After a frustrating loss on Thursday night, the Vancouver Canucks will look to bounce back against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here’s your game preview.
They only play twice a year, but the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs really have a rivalry like no other, for a variety of reasons.
Before Vancouver joined the NHL in 1970-71, many hockey fans in British Columbia cheered for one of the two Canadian teams — the Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens. And ever since the NHL awarded a franchise to Vancouver, there have been intense bragging rights between the west coast team and the Original Six franchise.
Maple Leafs fans always invade Rogers Arena when Toronto comes to town, although Canuck supporters travel quite well when Vancouver heads east, too.
Toronto has been the house of horrors for this Pacific Division team over the years. Vancouver hasn’t won a road game here since Dec. 17, 2011. Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen were among the goal scorers that night. Good times.
Both teams are in a tight postseason race, and they both need these two points. For all we know, it could determine their playoff fates. There is more than bragging rights on the line tonight.
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Players to watch
Tyler Toffoli: He’s been better than advertised through his first four games in a Vancouver uniform. Toffoli has four goals and two points since joining his new team.
Auston Matthews: Only David Pastrnak (46) has more goals than the Maple Leafs sniper (44). The 22-year-old has already set a career high in points with 76, too, and he tallied a goal against Vancouver on the Dec. 10 meeting.
Quinn Hughes: Unbelievable. The rookie blueliner is at 51 points, and there are still 19 games to go. Hughes is on a five-game point streak, with seven assists over that span. He should be considered the man to beat in the Calder Trophy race at this point. (Sorry, Cale Makar).
Mitch Marner: Business as usual for Marner, who’s living up nicely to his new contract with 15 goals and 63 points on the season. Vancouver’s blue line couldn’t contain Marner, who recorded two assists in the previous meeting.
Prediction: 4-2 Maple Leafs
At the end of the day, it’s hard to pick against the Maple Leafs here. They’ve absolutely owned the Canucks on home ice, and Vancouver’s away record (14-16-2) leaves a lot to be desired.
The Canucks haven’t beaten many quality teams on the road this season, and it’s hard to see them getting the better of a club that has regained its form under new head coach Sheldon Keefe. When all is said and done, Vancouver will drop a tough 4-2 decision, with Toffoli and Bo Horvat notching the two goals.