Grabovski just not enough

Canucks forward Henrik Sedin tries to scoop the puck from Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski at...

Canucks forward Henrik Sedin tries to scoop the puck from Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia on December 18, 2010. (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI Agency)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 PM ET

VANCOUVER — If you listen to coach Ron Wilson, Mikhail Grabovski was the best of the west.

If that’s the case, where are the rest of his friends?

During the Maple Leafs’ annual swing through Western Canada, Grabovski provided almost half of the Toronto offence, scoring three of the team’s measly total of seven goals in the journey through Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

With a lack of support like that, is it any wonder the Leafs headed home late Saturday night having captured just two of a possible six points on this trip?

“Grabo was great again,” Wilson said after the Leafs had dropped their eighth consecutive decision to the Canucks, this one a 4-1 loss at the Rogers Arena. “He’s been our best player.

“He’s been working hard after practice, staying out there to work on his shot. It really seems to be paying off.”

Grabovski scored the Leafs’ lone goal of the evening, a third-period snap shot that eluded Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.

“If you work hard, good things will come,” said Grabovski, who now is second on the team with 11 goals.

In the end, his linemates, Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin, also had solid outings, as has been the case for most of the trip.

The same could not be said for many of the other Leafs.

“We need some of our other guys to do what they are paid to do — score goals,” Wilson said.

The coach did not identify Phil Kessel by name, but you could read between the lines.

“I had some chances but I have to convert on them,” Kessel said. “We had our opportunities but we just couldn’t convert.”

And thus ended a trip that started so optimistically in Edmonton on Tuesday with a 4-1 win, but ended with some Christmas jeer thanks to a 5-2 loss in Calgary followed by the setback to the Canucks on Saturday.

Rookie Nazem Kadri, as expected, was a healthy scratch.

The Canucks came into Saturday’s contest having defeated the Maple Leafs seven consecutive times, including a 5-3 victory over Toronto at the Air Canada Centre.

The Canucks earned the two points that night, but didn’t play particularly well.

That trend continued in the first period on Saturday, with the Leafs arguably controlling the play only to trail 1-0 after the first 20 minutes.

With former Leafs general manager/coach Pat Quinn watching from the press box, give Toronto credit for taking the play to the Canucks in the early going.

Unfortunately for the Leafs, Roberto Luongo kept them at bay with a number of outstanding saves, including a point-blank stop off Kris Versteeg that was one of the finest of the season.

With Luongo keeping his team in the game, the Canucks responded with the opening goal just 67 seconds before the intermission.

Alex Burrows made an outstanding play on the goal, controlling a point shot that hit him in the body, then wheeling around to beat Jonas Gustavsson to put the hosts up 1-0.

The Canucks had a great chance to widen their lead to two goals midway through the period when Versteeg was slapped with a double minor.

Already heading to the box to serve a slashing penalty, Versteeg yapped at an official just as he was stepping off the ice, earning an additional two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The highly criticized Toronto penalty-killing unit did an outstanding job killing off the penalties, an effort that should have provided momentum for Toronto.

Instead, the Leafs surrendered yet another late goal in a period, this time courtesy of Jannik Hansen. Hansen finished off a beautiful three-way passing play by tapping in a two-foot putt past Gustavsson at 17:56, causing the Leaf goalie to snap his stick over the cross bar in frustration.

Down 2-0 midway through the third period, the Leafs got on the board thanks to Grabovski. But with the score narrowed to 2-1, Christian Ehrhoff and Henrik Sedin scored to end the Leafs hopes.

And, in the process, sent them home from the west with bitter tastes in their mouths.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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