Scenes from morning skate: Canucks hoping Demko and puck possession will make a difference against Maple Leafs
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
8 months ago
Every time the Canucks and Leafs play each other, it feels like there’s a championship on the line. Or at the very least, bragging rights for the side that wins the season series and better playoff positioning.
Vancouver’s 3-2 win over Toronto back in February showed what the Canucks are capable of against bonafide playoff teams. They got a quick start with two goals in the first ten minutes, created space for Thatcher Demko to get clean views of the puck, and got scoring contributions from their fourth line at just the right time.
Tonight, the Canucks will look to do it all again against a Leafs team that’s been bleeding scoring chances and seen their once-strong goaltending take a statistical nosedive. Will the Canucks take advantage and push themselves even closer to the West’s pair of wild card spots?
Let’s go to the line rushes!
The Canucks will be sticking with the same lineup that won them the day against the Islanders on Thursday. Bruce Boudreau’s second line of Elias Pettersson, Nils Höglander, and Conor Garland was a force in Belmont, controlling large portions of play putting together the crucial tying goal in the third period.
Vancouver’s defence faces yet another gruelling task in the vaunted Leafs attack and will need to pull out the same type of performance they’ve had this week against the Rangers and Islanders rather than versus New Jersey.
But the key to victory tonight rests solely in the hands of Thatcher Demko and, crucially, the goalies at Toronto’s end. Demko has continued to post rock-solid numbers despite a hefty workload over the last couple of months, including his big win against the Leafs on February 12th.
Meanwhile, in the Leafs’ net Jack Campbell has struggled mightily of late. After a scorching start to his season, Campbell has posted a shocking .887 save percentage since the calendar turned to 2022.
The Canucks forwards will be looking to pepper the slumping netminder early and put Toronto’s blue line on their heels, which hopefully could give Demko the room to operate in later stages with fresher legs and a lead.
What Was Said
Visiting Toronto around trade deadline season is always a circus for players at the centre of trade rumours. Conor Garland’s name has come up plenty recently, and he was asked about the difficulty of playing with those headlines circling.
“It’s out of your control. I try not to pay attention as best as I could,” Garland said. “We’re in a playoff race, so that’s much more fun to pay attention to — the standings and how the teams in front of us and behind us are doing.”
Garland was also asked about Thatcher Demko, who’ll be looking to match his 51 save performance against the Leafs a month ago. Garland pointed to their win on Sunday against the Rangers as a great example of how huge his goalie’s contributions have been.
“[The Rangers] had so many chances in the first like five or six minutes and there’s some Grade-A’s that he made look pretty easy, like routine saves,” Garland said. “Sometimes you take it for granted. You almost laugh sometimes when he makes those saves because at some point you’re almost expecting them.”
For Bruce Boudreau, Toronto is a homecoming away from the rink. And on Friday, he got to enjoy some time with family for the first time since being hired in Vancouver.
“I had my mum come down to the hotel and we went out to dinner with my wife who drove up and we just spent a quiet night. I hadn’t seen her since I took the job, so it was nice just catching up and hanging out,” Boudreau said.
As far as on the ice product is concerned, Boudreau’s game plan against Toronto is simple, boiling down to maintaining puck possession as much as possible.
“You better be prepared to defend,” Boudreau said. “Hopefully you can play the game in their zone, so they don’t have possession of the puck as much as they normally do. And you hope your goalie is outstanding because they’re going to get some Grade-A chances. Their skill is just too good.”
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