Vancouver Canucks (10-2-1) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (6-5-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 4 p.m., Scotiabank Arena
TV: Hockey Night in Canada. Radio: Sportsnet 650
The buzz: Even the Canucks know that the bounces are going their way — after Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, the players felt they were lucky. They had just 16 shots on the night. Brady Tkachuk missed a chance on the doorstep. If he’d scored late in the second, it might have changed the course of the game. But all this said, the team is doing lots of little things right. At some point, though, the bounces are going to go against them. Meanwhile, the Leafs are a chaotic mess. Saturday’s tilt is the second night in a row for them, having hosted the Flames on Friday, and their third game in four nights after losing on Wednesday to the Senators.
The history: The Canucks and Leafs split last season’s series, with the Leafs beating the Canucks on Hockey Hall of Fame weekend — the same week Jim Rutherford publicly ripped Bruce Boudreau. When the Canucks hosted the Leafs in March, Vancouver may have been badly outshot but they still managed to win 4-1 on the backs of a stellar performance by Thatcher Demko.
The hope: The Leafs are tired. They’ve been very inconsistent defensively. Before Friday’s game versus Calgary, Toronto had given up 30 goals at five-on-five, fifth-most in the NHL. The Canucks have scored 36 at five-on-five, tied with Los Angeles for most in the league. The Canucks will be looking to keep that rolling.
The fear: The bounces finally start going the opposition’s way. Toronto isn’t that tired after Friday’s game. The Leafs’ stars shine even brighter than the Canucks’ on this night. There are plenty of things that could go against the Canucks on Saturday night.
The top guns: The Canucks have a trio of red-hot scorers in Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and J.T. Miller. For the Leafs, Auston Matthews had 13 goals in 13 games before Friday. Mitch Marner has 17 points.
The wounded: Canucks: Teddy Blueger (ankle, day to day) and Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, LTIR). Maple Leafs: John Klingberg (undisclosed, day to day), Timothy Liljegren (high-ankle sprain, LTIR), Conor Timmins (lower-body, IR).
The quote: “We were kind of sloppy all over the place and just found a way to capitalize. You’re going to win some ugly ones. We know we need to be a heck of a lot better against Toronto.” — J.T. Miller on Thursday, after Vancouver’s win in Ottawa.
Höglander-Lafferty-Beauvillier (Blueger also skated on the fourth line on Wednesday during practice and is expected to play either in Toronto or Sunday in Montreal.)
Thatcher Demko is expected to start Saturday.
The prediction: The tired Leafs still have plenty of pop to them. Saturday night in Toronto is always a hard matchup for the visitors. The Leafs will win this one 4-3.
(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition.)
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