The Vancouver Canucks were back in action for the second of their back-to-back games on Wednesday night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs played the night before as well so both teams were coming into the game with limited rest. The problem is that only one of these teams had a full team COVID-19 outbreak.
The big story going into the game was Kole Lind making his NHL debut for the Canucks.
After parts of four seasons in the AHL with the Utica Comets, Lind worked his way up to the NHL and got his shot to prove that he belonged.
The lines had a bit of a shake-up as Jake Virtanen moved to the left wing to play with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser while Lind lined up alongside Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte.
Jalen Chatfield was swapped in for Olli Juolevi and that gave a new look to the defence pairings as well.
Braden Holtby was back in the crease for the Canucks with big save David Rittich between the pipes for the Leafs.
Here’s what the lines looked like for their matchup against the Leafs.
It took Lind’s injection to the lineup for me to be excited about a Canucks back-to-back. He was able to stay healthy through the Comets’ and Canucks’ COVID outbreaks and has patiently been waiting for his opportunity to make his debut.
Thursday was that day. So without further ado, it’s game time.
Wayne Simmonds challenged Alex Edler to a fight early in the period. Edler obliged but was definitely not there to fight. He politely dropped his gloves and took a strong right cross from Simmonds that left Edler bleeding in the penalty box.
Lind looked solid in his first few shifts. He was looking good in the defensive zone and playing tight defence. It’s likely because it’s his first game, but if he is able to keep that effort level up in the defensive zone, he will be okay.
The game was flying by with very few whistles in the first 12 minutes of play. Each team had some chances with the Leafs controlling most of the offensive possession through the first 12 minutes.
Even with the Leafs having a lot of possession time, each team only had two shots apiece through 15 minutes of play.
Like I said earlier, this period was flying by.
William Nylander picked up a pass from Alex Galchenyuk after a Quinn Hughes giveaway. Nylander walked into open space on the left side and slid the puck through Holtby to make it 1-0 Leafs.
The period really flew by. It was a lot of transitional hockey with not many shots on net. The Leafs attempted 23 shots while the Canucks attempted 10. As for shots on net, the Leafs had seven while the Canucks had two.
Two shots is not good enough but it was a strange period of hockey.
Another day, another goal-against in the opening minutes of the second frame. Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews came in on a two-on-one and Matthews fired home his 36th goal of the season and made it look so easy. 2-0 Leafs.
The Leafs followed that up with a goal from a tough angle when Pierre Engvall took a wrist shot from the right side and beat Holtby. 3-0 Leafs just three minutes into the period.
The Canucks got their first power play of the game when Galchenyuk took a trip to the penalty box with 12:27 remaining in the period.
It was not looking good for the Canucks. The power play was bad, they were getting outplayed by the Leafs at every end of the ice, and you gotta believe that this is just the beginning of what we will see for the remainder of the season.
It’s going to be a slog of a finish to the season, folks.
Back to the power play went the Canucks with 6:13 remaining.
This time, the Canucks scored a goal! Hughes took a shot and Miller jumped on the rebound and buried it to cut the lead to two. 3-1 after the Miller goal.
After a tough first 20 minutes, the Canucks were able to get more offensive time in the second period.
They were skating better in the second frame but just couldn’t get to the Leafs’ level at even strength.
Tyler Motte was missing from the bench in the third period after taking a high hit late in the second.
The only highlight of the first eight minutes was when John Garrett did an impression of wrestler Fritz von Erich.
Every time the Canucks went to turn and make a pass, a Leafs’ defender was waiting for them. The Canucks were trying to get more shots on Rittich but many of them were missing the net or being blocked before reaching the Leafs’ goalie.
With Motte out of the lineup, Lind began getting more ice time in the third period and found himself on a line with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson for a good portion of the period.
Travis Green pulled the goalie with three minutes remaining for a final push.
The Canucks had to put Holtby back in net because of a faceoff close to their own net. That didn’t help as Marner came in and scored on Holtby to make it 4-1 Leafs with one minute to go.
That’s all she wrote. Another tough game to watch for Canucks fans.
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This does not look good.
I asked a question and Canucks fans responded.
Kole Lind: He played like he belonged in the NHL and looked good on the wing with Horvat and Pearson.
If you fell asleep during Wednesday night’s game against the Senators, you might have fallen into a coma after watching Thursday’s game against the Leafs. The Canucks just look like they don’t have it in them to play against NHL competition.
It was good to see that the Canucks decided to use Kole Lind in today’s game. He brought energy and made an impact on a team that simply doesn’t have enough impact players to swing a game in their direction.
Next up has to be Jack Rathbone. The young left-shot dynamic defenceman tore up the AHL in his stint last month and is deserving of an opportunity to show what he can do. No more middling AHL/NHL tweeners, the Canucks should give their young players a long look as this season goes on and see if they are going to be something good for the organization when they are ready to compete in — as Jim Benning has told us — two years.