Talk about two teams going in different directions.
After losing 5 of their first 7 games, the Vancouver Canucks have now won 7 of their last 8.
After winning their first 4 games, the Toronto Maple Leafs have lost 10 their last 11.
On the surface, the Canucks should win this one in a romp. They score almost a full goal more per game than the Leafs (3.07 to 2.13) and also allow less (2.27 to 2.67).
Their powerplay is more efficient (26.8% to 11.1%) and their penalty-killing is more effective (85.4% to 76.5%).
On the road, the Canucks’ powerplay is even better (30.0%), though their penalty-kill is a bit worse (78.6%).
At home, the Leafs’ powerplay (13.3%) and penalty-kill are also slightly better (82.6%).
The Canucks are 4-1 against the Eastern Conference this season; this is the Leafs’ first game against a Western Conference foe.
But of course, the Canucks went into Toronto last season with much of the same statistical advantages. They sported a 33-18-2 record during their last visit to the Air Canada Centre and took on the 17-27-11 Leafs. The Leafs led that game 3-0 in the first period before the Canucks pulled Roberto Luongo, set up the stage for Andrew Raycroft’s storybook homecoming, and scored 4 goals in the 3rd period for the come-from-behind win.
Fresh from a 6-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night, I hope the Canucks are smart enough to not take Toronto too lightly.
The Leafs are a desperate team – Torontonians are calling for GM Brian Burke’s and coach Ron Wilson’s heads and they’ve responded by, perhaps prematurely, calling up Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie to play tonight.
As long as the Canucks push the play, they should be okay; if they look past the Leafs, then who knows what the desperate team can do.