Vancouver Canucks: 3 takeaways from 7-5 loss to Habs

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 19: Alexander Edler
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 19: Alexander Edler /

The good news was that the Vancouver Canucks were able to score five goals on the NHL’s best goalie. The bad news was that they allowed seven, and the slump continues. Here’s what we learned from the 7-5 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

Credit the Vancouver Canucks. Without top players in Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Chris Tanev, they’re finding every possible way to lose. On Tuesday night, they managed to score five goals on the great Carey Price, yet somehow managed to lose 7-5.

Thomas Vanek scored a hat trick and added an assist. That should be more than enough to win most games. Instead, the Canucks let a team that averages 2.74 goals per game put up seven on them. That’s just not acceptable.

Some folks may be quick to point the blame at Anders Nilsson, but he didn’t stand a chance on five of the six goals he surrendered. He made some great saves to keep his team in the game, but didn’t get help from the defencemen in front of him.

It was yet another very frustrating loss to the Canucks, who continue to inch closer to the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes, and not the playoffs. Perhaps there’s a silver lining there. Anywho, here are three takeaways from Vancouver’s 7-5 loss.

Time to extend Vanek

The Canucks took a low one-year gamble on Thomas Vanek, and it’s paying major dividends. On Tuesday, he scored three goals and one assist — bringing his totals to 10 tallies and 22 points on the season.

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That’s very good for a 33-year-old veteran being paid $2 million this season.

While the Sedin twins and Loui Eriksson have struggled mightily, Vanek has been one of the few sources of secondary scoring. Should he stay health, Vanek will finish with 20-plus goals and 40-50 points.

Vanek has been a great finisher in head coach Travis Green’s system, and can play anywhere up and down the lineup.

That’s why it’s time for general manager Jim Benning to get this extension done with, before Vanek drives up his value even more with free agency looming.

Forget about the Canucks trading him at the deadline. They won’t get more than second or third round pick for his services. Benning should see if he can get Vanek to agree on a two-year deal worth $6-7 million. He’s earned it, and can be a big weapon for a couple more years.

Blue line needs a makeover

It’s no secret that the Canucks blue line is significantly worse without Chris Tanev. You don’t see an NHL team play better when its No. 1 defenceman goes down to injury. But many of them — like the Los Angeles Kings or Pittsburgh Penguins — have had the depth to offset the losses.

But the Canucks blue line has been truly exposed as a mess, and it’s going to need major changes. Alexander Edler still moves the puck well, but he’s too injury prone and slowing down a lot. If I’m Benning, I’m asking him to waive his no-trade clause.

Erik Gudbranson is a pending UFA, but it’s becoming more and more likely that he’s dealt at the upcoming trade deadline:

The Canucks blue line is too one-dimensional, they’re mainly puck-movers with decent speed, but don’t come with the ability to simply play shutdown defence and get the puck out of the zone. Vancouver’s blue line has been a weak link for the past five years. At some point, Benning’s going to have to decide he’s had enough and start making some changes.

After all, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Jake Virtanen quiet again

Most of you were probably too focused on the high-scoring affair to notice, but Jake Virtanen once again quiet and didn’t have an impact in this game. On a day where the Canucks scored five goals, too.

Virtanen played just 10:31, and finished with two shots and a pair of hits. He has just four goals and seven points through 31 games, and hasn’t been able to unleash all of the skill set that we know is in him.

He’s been held pointless in his last five contests, and has just one goal in his last 11 games. Remember how much we were expecting him to flourish under Green — who was supposed to be the perfect mentor for him?

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Virtanen may just be 21 years of age, but the lack of progress this season is alarming. We didn’t see much in this game against Montreal. The clock is definitely ticking on Virtanen time in Vancouver, unless he’s ready to turn it around.