The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to put forth a successful effort in a 5-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday, using their speed and passing ability to create scoring chances and take advantage of a young Vancouver club that is not particularly strong defensively.
Auston Matthews had a goal and two assists, John Tavares, Trevor Moore, Andreas Johnsson and Igor Ozhiganov also tallied, and Michael Hutchinson made 28 saves for his first win and shutout with the Leafs.
Matthews snapped a five-game goalless streak and reached the 20-goal plateau for the third straight season, while Tavares scored his club-leading 27th goal (trailing only Alexander Ovechkin and Jeff Skinner for the league lead), but the most electrifying moment of the game was Moore’s first period tally, blowing past Canucks blueliner Derrick Pouliot and firing a shot past Jacob Markstrom for his first NHL goal.
Hutchinson was not tested much in his second start since being recalled from the Toronto Marlies last week, but showed the calm demeanor of a veteran that has been missing from most of backup Garret Sparks starts.
“I didn't think (Vancouver) had a ton (of chances),but (Hutchinson) didn't make any of their chances into two or three chances and just played solid.” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said after the game. “I think (the Canucks) had three power plays if I'm not mistaken and, so, he obviously had some action at that time and did a good job.”
Frederik Andersen skated on Friday and Saturday, but it will not be known until Monday’s morning skate prior to the next contest against the Nashville Predators whether the Leafs starter will be available to make his first start since before Christmas.
On potential options for the Leafs in their pursuit of a top four blueliner, Sportsnet’s Eliiotte Friedman reported on HNIC’s Saturday Night Headlines that the Carolina Hurricanes have received inquiries from other clubs about the availability of defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
The Toronto native was selected by Boston in 2011 with one of the two first round picks acquired in the Phil Kessel deal and after being dealt to Calgary in 2015, was traded again to the Canes last summer for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin.
Hamilton checks off a number of boxes that fits Toronto’s needs of the blueline; a right-shot defenseman with size (6’6”, 210 lb.), capable of playing point on the power play and playing over 20 minutes per game, with term remaining on his contract (two years left at $5.75 Million).
The cost of acquiring Hamilton may also be something attractive to the Leafs, since his offensive numbers (5 goals and 8 assists in 40 games) are significantly lower than his 45-point average over the past four seasons and the Hurricanes are overstocked with four right shot defensemen (Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk and Trevor van Riemsdyk).
Carolina may be willing to deal the 25-year-old if they can get a scorer in return and the Leafs are well stocked in that area, but the question is whether the offensively minded Hamilton is a good fit for a Toronto blueline that is more in need of a blueliner more adept at playing at both ends of the ice, like the Blues Alex Pietrangelo.
It is unknown whether St. Louis is willing to deal the former Olympian and All-Star and how much the price will be, which undoubtedly will be a factor in the Leafs pursuit of defensive help prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.
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