While the assignment may be obvious, it’s anything but easy when the Vancouver Canucks are the opponent.
Stop Henrik and Daniel Sedin twins and their linemate, Alex Burrows and you may have yourself a hockey game.
Let them put on a skills show like they did at times in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Leafs and the odds of winning diminish.
The Leafs kept it close for the most part Saturday night at the ACC, but were never a threat to win.
The big reason was their inability to hang on to the puck, particularly in their own end where the Leafs were as sloppy as they have been all season. Stats sheets sometimes can be subjective, but in the first period alone, the Leafs were docked with 16 turnovers to one by the Canucks.
“We had too many turnovers and those guys feast on transition,” Leafs defenceman Cody Franson said of the Sedins, a pair he had seen enough of during his time in Nashville. “Especially with the plays they can make in tight. Those are the guys you have to play hard on to discourage them from doing the fancy stuff down low.”
Despite that, the Leafs managed to stay in the game and if it weren’t for huge saves by Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo on Colby Armstrong and Tim Connolly, the Leafs might have escaped with a point.
You think Burrows likes playing against the Leafs? In nine games, he now has six goals and seven assists with one of each on Saturday ... Have to believe that if more Leafs forwards followed Joffrey Lupul’s lead and went to the blue paint more aggressively, they’d be more productive. Like many of his 15 this season, Lupul’s first-period goal happened because he parked himself in Luongo’s face and banged in a loose puck ... That’s the good for Lupul. The bad comes on plays like the one in which he was stripped of the puck in his own zone leading to a Vancouver goal ... A sloppy start defensively to the first and second periods allowed the Leafs to surrender a goal in the opening minute of each. The first, by Chris Higgins, happened when Luke Schenn abandoned his man in front and the struggling Leafs D didn’t recover the rest of the night. Schenn was a minus-2 on the night ... It shows up dramatically against speedy, skilled teams like the Canucks, but it seems like the Leafs too often lack urgency in their own end. “We’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “Our D really struggled moving pucks and getting it out cleanly.”
One way to shore up the PK is to stay out of the box. Whether poor officiating or poor decisions, the Leafs were taking too many and on Saturday just gave up one against the dangerous Canucks and their top-ranked power play ... Another game, another good scoring chance for Matt Frattin. The kid looks like he has a scoring touch and if those opportunities keep coming, look out. Frattin led all Leafs with five shots on net ... Leafs figured to be in trouble heading into the third considering the Canucks were 13-0 with a lead after 40 minutes. “That’s what good teams do,” Lupul said. “They are a team that’s used to winning. They got a lead and they locked it down.” ... Another Don Cherry shootout for Marlies centre Mike Zigomanis. Grapes’ point: The Leafs need some help on faceoffs and on the PK. The problem, of course, is finding someone to send down ... Great move by Burrows to draw away Dion Phaneuf then place the perfect feed to Daniel Sedin who deftly redirected it top corner behind Jonas Gustavsson for the Canucks’ third goal ... Phaneuf obviously escaped suspension for his hit on Zack Kassian that got him tossed from the game in Buffalo and was back in the lineup. He blasted one off the goal post so hard in the second period that it fooled the game ops folks at the ACC who shone the spotlight on him as play continued ... It was that kind of night as both teams had a goal called back in the first period. The Leafs got some help from Gustavsson doing a nice job of selling the bump from the Canucks’ Ryan Kesler which caused the goal to be waved off for interference.
Big three-point night for Leafs centre Tyler Bozak, who has seven goals and 15 assists now. Bozak showed great hands on his goal, taking a bouncing pass from Phil Kessel then spinning around before backhanding the shot past Luongo ... With three points in the past two nights, Kessel now has 39 and has regained a share of the league lead with injured Flyer, Claude Giroux. Lupul is in fourth with 36 ... Leafs centre David Steckel was a scratch as the Leafs went with seven D, allowing Keith Aulie to get in the lineup after six games as a healthy scratch ... Not sure how this happens, but AM640, the radio home of the Leafs (for the rest of this season, anyway) missed the opening 41 seconds of the game. Joe Bowen joined the show just in time to call the Canucks opening goal ... Were there really that many Vancouver fans in the Air Canada Centre or do people just love screaming “Looouuu” for Vancouver goaltender Luongo.