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Game #39 – Toronto Maple Leafs (28-13-5) @ Vancouver Canucks (18-18-3) – game recap

After a gutsy 3-2 come-from-behind victory in overtime over the first place in the North Division Maple Leafs days after rising from their sick beds after fighting off the scary P1 Brazilian variant of COVID-19, the Canucks were looking to make it two in a row. The Canucks faced Leafs backup David Rittich, who came into tonight’s tilt with a career 3-1-2 record with a 2.18GAA and .915save% in 7 games vs. the Canucks. Alex Edler missed this game and will miss the next one after receiving a 2-game suspension for kneeing Leafs forward Zach Hyman as he tried to get to the bench after a three minute long shift. The Canucks fatal number sits at 26, meaning a combination of Canucks losses and wins by teams in playoff spots that reach 26 will mean the Canucks will be eliminated from the playoffs. Tonight was autism awareness night. From a personal standpoint, yours truly has a cousin with Asperger’s syndrome, who is working on his masters in Biology at McGill University. Jake Virtanen and Nate Schmidt made their returns to the lineup after recovering from COVID-19. Matthew Highmore made his Canucks debut after finishing his quarantine period. Thatcher Demko dressed, but backed up Holtby. Olli Joulevi also drew into the lineup for Guillaume Brisebois. Could the Canucks make it two wins in a row? Here is tonight’s game recap.

Game Highlights:

  • The Maple Leafs opened the scoring just under 17 minutes into the game as John Tavares whipped a centering feed past Canucks goalie Braden Holtby
  • The Canucks tied the game five and a half minutes into the 2nd period as Brandon Sutter was johnny on the spot to put home a rebound by Leafs goalie David Rittich
  • Just over four and a half minutes later, a Quinn Hughes point shot deflected off a Leafs stick and into the far top corner
  • Just over seven minutes later, Tavares snapped it home short side on Holtby
  • The Leafs tied the game just over three minutes into the 3rd period as Aaron Brooks sniped a centering feed by Brock Boeser, who was covering for Holtby who was way out of position
  • Just over three and a half minutes later, Nils Hoglander cracked a slapper five-hole on Rittich
  • Just over three minutes after that, Tanner Pearson was johnny on the spot to snap a rebound by Rittich for a PP marker
  • Just under four minutes later, Pearson snapped a shot under the pad on Rittich
  • Just under six minutes later, Sutter snapped the puck home for an empty-netter
  • Braden Holtby stopped 38/40 shots
  • Final score Canucks 6 Maple Leafs 3

My Take:

  • Braden Holtby seems to be taking this chance to start as Demko recovers from his bout with COVID-19 as a reset to the season. He had his second strong game in a row, stopping 38/40 shots, including 18/19 in the 2nd period to keep the score close. The biggest thing I’ve noticed in these 2 games has been that he has been rock solid positionally (although he was beaten short side tonight and was pulled out of position on the third Leafs goal) and he’s been quiet in his movements. The remarkable thing is, he was in quarantine, like the rest of the team the last three weeks and he hadn’t played since March 20 because Demko had been outplaying Holtby. The Canucks now face an interesting decision. Do they ride the hot hand of Holtby or return to their starter Demko. Either way, both goalies will be playing down the stretch with the upcoming back-to-back games and more road games than home games.
  • Antoine Roussel left the game in the 2nd period with a lower body injury, thought to be the knee. He could miss some time.
  • Tanner Pearson had a strong game with a pair of goals and he narrowly missed the empty net to complete the hattrick
  • Brandon Sutter also had a pair of goals
  • The Canucks showed better discipline, taking just two penalties all game
  • Matthew Highmore was +2 with a shot on goal and blocked shot in his Canucks debut
  • You could see fatigue was still a factor. Keeping shifts short will be critical down the stretch
  • The Canucks won 55% of the draws led by Jimmy Vesey, who won every draw he took. Travis Boyd (73% success  rate), Brandon Sutter (54% success rate), Bo Horvat (52% success rate) and Jayce Hawryluk (50% success rate) also had good nights in the faceoff circle
  • The Canucks banged out 11 hits, led by Jake Virtanen, who banged out 4 hits tonight
  • The Canucks blocked 14 shots, led by Tyler Myers, who blocked 5 shots tonight
  • Up next, the Canucks start a 4-game set vs. the Ottawa Senators, first 2 at home and 2 next week in Ottawa. They’ve won all 5 games in the season series so far and have outscored the Senators 22-7. Hopefully the team can keep it going.
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