VANCOUVER — For the Vancouver Canucks, this defined wasteful.
In a game against the National Hockey League’s 30th place team — one Vancouver had entered just three points out of a playoff spot — the Canucks were owned by lowly Toronto, outshot 38-19. If you are one who wonders how it is the Canucks haven’t put together a three-game winning streak all season long, hopefully you were paying attention on Saturday evening in Vancouver.
It is as if the Canucks looked across the ice at a team missing most of its high-end talent — replaced by Marlie-esque names such as Richard Clune, Mark Arcobello, Colin Greening and Brendan Leipsic — and figured it would be an easy two points.
They played entitled, as if the talent disparity would excuse them from having to break a sweat. Or, at least, that is how it appeared.
“We knew they would be working hard,” said Vancouver winger Jannik Hansen. “There’s no secret, that’s their game plan. We knew we had to match their work ethic if we wanted to compete with them, and we didn’t.”
Toronto didn’t win on talent. They outworked Vancouver.
“Mildly,” Hansen said sarcastically.
You’ve got to give Toronto head coach Mike Babcock credit. He squeezes every ounce out of the lemon that is this Maple Leafs lineup that has barnstormed through the West with a 1-2 record, and now heads right into the lion’s mouth in Chicago.
The top end of his lineup is decimated by injuries, and even when a kid like Josh Leivo comes up and scores a couple of goals, he ends up on Injured Reserve after four periods of this road trip.
How thin are the Leafs? Here’s an example:
They held a ceremonial face-off prior to Saturday’s game, in celebration of the 1996 Canucks. Henrik Sedin took the draw for the Canucks, while Toronto was represented by Matt Hunwick, a 30-year-old journeyman with 19 goals in 400 career games.
“It’s easy to say,” Daniel Sedin said of the notion that the Canucks could just toss their sticks over the boards and collect the two points. “We know how it is, playing loose. But our work ethic has to be way higher than it was tonight.
“We show on the road that we can play hard, but then we come home and we stop skating. We try to make the cute play instead of the easy play. That’s not our team right now and we’ve got to realize that. We’ve got to get pucks deep and work them deep. Way too man turnovers.”
Despite being dominated from the drop of the puck, Vancouver scored first when Daniel was left with time in the slot, a deadly combination that produced his 22nd goal of the season.
That lead lasted all of 69 seconds before Arcobello — a recent AHL call-up who played for four different NHL teams last season — scored his first of the season. Then Arcobello, who measures 5-foot-8 and 172 pounds, scored again, just 17 seconds later.
“It’s funny how it goes,” said Arcobello. “Whenever you get a chance to play in the NHL you have to take advantage of it. Tonight I was lucky. It’s nice to have a big win on the road, get some confidence back and see some smiling faces again.”
Leipsic, whose parents Greg and Kathleen flew in from Winnipeg (with stops in Minneapolis and Seattle) to witness his first NHL game, scored the 3-1 goal. It was a feel good story that must have made Canucks coach Willie Desjardins sick.
“My junior billets from Portland were here, too,” said Leipsic, who at 5-foot-9, 170 lbs. was the only player on the ice smaller than Arcobello. “My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be here. This was a pretty cool experience. Hopefully, I get a second game. I’m pretty grateful this day came.”
Grateful was not a word heard among the Canucks, who were clad in Trevor Linden’s old “downhill skate,” black, yellow and red throwback jerseys. Henrik played career game No. 1,141, surpassing Linden to become the all-time leader in games played in a Canucks’ uniform.
“It wasn’t a big (deal) coming up to it, and it’s even a lesser deal right now,” the Canucks captain said post-game.
The taste of two points wasted left a sour taste in Henrik’s mouth. Same with Daniel.
“Our power-play was bad, we took too many unnecessary penalties…,” he said. “They outworked us. It’s embarrassing.”