Team is making the best of a disappointing season
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Vancouver needs to be commended and praised for their well-earned victories over Toronto; they looked like a team that was playing for each other rather than playing for themselves.
The Vancouver Canucks returned to the ice April 18 for the first time in 25 days. The team’s off-ice challenges (highlighted by a team outbreak with COVID-19) have overshadowed their on-ice efforts in a very disappointing season. The Canucks are on a four-game eastern road trip with games against Ottawa and Toronto.
Before the team played their first game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canuck captain Bo Horvat spoke with the media by Zoom. Forward Brandon Sutter and head coach, Travis Green, also talked to the media and shared their battles with COVID-19.
Yes, the Canucks’ season has been very disappointing. The team has underachieved and as of April 22, they are 10 points behind a playoff spot. While Canuck fans, because they are so passionate about their team, have no problems voicing their displeasure with the team’s performance this season and also criticizing Canuck management over player acquisitions and signings. But the Canucks, despite being decimated by COVID-19, returned to the ice and gave a gutsy effort against the first place Maple Leafs. Vancouver was down by a score of 2 to 0 and they would come back to tie the game and force overtime. Captain Bo Horvat would be the hero, scoring the winner at 1:19 into the extra frame (his second goal of the game).
Canuck defenceman, Tyler Myers, was stalwart playing 30 minutes. This was mainly due to veteran Alex Edler being assessed a five-minute major, and a game misconduct for kneeing Toronto left-winger Zach Hyman in the second period. On April 19, the NHL Department of Player Safety posted on Twitter that Edler was suspended for two games for the knee-to-knee hit. Hyman is out for at least two weeks with a sprained MCL.
Canuck goalie, Braden Holtby, arguably had his best game in a Canuck uniform making 37 saves on 39 Toronto shots. Holtby made some spectacular saves, including one acrobatic save off Leafs forward, Wayne Simmonds. Holtby was lying flat on his back facing his own goal looking like Dominik Hašek. With the puck dangling high in the air and heading towards the net Holtby stuck his right pad out to stop the puck.
“It’s one of those plays where you anticipate the pass and try to cut it off and it (puck) popped up and luckily, I was able to keep my eyes on it and keep it out of the net somehow,” Holtby said to the media on Zoom. “Those ones are fun to make sometimes. When we give it all we have and stick together, we believe we have a chance to win and it was a fun one to be a part of because everyone battled in their own way. This (COVID-19) is something I’ve never been through before and none of us have and I have some things to work on and there’s still some rust, but the win creates some much-needed energy…”
In their second game versus the Leafs on April 20, the Canucks were behind in the third period. But they mounted another comeback by scoring four consecutive goals to seal a 6 to 3 victory. Two straight wins by the Canucks over the Leafs was something Canuck fans were not expecting considering what the team has been through with their COVID-19 ordeal.
As it has been so easy for fans and media to pile on the Canucks when they are not playing well, it can’t just be a one-way street of negativity. Vancouver needs to be commended and praised for their well-earned victories over Toronto; they looked like a team that was playing for each other rather than playing for themselves. Vancouver still may not make the playoffs. That being said if they continue to give efforts like they did against Toronto, the season will be salvaged in the fact that they did not quit.
Other NHL news
Veteran San Jose Sharks forward, Patrick Marleau, passed the legendary Gordie Howe in becoming the all-time leader in games played in the NHL. On April 19, the 41-year-old Marleau broke the record, playing in his 1,768th game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. The game was paused with a short ceremony to honour Marleau’s achievement that included a video message from NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman. Marleau was humbled by setting the record to surpass Howe. “Growing up in Saskatchewan, one of the first things you do is look to see what players from Saskatchewan are in the NHL,” Marleau told reporters a week prior to playing in his record-setting game. “Obviously Gordie [is at] the top of that list.”
Philadelphia Flyers forward, Oskar Lindblom, was given a warm reception in Philadelphia during “Hockey Fights Cancer” night as Philly hosted the Islanders on April 18. The 24-year-old Lindbolm battled cancer in 2020 and was given a standing ovation. And during the pre-game warmup, the entire Flyers team dressed in his jersey.
Lastly, former Kelowna Rockets player, Nolan Foote, made his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils on April 18. Foote was called up from the American Hockey League. He became the 62nd Rocket to play in an NHL regular season game. The 20-year-old made the most of his first NHL game as he picked up his first point with an assist on Nico Hischier’s goal.