The Vancouver Canucks returned to action last Sunday, picking up a big 3-2 overtime win over the North Division leaders, the Toronto Maple Leafs. They continued their return with three more games last week. They took on the Maple Leafs once again and then faced played the Ottawa Senators two more times.
On Tuesday night, the Canucks blew out the Maple Leafs, winning 6-3. John Tavares opened the scoring for Toronto, giving his team a 1-0 lead in the first period. Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat responded, scoring two goals in the second period before Tavares scored his second for the night to tie the game at three goals apiece.
Adam Brooks gave Toronto their second lead of the game before the Canucks exploded for four goals in the third period. Nils Hoglander scored his ninth goal of the season, while Tanner Pearson scored twice, and Sutter scored his second goal of the night.
Next, the Canucks took on the Senators and lost 3-0. They had a tough time beating goaltender Matt Murray, as he made 31 saves on Thursday night. The Senators took a 2-0 lead in the first before scoring the third and final goal in the third period.
On Saturday night, the two teams faced off once again, with the Canucks winning 4-2. Nate Schmidt opened the scoring for Vancouver, but Colin White responded, tying the game at one goal apiece after the first period. Brock Boeser scored the lone goal in the second period, his 17th of the season, which gave his club a 2-1 lead. In the third period, Evgenii Dadonov tied the game at two. Pearson scored the game-winning goal in the third period, his third goal in the last four games. J.T. Miller iced the game with his 10th game of the season.
Travis Green Contract Talks
Travis Green has done a great job getting the most out of his group in the last two seasons. The head coach deserves a lot of credit for the team’s performance in March and their performance since returning to play. The club is still without star forward Elias Pettersson, but the team has posted a 10-4-1 record in his absences.
Green’s contract with the club ends this summer, and he has earned an extension with the franchise. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes the head coach should receive an offer from the Canucks, but wonders if it’ll enough as Green has earned a pay raise (from ‘LeBrun: What does the future hold for NHL head coaches on expiring contracts or in interim positions?,’ The Athletic’ 04/26/2021). LeBrun noted there will be more news to come on this front sooner rather than later. The Canucks have to do whatever it takes to extended their head coach, mostly due to how well he has done with a roster that hasn’t been very impressive.
Canucks’ Goaltender Update
Braden Holtby won all three games he’s started in since the Canucks have returned to action. The veteran goalie signed a two-year contract with an average annual value of $4.3 million in the offseason. Thatcher Demko took over the crease before the team’s three-week hiatus due to a COVID-19 outbreak and kept Holtby out of the net.
Since returning to action, Holtby has been playing some of his best hockey this season. He has posted a .935 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.32 goals-against average (GAA) through three games. Meanwhile, Demko was a little rusty to start on Thursday night, as he allowed two goals in the first period, but he played well throughout the remainder of the game.
The Canucks sent Michael DiPietro to Utica to play with the Comets. The timing to send the young goalie to the minors could not have come at a worse time, as it has been reported Demko is out day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Luckily, the injury to the 25-year-old is not that serious, and he should be back in the lineup soon. If Holtby can maintain this level of play and when Demko returns and gets back to the level he was playing at before the stoppage, the Canucks will have two top-end goaltenders to finish the season.
Juolevi Showing Improvements
Olli Juolevi had been out of the lineup due to cap issues since Feb 23rd. Since the club’s return to action, he’s played in the team’s last three games. The 22-year-old rookie defenceman played well earlier in the season, but since returning, he has impressed his head coach as well.
Juolevi has had a long journey to the NHL. The 2016 sixth overall pick spent two seasons in the AHL with the Comets between 2018 to 2020, but he didn’t get much action due to injuries. This season has been big for the young d-man, as he has had experience playing in the NHL. Next season, he should be a big part of the team’s blueline.
Canucks Playoff Push
The Canucks’ playoff hopes are still alive at this point in their season, with their postseason odds now at 18%, up from 6% on March 31st. They have 15 games remaining in the 2020-21 campaign. They are eight points behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens, who have 10 games remaining. The Calgary Flames are also in the race but are ahead by four points with six more games played than the Canucks.
The Canucks still have a gruelling schedule. The remaining 15 games include five sets of back-to-back games, while 11 of those games will be played on the road. If the club is able to make it to the postseason, it will be one of the most impressive accomplishments in recent memory based on the challenges they face.
Canucks On the Road
The Canucks start the week with a road game in Ottawa on Monday. They take on the Senators for the final time this season on Wednesday in the first half of a back-to-back. In the second half of the back-to-back, they play the Maple Leafs. On Saturday, they play Toronto in the last matchup between the two clubs.
Braden Holtby – 2-0-0 .926 SV%, 2.50 GAA
Tanner Pearson – three goals
J.T. Miller – one goal, three assists
Quinn Hughes – one goal, three assists
- April 26th– at Ottawa Senators
- April 28th – at Ottawa Senators
- April 29th – at Toronto Maple Leafs
- May 1st – at Toronto Maple Leafs
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.