The Vancouver Canucks take on the Toronto Maple Leafs for their second of three games in a row. On Thursday night, the road-weary Canucks lost to a well-rested Maple Leafs’ team – no surprise there.
It wasn’t as if the Canucks played poorly; it’s just that they didn’t have the puck very often – as one can see by the shot count between the two teams. They were overwhelmed in their own defensive end as the Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza registered the eighth hat trick of his career and fast-becoming-elite Auston Matthews scored another two goals for the Maple Leafs.
Canucks’ Coach Travis Green Assesses the Damage
As Canucks’ head coach Travis Green noted, “It definitely wasn’t our decision making. I thought we looked like a tired team playing against a fast team.”
If so, no wonder. The Canucks were on the ice for their fourth game in six days, while the Maple Leafs were coming off a four-day layoff. It might have been as much a part of the schedule as anything. Sometimes such things happen in this crazy COVID-impacted 2020-21 season.
Maple Leafs’ Coach Sheldon Keefe Weighs In
Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted as much, “We were a rested team playing against a very tired team that has had a very tough schedule. So frankly speaking, I expected us to be really good and make it hard on Vancouver. The challenge, of course here now, is to regroup and do it again.”
Game-Day Moves by the Maple Leafs
Game-Day Move #1: Jason Spezza Moves to the Taxi Squad – Yes, Really
Perhaps this is just a paper move, but the Maple Leafs moved hat-trick player Jason Spezza to the team’s taxi squad on Friday. I have to believe that coach Keefe will bring Spezza to the regular roster for the game, but who knows? It would be goofy logic not to reward Spezza’s play. However, Maple Leafs’ fans will see soon enough.
Game-Day Move #2: Michael Hutchinson Assigned to Taxi Squad on Friday, Move Him to Active Roster Today
I’m not an expert on how the taxi squad works, but it must be a constantly dynamic issue for teams. Michael Hutchinson was shuffled between levels, moving on Friday to the taxi squad and then moving up to the active roster on Saturday.
Certainly, moving Hutchinson is a way to manipulate the salary cap. Hutchinson will surely remain as Frederik Andersen’s backup until Jack Campbell returns from his leg injury.
Game-Day Move #3: Mikko Lehtonen Has Another Chance as Third-Pairing Defenseman
With Travis Dermott out with a leg injury, Mikko Lehtonen will once again be on the active roster and become part of the lineup for the Canucks’ game. Lehtonen has only played in about half of the team’s last eight games, but if Dermott’s leg continues to be a problem he’ll likely have a longer go.
The question I have is where Rasmus Sandin fits into the picture? Might Maple Leafs’ fans expect some ice time from Sandin soon?
Game-Day Move #4: Travis Dermott’s Leg Injury Will Keep Him Out of the Lineup
Travis Dermott’s leg injury won’t allow him to play in Saturday’s game against the Canucks. Although the word is that the injury is minor, he’s off the active roster at least one more game. From what coach Keefe noted, the injury is a charley horse.
Dermott was injured early in Thursday’s game against the Canucks and didn’t practice on Friday.
Game-Day Move #5: Travis Boyd Moved to Active Roster
Obviously, coach Keefe likes what he’s been seeing from Travis Boyd because he’s promoted the 27-year-old veteran to the active roster again for Saturday’s game. Boyd was a part of the active roster for Thursday’s game and scored two assists in just over 10 minutes of ice time. The former Washington Capitals’ forward has now scored four points in three games this season.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs have beaten every team in the North Division this season and now have eight wins to show for it.
As coach Keefe noted, “We’ve seen everybody, but I think the greatest challenge throughout this whole schedule is to beat the same team back-to-back.”
Keefe added about Saturday’s games against the Canucks, “We play Vancouver again (Monday). We get the edge here, they regroup and we’ll have to get better. This year, the other team won’t feel good about (losing) the first game. So it’s important for us not to take our foot off the gas.”
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