Vancouver Canucks: 3 things we learned from 5-2 loss to Habs

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 07: Alex Galchenyuk
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 07: Alex Galchenyuk /

It was another hard-fought effort by the Vancouver Canucks, but the Montreal Canadiens offence broke through to escape with a 5-2 victory. Here are three things we learned from the game.

The Vancouver Canucks will get their first win of 2018, but it’s not going to be coming in Eastern Canada. Like Saturday night, this team was close to pulling out a much-needed win at the Bell Centre on Sunday.

But the struggling Montreal Canadiens offence scored five goals, and made Anders Nilsson look, well, unspectacular yet again in the victory. It was Vancouver’s fourth-straight loss, and they’re losers in 12 of their last 12 games.

There just isn’t a whole lot else to say. The team’s awful defence continues to be exposed with Chris Tanev hurt once again. Carey Price is on the Habs — not the Canucks — so he can’t steal them any games.

Let’s take a look at three takeaways from another frustrating loss for the Canucks.

Sedins bouncing back

Daniel and Henrik Sedin are both in serious jeopardy of missing the 40-point mark, which was a realistic target for both at the start of the season. No doubt the 37-year-old twins are slowing down and nearing the ends of their careers.

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But they’re not going down so quietly, at least right now. Daniel had a goal and an assist, while Henrik tallied one apple. Both twins also posted an assist on Sam Gagner‘s goal on Saturday in Toronto.

The brothers haven’t been able to play key top-six minutes as hoped once the injuries to other players piled up.

But head coach Travis Green is being smart and realistic in just giving them limited ice time and power play minutes.

Obviously, the Sedins have been disappointments this season — statistically speaking. But anything else they can contribute on offence at this point is just gravy.

And there’s been a bit more of it lately. That’s a good sign, even if the wins aren’t coming.

Green’s system isn’t working

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what Travis Green’s system is these days. I understand it’s hard to win with a “rebuilding” squad that’s without its top centre (Bo Horvat), a top winger (Sven Baertschi), and its top defenceman in Tanev.

But Green’s system doesn’t look a whole lot different than that of Willie Desjardins’, last year. For example, Green loves to give plenty of ice time to a fourth-liner in Nic Dowd, who doesn’t really score much. He played 15:32 on Sunday — more than Jake Virtanen, Baertschi and the two twins.

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Desjardins loved Jayson Megna, giving him top-line minutes with the Sedin twins. It didn’t exactly make sense to any Canucks fan, and Green’s admiration for Dowd as a player is just as baffling. The guy just isn’t an impact player.

Green is going to have to change up his system. If I’m running practice for a day, I’d be focusing on clogging up the blue line and playing more structured defensively. That’s the real issue with this team. They can’t win with their offence, so try playing the good ol’ neutral zone trap and look to squeeze out those 2-1 wins.

Thatcher Demko time is near

We knew to keep our expectations minimal for Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom at the start of the season. Both got off to excellent starts through the first two months of 2017-18, and both have declined significantly in play since December.

You have to think the Canucks may be giving up on Markstrom as a starter. The progress just hasn’t come there, and you can tell his confidence just isn’t high right now. As for Nilsson? Well, he’s probably going to stay on in the league as a career back up. No surprises there.

But Thatcher Demko is the goalie of the Canucks future. He’s 12-6-3 with a .925 save percentage for the Utica Comets right now. Really, this guy can’t be far away from the NHL. You think he’s not ready?

I’m not saying Demko should play this season, but he should (at least) be the backup goalie next season. Connor Hellebuyck and Matt Murray are recent examples of young goalies who came up and made big impacts quicker than expected.

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Markstrom and Nilsson aren’t working out. No need to trade for or sign another goalie. The Canucks need to turn Demko professional next season. It’s time for a change in the crease.