The long-awaited return of the Vancouver Canucks will finally occur on Sunday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canucks will be back on the ice to host the Maple Leafs at Rogers Arena. Covid-19 ripped through the locker room and coaching staff, as at one point, things were looking grim that the Canucks were going to be able to restart their season and play. Specifically, the p.1 variant, originally discovered in Brazil, was responsible for the Canucks troubles.
Fortunately, the team is healthy now, including head coach Travis Green who had a rough experience with the virus. The Canucks are healthy, but there will be five players unavailable against the Leafs on Sunday night because of Covid. Starting goaltender Thatcher Demko is not going to be suiting up for the Canuck’s return tonight. Along with Demko, Nate Schmidt, Jake Virtanen, Tyler Motte, and Olli Juolevi will not be active. Motte and Juolevi have been removed from the protocol list, but are not in well enough shape to play.
It’s just a good sign to see the Canucks without any serious complications. That’s the most important thing and not whether the Canucks win hockey games the rest of the season. The team is adamant that they don’t want any moral victories and are focused on winning games, though. Positive thinking is always good for a team, but the Canucks don’t appear like a team gearing up to go on a postseason push. As a result of having failed to play a game since March 24, the Canucks have a busy schedule coming up.
The Canucks will still play a 56-game schedule despite missing weeks. They are scheduled to play 19 games in 32 games after the locker room and coaching staff just got over a mostly symptomatic bout of Covid. Like I said, the Canucks are confident and playing to win, but this is not going to be easy. The Canucks head into Sunday night with a record of 16-18-3 and 35 points in the North Division. How embarrassing for the Ottawa Senators, as they’ve played eight more games and are still a point behind the Canucks.
Toronto heads to Rogers Arena on a skid, with three straight losses against the Canadiens, 4-2, Flames, 3-2 OT, and Jets, 5-2. The Leafs hope to have Auston Matthews and William Nylander back on the ice against the Canucks. They are listed as questionable, but were moving around well in practice and could make a return in Vancouver. Nylander was dealing with Covid as well, but has been cleared. If there’s any game that they may not need them in is against the Canucks tonight, though. Head below for our free Maple Leafs vs. Canucks pick on April 18, 2021.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Vancouver Canucks NHL Betting Odds:
Maple Leafs vs. Canucks Prediction:
The main goal for head coach Sheldon Keefe going into tonight is keeping his team focused and prepared to play. It would be easy for the Maple Leafs to read the press clippings of what was happening in Vancouver and take this game off mentally. If the Leafs were entering on a winning streak, I could really see that as a good possibility. However, there is no chance for a letdown spot against the Canucks.
The Leafs have been playing lousy hockey recently, and are in Vancouver looking to end a three-game losing streak. That is likely enough to get them motivated for the Canucks. Toronto is coming off a 5-2 loss against the Jets on Thursday night. They’ve had a couple of extra nights off to prepare for the Canucks in this one. On the positive side, the Leafs didn’t play all too badly against the Jets, at least as far as the final score indicates.
They out shot the Jets 33-23, but Jack Campbell had a bad off night. Campbell allowed 3 goals on 6 shots and was quickly pulled and replaced by David Rittich. The former Flame gave up 1 goal on 17 shots for an adequate performance. Their loss against the Flames was pretty even as well, as the Leafs lost in overtime, 3-2, in a game that could have gone in either direction.
The Leafs are seventh in the NHL with 3.3 goals and 30.9 shots per game. Conversely, the Canucks have struggled defensively, having conceded 3.2 goals and 33.8 shots per game. Demko will not be available between the pipes tonight. Instead of Demko, Braden Holtby is expected to get the call.
In previous seasons, that’d sound like a good thing, but Holtby has been out of form with a 3.57 GAA and 0.894 save percentage. I can’t see him getting much assistance from a team that is likely going to be rusty and perhaps mentally exhausted after what transpired the last month. Expect the Leafs to use this game to get out of their three-game hole in British Columbia against the Canucks.