The Vancouver Canucks were in Toronto for their 44rd game of the season after dropping three of four against the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators. With their playoff chances getting smaller by the day, the Canucks needed to replicate their performance from the last time they played Toronto, a two-game series they swept.
They couldn’t replicated that success however, as the Leafs dominated from start to finish in a 4-1 victory. The goal-scoring started after a few Quinn Hughes’ errors quickly compounded and ended with a Braden Holtby mistake that Mitch Marner exploited.
Kole Lind, the 2017 2nd round draft pick, made his NHL debut after working his way up through the organization. He played as well as you could hope considering how badly the team was outplayed and was more impressive than the vast majority of Canucks’ forwards.
JT Miller scored the only Canucks’ goal on the power play and it was a greasy one. Let’s get into the storylines from the game.
Kole Lind Makes his NHL Debut
With not many things going the Canucks way at the moment, Kole Lind’s debut was definitely a reason for fans to tune in. It’s tough for any young player to transition to the NHL and even tough when you’re being dumped into the dumpster fire that is the Canucks at the moment.
He played well and had a couple scoring chances. It was an encouraging start for a player that has thrived in the AHL this season and he provided a spark for a forward group that needed one.
Solid first NHL game for Kole Lind. Played 17:07, 2 shots on goal, 7th among #Canucks in CF%. Thought he had good jump and didn't look out of place.— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) April 30, 2021
Lind should continue to see a role with the big club for the rest of the season and hopefully he can build upon his strong debut.
Alex Edler Checks One Off the Bucket List
Considering he has almost 1000 NHL games under his belt, Alex Edler doesn't have many hockey firsts left. Yet early in the first period he got in his first fight (can we call that a fight?) with Wayne Simmonds after being targeted by the Maple Leafs’ power forward.
Edler had to go to the room after the fight but returned to the bench later in the first period. Now that he's had a fight, there are not many NHL firsts left for Edler to accomplish.
We hope for everybody’s sake that he never fights again as it was tough to watch. However, according to Toronto media, Edler is one of the dirtiest players in the league so maybe this is just his next step towards full-time goon.
The Playoffs Thing
Within two minutes of the puck being dropped, the Canucks were severely struggling to get out of their own zone. The team looked tired and considering their struggles before they had to deal with the effects of COVID-19, it didn’t take a genius to predict that they were going to struggle against one of the league’s top teams.
Even though the Canucks managed to squeak out a few wins after they returned to play, it’s pretty clear by this point that they are tired and overmatched. It’s not a pretty combination.
With each passing game, the Canucks slim playoff hopes continue to dwindle and at this point, it’s more important to see how some of the young guys fit in than anything else.
There were signs of life. JT Miller scored a power play goal that led to the Canucks gaining a bit of momentum. Holtby made a few saves and Lind had some promising flashes for a debut game but overall, the ice was slanted heavily in the Leafs’ favour.
Checking Up on an Old Friend
Adam Gaudette scored his first goal in a Blackhawks jersey tonight.
Just in case anyone was wondering.
Some Fun Stats
Comparing the high danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 for each team, the Leafs had 15 while the Canucks only had 5. Similarly, the xG% for the Canucks at 5-on-5 was a paltry 29.5%, displaying once again just how badly they got outplayed. Quinn Hughes was on the ice for all four goals against.
Nils Höglander continues to be an analytics darling as he posted a 57.5 CF% at 5-on-5, continuing his great season. He continues to be one of the only bright spots from this season.
Last but not least, Lind’s underlying numbers provided cause for cautious optimism. He was second on the teams in individual expected goals, something that backed up the eye test which showed that he was one of only a few players with legitimate scoring chances.
That Time of Year