LGD: What can we expect from tonight’s Leafs/Canucks hate-filled battle?

Illustration Credit: Derek Toye (@toyebot) for Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks)

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks face off at Rogers Arena tonight, and it’s already been hyped up as the battle of the century. That, of course, is because the last game was full of questionable hits, crazy fights, and death threats. Also, when they played actual hockey, the Leafs slapped around a team that is basically the 2014/15 version of themselves. Which is, to say, a really bad one, but also Canucks’ version skipped on drafting William Nylander and actually signed David Bolland.

Anyway, let’s talk about what we can expect from this game.

Due for Retribution

Nazem Kadri

Grievances: Kadri threw a hit that was legal by definition but about as clean as a landfill. Everyone’s favourite Leaf of November came in from the blindside and, according to the league, just barely missed the head as a principal point of contact but definitely followed through on Daniel Sedin.

Likeliness of Vengence: Medium. Kadri saw immediate vengence after the hit when Jannik Hansen came over to fight him. That should move everybody on, but the greater issue is that Kadri is a pain in the ass to play against (which is why Toronto loves him) and that he’ll probably do something to make them hate him again.

Morgan Rielly

Grievances: Threw a legal but dangerous hit on Jannik Hansen seconds before the Kadri hit.

Likeliness of Vengence: Low. Perhaps the Canucks might be mad because Hansen suffered a rib injury that night, presumably from that hit, but Rielly already answered the bell when he took on Burrows. 

Alex Burrows

Grievances: Tried to spear Morgan Rielly from the bench. Actually speared Morgan Rielly on the ice.

Likeliness of Vengence: Low. Fought Morgan Rielly at centre ice and everybody already knows that Burrows’ default setting is “jerk”, so he often gets ignored unless it gets dangerous. Like Kadri, he might do a Burrows thing and reset the counter, but there’s probably not much spillover.

Derek Dorsett

Grievances: Repeatedly refused to fight Matt Martin. Fought Leo Komarov instead, and then proceeded to get into intense screaming match with Matt Martin.

Likeliness of Vengence: None. Dorsett is currently injured and likely will not be playing tonight. Not that he’d fight Martin anyway.

Matt Martin

Grievances: Where do we start? He repeatedly tried to get Dorsett to fight with him. It didn’t work, so when Dorsett fought Komarov, Martin had his choice words. In what seemed like retribution, Martin took his board battle with Troy Stetcher much too far and jumped the rookie defenceman, beginning the late 3rd-period brawl.

Likeliness of Vengence: High. Martin is Enemy #1. Erik Gudbranson, well, you’ll see below how he feels. Nobody is happy about him jumping Stetcher. It was clear enough that Ryan Miller came out to defend the kid, for goodness sake. 

Erik Gudbranson

“Matt Martin is dead!” Canuck defencemen Erik Gudbranson bellowed after the game. 

“Everyone can hear that right now. Fucking dead!”

Grievances: Well, he’s threatened to kill Martin. He’s since said that he’ll actually not be doing that, but that quote set the tone for this to be more than a rematch.

Likeliness of Vengence: If this ends up being just a staged fight early in the first period and get on with it, then he’ll likely be the one to take Martin on. Gudbranson isn’t one to drop them often, and he usually avoids heavyweights, but according to the polls at HockeyFights.com, he was the clear winner in all four of his fights since the start of last year. Then again, he might also try to kill him.

Mitch Marner & Auston Matthews

Grievances: These two gutless rookies refused to fight anybody, and instead sang songs from before they were born from the bench. Okay, it was actually the best thing ever, we all loved it, and these two rule.

Likeliness of Vengence: They don’t deserve anything, but with Martin’s situation with Stetcher last time, they might become victims. It’ll be one of those “you took out our youngster, we’ll take out yours” scenarios, plus the odds of anyone being able to match up with Martin’s handful of seconds to get back at him are a little slimmer. These two shouldn’t have to be ready for anything, but hopefully they are just in case.

Eyes and Ears

The league is making it clear that they want no funny business tonight, sending Department of Player Safety head Stephane Quintal to the game to talk with the players and watch from the stands.

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what that’s going to accomplish. Having league officials in the stands sounds like something straight out of “The Rocket”, and it made sense back when hockey games weren’t regularly on television in crystal clear 4K with about eight billion cameras at the league’s disposal.

Given that we’ve already asserted that almost anything without an injury is a hockey play and that a hit to the head is fine as long as you graze the shoulder first, this feels purely like scare tactics. I don’t know what difference Quintal being there would otherwise make on what players can or will do.

The Lineups

Right, there’s still a hockey game to be played here. We won’t pull out the massive jersey chart like usual because of how much was said above, but here’s how the two teams stack up tonight:

Vancouver Canucks Toronto Maple Leafs
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Branon Sutter James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitch Marner
Markus Granlund – Michael Chaput – Loui Eriksson Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Connor Brown
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Alex Burrows Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Nikita Soshnikov
Jack Skille – Brendan Gaunce – Jayson Megna Matt Martin – William Nylander – Ben Smith
Luca Sbisa – Troy Stetcher Morgan Rielly – Nikita Zaitsev
Ben Hutton – Erik Gudbranson Jake Gardiner – Connor Carrick
Nikita Tryamkin – Phillip Larsen Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak
Ryan Miller Frederik Andersen
Jacob Markstrom Jhonas Enroth

I can’t believe that Michael Chaput is on a team’s top six, that Jayson Megna is in the NHL, that Hunlak still exists, and that this game features three recent KHL defencemen in Tryamkin, Larsen, and Zaitsev. Going back to the vengeance thing, I’m a little more worried for Nylander than I am for Matthews and Marner, if only because he has to share ice with Martin tonight and because he’s less than a year removed from his World Junior Concussion.

What To Look Out For, Overall

Assuming that this doesn’t devolve into a sixty-minute brawl and that they focus on playing some actual hockey, the Leafs should have no issues in terms of the actual sport tonight. They’re much more mobile, Vancouver’s d-core is extremely susceptible to giving up scoring chances, and even beyond the matchups, the Canucks are just kinda bad. Puck drop for this one is at 7:00 PM Toronto time, which of course has everyone in BC a little irritated. See you then!

  • LukeDaDrifter

    Leafs draft pick Korostelev invited to Russian WJC camp.

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  • FlareKnight

    Well if Andersen is still sick (they are calling up Bibeau for this one)….we can expect a loss. Maybe just a game time decision but doesn’t seem like a good sign.

    And after last game we can’t expect much with Enroth in net. Although I suppose that should help keep the game from getting out of control. Hard for Vancouver to be pissed and seeking revenge if they are celebrating goals all night.

    • Stan Smith

      Actually Enroth had his best game last game. None of the three goals were ones that he should have obviously stopped, plus he stopped 26 if the last 27 shots he faced.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      TOR called up Antoine Bibeau under emergency
      conditions. Andersen still expected to play, but distance made it
      necessary to make the recall— Elliotte Friedman

  • Stan Smith

    As bad as they are the Canucks have exactly the same record as the Leafs in the past 10 games, 5-4-1. They are also 7 – 5 – 1 at home while the Leafs are 2 – 6 – 4 on the road. After being embarrassed in TO they are going to be up for this game. I wouldn’t count this chicken before it’s hatched.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    According to Jeff Vellette, Managing Editor of Hockey Content at the Nation Network.

    “Kadri threw a hit that was about as clean as a landfill.”

    “Really does look like head is the principal contact point from here”

    “Morgan Rielly threw a dangerous hit on Jannik Hansen seconds before the Kadri hit.”

    “Matt Martin took his board battle with Troy Stetcher much too far and jumped the rookie defenceman, beginning the late 3rd-period brawl.”

    “The league is sending Department of Player Safety head Stephane Quintal to the game” “I have absolutely no idea what that’s going to accomplish.”

    It should be obvious what it will accomplish. If Leaf Nation is blaming their own players for the cause of the high penalty total in the last game, then he is there to make sure the Leafs are highly penalized right from the start of the game.