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Sports Maple Leafs 4, Canucks 1: Perfect little plays make big difference in bitter loss

09:45  11 december  2019
09:45  11 december  2019 Source:   theprovince.com

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a group of people riding skis on a snowy surface: Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares, front left, Auston Matthews, back left, Alexander Kerfoot, Justin Holl (3) and Travis Dermott (23) celebrate Matthews' goal against Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom during the second period© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares, front left, Auston Matthews, back left, Alexander Kerfoot, Justin Holl (3) and Travis Dermott (23) celebrate Matthews' goal against Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom during the second period

You want meaningful games. And you wanted Tuesday.

There were enough players with Ontario birth certificates and one — winger Josh Leivo — with a chip on his shoulder to make a regular-season tussle in December feel more like a mid-April playoff struggle.

That’s what happens when the Toronto Maple Leafs and their throng of leather-lunged supporters try to turn Griffiths Way into Younge and Bloor. And whether it was the Vancouver Canucks purposely starting their all-Ontario line of Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat and Leivo, this wasn’t just another game.

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Tim and Sid are joined by Colby Armstrong to talk about his costume choice on Hockey Central @ Noon, the struggling Maple Leafs and the strong play of the Vancouver Canucks .

Here’s what we learned as little things added up to a big deal as the Canucks fell 4-1 at Rogers Arena:

a group of hockey players on the snow:  Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nic Petan and Vancouver Canucks’ Tyler Myers vie for the puck in front of Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday December 10, 2019.© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nic Petan and Vancouver Canucks’ Tyler Myers vie for the puck in front of Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday December 10, 2019.

Perfect pass, perfect deflection

On a night where Jacob Markstrom was standing up to superlative snipers like William Nylander — he stopped the winger twice from scoring early off rippers — it looked like it was going to take something special to beat the starter in an emotional return to the net after attending his father’s funeral in Sweden.

What it took was a perfect pass and a perfect deflection in a game where there was little margin for error.

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The Leafs struck first when John Tavares pounced on a wide shot off the endboards that hit the back of the net. His backhand feed found Auston Matthews open at the side of the net for the tap-in. And in the second period, it was a perfect Tavares deflection of a point shot that bounced down and past Markstrom.

To their credit, the Canucks kept pressing.

There were two deft deflections by J.T. Miller that nearly found the net. There were two third-period breakaways by Brock Boeser that were stymied by Frederik Andersen, who made glove and pad saves. Boeser was also denied on a first-period break.

And, finally, there was Leivo the ex-Leaf jamming home a loose puck in the crease to make it 2-1. Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson were then foiled — Pettersson hit two crossbars — to make it look like it was going to be a nail-biter finish. But Tavares struck again with five minutes remaining before Zach Hyman scored into the empty net.

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VANCOUVER—The Maple Leafs rebounded from a poor game Thursday in Calgary with a solid performance Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks , but couldn’t The Leafs , who had given themselves some life by blanking the Canucks ’ No. 1 -rated power play on four occasions, turned this

Head Coach Mike Babcock addresses the media following Toronto's 4 - 1 Game 2 loss to Boston on Saturday.

a hockey player standing in the snow:  J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks is stopped by goalie Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs.© Rich Lam J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks is stopped by goalie Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Boeser took issue with his own play despite eight shots and 10 attempts. If anything, one goal in his last eight games could be attributed to some hesitation in his release and occasional accuracy problems. Or, it is something else?

“At least I’m getting the chances,” said Boeser. “I haven’t been playing my best of late and I really wanted to make this a statement game. I tried to pick my spots on the breakaways. But there have been times when I could move my feet more and you can see when I do it — like tonight — I get more chances. I just have to make sure I play that way every night.”

As much as the Canucks could take stock in the game they played, they had to tip their cap to Tavares. It wasn’t just his three-point night (2-1), it was the manner in which the Leafs captain led by example, won 57 per cent of his draws and showed form and finish with five shots and 10 shot attempts.

Take him out of the game and it might have been a different result.

“He’s earned every little penny,” said Leivo. “He’s a workhorse and when I played with him, he was in the gym right away and on the ice early and always working. It showed tonight. He’s always on.”

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The Canucks now have lost eight straight games. It's unlikely that that scenario will play out, but the question I 'd like to bring up is: what will save us? I 'm still very young, and the fact that I make videos on YouTube is pretty much the only difference between myself and the stereotypical teenager.

“His biggest attribute is his two-way game and a lot of is offence comes from playing well defensively and he’s probably one of the better two-way defencemen in the league,” added Horvat. “He capitalizes on opportunities and hits holes and is good at finding players.”

Which made the night tough to stomach. After all, a 39-shot effort should have yielded more.

“One of our better games overall for the year to be honest,” added Horvat. “I felt like we were consistent and in a lot of games we kind of lull and tonight we finished strong. We played well for 15 minutes in the second period and traded chances, but nine times out of 10, you come out with win a win there.”

Maybe Pettersson, who more than held his own in tough matchups. put it best about the collective effort and the Tavares effect.

“If I score on the first crossbar, it’s a tie game,” said Pettersson. “It’s frustrating. We played good enough to win. One of those games where the puck won’t go in. But they played the puck faster than we could react. A great team and showed it today.”

And Tavares?

“He’s been such a good player in this league for a long time and it showed today — he scored two important goals for them.”

And, as expected, Tavares wanted to talk about what didn’t go quite right.

“At times tonight, especially in the third, we’re trying to be aggressive but we’ve got to be a little smarter,” said Tavares. “They’ve got skilled forwards who get in behind us and Freddie had to make big saves. But we’re getting better and making cleaner exits and digging and defending well when he have to.”

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But what about his offence and that deft deflection and his first three-point night of the season?

“You’re fighting for every inch of ice and do anything you can to get a result,” he said. “I’m just trying to play my game and getting more comfortable with Mitchy (Mitch Marner) back on our line.”

a hockey game in the snow:  Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin (8) checks Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (6) during the first period at Rogers Arena.© Anne-Marie Sorvin Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin (8) checks Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (6) during the first period at Rogers Arena.

Potent power play unplugged

The Canucks have scored the most power-plays goals, have had the most opportunities and Horvat is destroying the opposition in man-advantage, offensive-zone draws. The fourth-ranked unit was facing the 25th-rated penalty kill Tuesday, so the strategy seemed obvious.

Play hard. Play direct. Draw penalties. Get an early lead and silence the Leaf faithful. Sounds simple, but why was it so hard? Give Sheldon Keefe credit. The new Leafs coach has added structure to the skill set and in his first eight games behind the bench, the Leafs had six perfect kill nights.

On Tuesday, they surrendered only one power play when Marner took an interference minor on Leivo. And the only chance was when a cross-ice pass bounced as Boeser teed-up the one-timer but whiffed on the opportunity.

a group of hockey players on the field:  Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes (43) and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev (65) vie for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday December 10, 2019. ORG XMIT: VCRD207 [PNG Merlin Archive]© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes (43) and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev (65) vie for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday December 10, 2019. ORG XMIT: VCRD207 [PNG Merlin Archive] Ferland starts fast, exits quick

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Dorsett leads Canucks over Leafs 4 - 1 --VANCOUVER - Derek Dorsett admitted to costing his team with He more than made up for it on Saturday. The bruising forward scored his first goal in 24 games and also chipped in with two assists as the Vancouver Canucks downed the Toronto Maple

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Micheal Ferland was making a difference.

The big winger, who missed 17 games with a concussion sustained in an Oct. 30 bout with Kyle Clifford in Los Angeles, did what he had to do Tuesday. He served some notice that time and space were going to be at a premium.

He had three first-period hits and two in a span of a dozen seconds when he levelled Cody Ceci in the offensive zone with a crunching hit and then dropped Alex Kerfoot in the neutral zone.

However, Ferland took just one second-period shift and left the ice, the bench and the game. The club announced that he was done for the night with an upper-body injury and the obvious speculation was that in delivering one of those big hits, he may have suffered a whiplash effect. In his post-game summation, Canucks coach Travis Green didn’t shed any additional light on the injury and kept to an upper-body assessment.

Ferland has been limited to 14 games and just five points (1-4).

a group of people racing each other on a snow covered slope:  Vancouver Canucks forward Antoine Roussel (26) shoots the puck against Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) during the first period at Rogers Arena.© Anne-Marie Sorvin Vancouver Canucks forward Antoine Roussel (26) shoots the puck against Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) during the first period at Rogers Arena.

Take your pick: Gaudette or Kerfoot?

The Canucks had serious interest in centre Kerfoot when the Vancouver native spurned the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, and signed with the Colorado Avalanche as a college free agent on Aug. 23, 2017 after four seasons at Harvard.

Vancouver brass saw Kerfoot as a fit because the retirement of Henrik Sedin, the progress of Bo Horvat, the future promise of Elias Pettersson and the aging Brandon Sutter meant they could solve a riddle in the middle.

Kerfoot chose the Avalanche because the club was starting to turn it around with a younger and faster roster and he responded with 19 goals in 2017-18 and had 15 last season. However, in order to take the next steps, the Avs had to get grittier and dealt Kerfoot to the Leafs on July 1 in a multi-player swap that brought the agitating Nazem Kadri to Denver. And that’s where it gets interesting.

The Canucks are high on Adam Gaudette, their 2015 fifth-round pick, because the Hobey Baker Award winner has become a reliable and productive third-line centre who can play with an edge. On Tuesday, the centres were often matched up against each other. Gaudette has six goals this season and Kerfoot five.

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Andersen 36-save performance helps power Maple Leafs past Oilers 4-1 .
EDMONTON — The bottom six forwards stepped up to the plate to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a big road win on Saturday. Alexander Kerfoot had a goal and an assist as the Leafs powered their way to a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Ilya Mikheyev, Frederik Gauthier and Mitch Marner also scored for the Maple Leafs (16-14-4), who have now won three of their last four games. Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe credited the role players on his team for their efforts on the night.“They were great, they skated, they worked, they made plays, they attacked the net,” he said. “There was a lot of really good things they were doing.

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