I gotta preface this by saying the following.....
I LOVE BEATING THE LEAFS!
Ok, on to business.
Probably the best team game I've seen the Canucks put together this season, definitely one of the few games where we saw more than 50 minutes of hockey out of this bunch. I'm still disappointed in Vigneault's continual playing of Rome over Alberts. The guy [Rome] can't put together a decent game, makes multiple mistakes in bad areas, and yet the next game Alberts is out and Tanev is paired up with Rome. Unreal. The only defenseman, or player for that matter, that I have disliked as much as Rome is Rory Fitzpatrick.
I don't care how many points the Sedins put up, and how many times Burrows burned Reimer high inside a post, there is no question that Dan Hamhuis was far and away our best player tonight. He was consistent all night. Hammer made several incredible defensive plays to break up rushes and bail out his teammates. Bieksa, while quite good tonight, had a couple of unlucky bounces go over his stick and every time Hamhuis read it, came across, got back, and disrupted a Leaf scoring chance. Hamhuis got the offense going tonight whenever he got the puck, it was a simple read, a subtle direction change, and then a great stretch pass to get the attack started. First star in my books if not on the scoresheet.
Lou was great tonight. Shoulda had a shutout but was betrayed by the officials and a dying seconds collapse by his defense in front of him. That first goal should have been whistled a dead play and a Toronto penalty before Phaneuf ever saw the puck. Lupul took Bieksa out and pushed him into Luongo while the puck was still being carried behind the net, as interference calls go, that is a gimme, as interference calls that directly result in a scoring chance or goal are concerned.....a no-brainer.
Malhotra played a solid game tonight, although somehow he was on for both Leaf goals and ended up a minus 1 on the night. Great job on the defensive side of the faceoff circle and a great effort to get to the net on his goal. Love the mentality of both him and Lap right now, after the game all they had to say was that they need to be focused on defense and keeping the other team off the scoreboard. Even when the reporters tried to steer them towards the "it's just great to contribute" path, they brought it back and reminded the media what their role on the team is.
The Sedins really broke out of it tonight, and just in time for a long road trip. If history is any indicator we are about to see them go on a stretch of multiple point games over the next week or so.
Raymond seemed to be a bit harder on the puck tonight, fighting through checks to get to loose pucks in the corner and recovering hard on the back-check. Still not really going to the net though, and when you are up against a team like Toronto, that doesn't boast much in the way of responsible defenders and great positional blueliners, you gotta take it to the crease hard. If there is a move to be made on this team that involves a forward, you can bet it will be Raymond.
Really good game for Tanev tonight, especially considering his partner. The kid had to play smart, simple, responsible hockey, and he did a good job of it.
On the other side of the ice, the Maple Leaf's were pretty weak. For a team that hasn't made the playoffs in umpteen years, and is finally on the verge (barely) of doing so, they were probably coming into this game to use the Canucks as a measuring stick to see where they are at. Well tonight they played last year's best regular season team and runner-up for the Cup, a team that has made the playoffs 9 of the last 10 years and been a top 3 seed most of those times. Well Toronto found out just how far they have to go. They still need depth, they still need to be tighter in their own end, and they still need goaltending. I won't be surprised to see Toronto miss the playoffs by a few points this year finishing a close 9th or even 10th in the East. Washington is just a single point back, has a game in hand, and, to be honest, just to much regular season experience when it comes to winning. They are putting together the pieces of what was left when Boudreau was axed, and once they get those even halfway righted they will string together a few games and leapfrog Toronto. The Caps also have steady goaltending, and I think the crease is Toronto's biggest weakness. Reimer is a big goalie who can be easily beaten by going upstairs, especially once you have him moving laterally. Gustavsson is another big body, but he is completely unpredictable and if you beat him once or twice you will beat him again without much difficulty. A long way to go before they are ready to challenge for much at all in the Center of the Universe.
Great game for the Canucks, here's hoping that they do the same to the Oiler's.