Vancouver Canucks: Three takeaways from 5-1 win over Blues

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 20: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues skates after Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks during their NHL game at Rogers Arena December 20, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 5-1. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 20: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues skates after Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks during their NHL game at Rogers Arena December 20, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 5-1. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Blues paid a visit to the windy city. No, not Chicago. While BC fought power outages and blistering winds, the Vancouver Canucks downed the Blues 5-1 in a familiar story, where the young guns carried them along the way.

The Vancouver Canucks have one more game at home before the holiday break begins. In yet another exhibition of teams that can out-tank the Canucks, the St. Louis Blues limped into Rogers Arena. You would think they would have something to prove after they were demolished in their own building.

Judging by the first period, that seemed correct. The Blues tried to get started quickly and the Canucks were behind in shots early. But St. Louis couldn’t fend off the Canucks for long. In the middle frame, Elias Pettersson layed it down, sending a perfect pass to Bo Horvat for a pretty power play goal.

Still in disbelief, the Blues could not stop Adam Gaudette, who scored 28 seconds later. Things opened up in the third period when Josh Leivo got another fluky goal. He may have double the shooting percentage he had with Toronto, but Leivo is getting the bounces. Vladimir Tarasenko broke Jacob Markstrom‘s shutout bid, but that’s all the Blues could muster.

Craig Berube channeled his inner Patrick Roy, pulling the goalie for the extra attacker with four and a half minutes to go. Loui Eriksson immediately scored, proving once again, if Eriksson scores, you’ve already lost.

More from The Canuck Way

Two thirds of the game was interesting, but the Canucks won their sixth game in eight. Sure, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are converting on over 30% of their shots during these games and a the team is due for a losing streak next month, but this December is certainly better to watch compared to last year. Here are your three takeaways from the game.

Canucks fans get their 11th Shotgun Jake

It’s official. Jake Virtanen has scored the most goals in his career and it’s not even Christmas yet. Canucks fans celebrated in full, featuring the usual fun that comes with Shotgun Jake. We even saw wine. That’s a new one.

Virtanen has been very fun to watch this season and it’s good to see that he is part of the young group that is carrying over 60% of the Canucks offence this season. This was going around Canucks Twitter last night, but I could get behind a campaign for Francesco Aquilini to shotgun a beer if Jake hits 20 goals.

It’s free PR and you know the Canucks owner will plug in an advertisement for Lyft even if the service won’t be available in Vancouver by then. I never would have expected Jake to get close to 20 goals and I am so glad to be wrong.

I know people want to see Virtanen become our Tom Wilson, but I like a comparison J.D. Burke made in his CanucksArmy days. If we can get a pre-injury version of David Booth on the ice, that’s a pretty solid result for Virtanen. Also, more goals means more money for Jake. If there was ever a time to cash in on Jim Benning, the next offseason is a good chance.

The team does not miss Michael Del Zotto

So, not to pat my back too hard, but I had a tweet blow up yesterday.

I would like to give a tip of the hat to Jason Botchford for getting me to tweet like the pros and featuring it in The Athletties. There is one correction I need to make. The Canucks record without Michael Del Zotto is actually 10-4-1 while their record with him is 6-13-3. But the point still stands: the team doesn’t miss him.

The Canucks made Del Zotto a healthy scratch in eight consecutive games after October 6th. Last night’s scratch against the Blues completed another set of eight straight that began on December 4th.

And can you blame Travis Green? The team earned 21 out of a possible 30 points (now 23 out of 32) with MDZ in the press box. When they were forced to put him into the lineup, the team earned 15 out of a possible 44 points. It didn’t help his case to be part of the of the penalty kill when it was struggling and losing 12 of those 13 games.

Del Zotto has negative value at this point, so the Canucks will probably just ride out his contract. If they can find a sucker willing to part with a seventh round pick, do it. I would consider waiving him since he could probably pass through unclaimed. However, we don’t really have reinforcements unless Michigan’s season ends early, but that won’t be until March. I would still waive him anyway. There is probably a better option on the waiver wire.

Jacob Markstrom is working wonders

Last, but not least, let’s talk about Jacob Markstrom. December 2017 was a barren wasteland in goal. The Canucks couldn’t buy a save, giving up seven goals on multiple nights. This year is different. The team is winning more and haven’t lost one of their best players to a long term injury.

Vancouver is winning and that is partly due to their goaltending. Anders Nilsson may be drawing the tougher starts, but Markstrom has played very well in recent games. The fans were chanting his name last night during the game. Project Cable Box may be on the shelf, but I like what we’re seeing from Markstrom.

David went through his improvement in play and I just want to add to that further.

Related Story. Vancouver Canucks: The resurgence of Jacob Markstrom. light

Markstrom had a .967 save percentage, turning away 29 of 30 shots. Remember how I said the Canucks won six of their last eight? Markstrom has all six wins. Botch already mentioned this in last night’s Athletties, but it’s still incredible that he has a save percentage of .942 through this stretch.

The Canucks are probably going to keep Markstrom around to split starts with Thatcher Demko. I would like the team to move on from Nilsson, but they aren’t doing his trade value any favors by giving him the tougher starts. Hence, the need for Project Cable Box.

I used to be concerned about Demko having to play in front of this Canucks defence, but he doesn’t anything to prove anymore in the NHL. Goalies have an athletic peak as well  and we are seeing what happens when goaltenders end up on the wrong side of 30.

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Sure, there are outliers, but the sooner Demko is up, the better. I think it’s worth it to see him play. And not one game at the end of the season. A whole bunch of them. But I guess we’ll have to wait until the trade deadline for that to happen, if it happens at all.