The long wait of anticipation is finally over for Canuck fans who were missing their entertainment, but when everything is put in proper perspective the health of the players, coaching staff and team personnel is far more important than a game.
It’s been an 18 day delay between games for the players and while all are looking forward to the return we should first understand how this affected not only the players, but also their families.
In addition to the players, one individual who has waited for this night since his previous tribute was postponed is Canuck Equipment manager Pat O’Neill.
Longevity and dedication to your job means more than money and it goes without saying if you love your job good things will come to those who wait and wait.
Pat is currently in his 33rd season with the Canucks as their equipment manager and has seen players go from rookie status to elite level all-star.
The tribute prior to the game was a true professional experience shown by the Canuck organization which was nothing less than first class.
Fast forward to the game and while many thought they or the league should have not changed the schedule, think twice as it might not have happened if JT Miller never spoke to the media.
I for one respect him for speaking up and “telling it as it is” as it was needed for the benefit of the players, the organization and the NHL.
Waiting for an additional couple of days means nothing but watching the first 20 minutes of play you could tell it took its toll on all players.
Reportedly on Saturday we heard that Demko would not be playing and that Windsor Ontario’s Michael Dipetro would be backing up Braden Holtby for the matinee affair.
While the pre-game ceremony took place the Leaf’s stayed in their dressing room while some ventured down the hall to watch the ceremony on the big screen, which showed class by the Leaf’s.
The first started and you could see that the Canucks were a tired group who have not played since March 24th at home all due to a long extended COVID-19 pause.
In a pre-game media availability Canucks Head Coach Travis Green mentioned “I was just looking at our board and think we have eight or nine guys out of the line-up tonight who might have had a good chance of playing.”
One player in the line-up was Tyler Myers who mentioned “We had a pretty good last few skates and we expect to come out hard.”
While some ponder the return, Canucks GM Jim Benning stood up to his conviction last week where he stated “We’re dealing with a different kind of COVID, it’s the P.1 variant which is different and we didn’t know what to expect.”
Vancouver came out to play but they were no match against the Leaf’s at the start but the longer the game went they found their legs, but were unable to manage quality shots on Campbell.
Try as they might they were only able to throw 5 shots on net in the second while the Leaf’s managed 15 on Holtby.
As aggressive as the second was Canuck’s D-man Alex Edler who was assessed a Major and a GM for Kneeing Zack Hyman at 10:16 which forced them to play without a key member of the team.
The Major was served by Jayce Hawryluk which gave the Leaf’s a PP goal putting them up by a 2-0 and ended Edler’s 13 minutes of playing time.
The Canucks continued to press that saw Hoglander send a tape to tape pass to Horvat who broke in on the left side getting his 15 of the season pulling the Canucks within one.
Despite the lay-off the Canucks never quit throwing shot after shot at Campbell and it wasn’t until the 12:03 mark of the third when Hoglander (8th) tying the game with Horvat and Jalen Chatfield getting his first assist in the NHL.
Both teams traded chances with Holtby being more of a work-horse faced 39 shots allowing two while Campbell was only tested on 24 allowing three with the third coming in OT.
Three on three at times is far more entertaining than the previous 60 minutes and such was the case on this night where Captain Horvat ignited the team by scoring his 16th and the game winner at 1:19 with Myers (11) and Boeser (18) getting assists.
Vancouver remains on the home stand facing the Leaf’s on Tuesday (6pm) and the Senators on Thursday and Saturday with both at 7 pm.