, the Canucks are 26th in offence (180 goals), and 18th in defence (206 goals allowed).
And in case you needed more convincing that the Leafs are a deeper team, they have four players with more points than Pettersson, whose 56 leads all Canuck players. So if Vancouver is going to win this game, they’ll simply need their top three players to out-play the likes of Matthews, Marner and Tavares.
If recent history means anything, the Canucks will be just fine in defending home ice against the Maple Leafs. And again, if Vancouver has any more hope of making the playoffs, they simply have to win this one.