A little after 8 p.m. Thursday night the Vancouver Canucks made it official; forward JT Miller and goalie Thatcher Demko were placed into the NHL’s Covid protocol. It means five days on the shelf, which bodes the question, when does that five days officially start? Since the actual tests were taken in the morning on Thursday, can you count Thursday, or most of it? Apparently according to NHL protocol, Thursday would be considered Day-zero which doesn’t help, but it’s fun to hypothesize.
The Canucks play Friday night against the Florida Panthers, who shut-out the Oilers 6-0 in Edmonton Thursday night. So that’s full day-one. Saturday, off, day-two. Sunday, with a game at home against the St. Louis Blues, that would be full day-three. Off day Monday, day-four, and then Tuesday hosting the Edmonton Oilers would be day-five. BUT, can you count any or all of yesterday (Thursday) toward that number?
If there’s that wiggle room then Miller and Demko might be able to lace ’em up against the Oilers.
Of course, this is purely speculation because none of us, including Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, would claim to be Covid protocol experts. Quite the contrary, keeping in mind that Canucks captain Bo Horvat, forward Conor Garland, and back-up goalie Jaroslav Halak all tested positive while on the recent US road trip.
“No clue,” said Boudreau. “This whole border thing, it’s quite unfair quite frankly, (for) Canadian teams that have a lot of games across the border. If it’s anything like (Brock) Boeser, it was like fourteen or fifteen days. For the guys that got it yesterday it could be five days. There’s just no … somehow I have a hard time understanding how Covid in the United States is different than Covid in Canada.”
Panthers are Purring
First things first, the Panthers: Fifty-nine points through Thursday night represents the highest total in the NHL. Actually they share that total with Tampa Bay, with a game in-hand on the Bolts. The Cats are 8-1-and-1 in their last ten games and they have the league’s best goal differential at plus-49.
Even when they’re not at their best they find ways to win. They used a 40-save shut-out from Sergei Bobrovsky and three power play goals to roll past the floundering Oilers, who’s losing streak reached seven games.
Friday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks will be Florida’s 17th road game of the season, compared to 24 at home. Barring a shocking decision of some sort, they’ll start young back-up Spencer Knight, who despite a hot start to the season has pedestrian numbers compared to “Bob”, with a Goals Against Average of 3.51 and a save percentage of .891%.
Knight was the club’s 13th overall pick in the 2019 draft, which kind of makes one wonder why he’s here. In other words, he’s a kid, who turns 21 in April, and likely isn’t ready for consistency in the big show. That said, many teams develop goalies differently, especially netminders with high draft pedigree.
Meet Your Goalies
Which brings us to the pair of 3rd-rounders who will be dressed in the goalie gear for the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night. I touched on their backgrounds a bit on Thursday. Spencer Martin was the 63rd-overall pick in 2013 of the Colorado Avalanche. He played three games at the highest level for that organization and he lost all three of them, one beyond regulation.
Martin ended up signing as a free agent with Tampa Bay two seasons ago and played all of his games at the American Hockey League level. The Canucks traded for him at the end of this past July for future considerations. If he gets the win Friday night he’ll definitely be worth more than a bag o’ pucks.
I saw him put in a stalwart effort, making multiple breakaway stops, in a raucous game in Abbotsford against the Bakersfield Condors on January 7th. He was excellent against those AHL play-makers and shooters for a baby-Canucks line-up that was ravaged by Covid absences. Martin is undefeated in regulation in seven starts this season.
It’s expected Michael DiPietro will be the back-up. The Vancouver Canucks 3rd-rounder in 2017 has started twice as many games as Martin but not done as well. He did impress at times during Vancouver Canucks training camp in September. The 22-year-old Windsor, Ontario native who played juniors in his hometown would almost be considered short these days for an NHL netminder, at 6-feet, and weighing 200 pounds.
These two couldn’t ask for a weirder situation in which to step.