Vancouver Canucks: 3 takeaways from 2-0 loss to Montreal Canadiens

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 3: Vancouver Canucks' players watch the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens from the bench at the Bell Centre on January 3, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 3: Vancouver Canucks' players watch the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens from the bench at the Bell Centre on January 3, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images) /

After a thrilling overtime win in the nation’s capital, the Vancouver Canucks’ offence tried up and couldn’t muster a goal against the Montreal Canadiens. Here’s what we learned from their 2-0 loss.

The Vancouver Canucks may have fallen 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, but the big story was the injury to Elias Pettersson, when Habs’ rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi tied up the Calder Trophy favourite and took him down to the ice.

Pettersson had to leave the game and did not return. The Canucks couldn’t solve the brick wall that is Carey Price, losing 2-0 in what was simply one extremely frustrating contest. Kotkaniemi wasn’t even penalized for the dirty play on Pettersson, and Vancouver’s enforcers didn’t bother to stick up for their star rookie.

The Canucks have to regroup quickly, because the powerhouse Toronto Maple Leafs are set to host them on Saturday. Vancouver cannot afford these types of losses as they try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Here are three takeaway’s from the 2-0 loss.

1. Where are Pettersson’s defenders?

Why does general manager Jim Benning love adding toughness to the lineup? It clearly stems from his days as assistant general manager of the Boston Bruins, the team that used muscle, size and physicality to win the Stanley Cup in 2011.

That’s why he gave Erik Gudbranson a four-year contract worth $12 million, even though the Canucks could have found an equal player for a much cheaper price. It’s why he added Tim Schaller, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel in free agency last year.

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The tough enforcers could have easily come to the defence of Vancouver’s star rookie when Kotkaniemi  tangled him up and seemingly tried to injure Pettersson on purpose. Instead, there was zero retaliation from the Canucks, and this is far from the first time where they failed to come to the defence of one of the young stars.

Their jobs are to simply dish out the hits, play with an edge and defend the top players when they’re the victim of a dirty hit.  Benning might want to reconsider adding tough guys in the future, since the ones he’s signed and/or traded for have consistently failed to do their jobs in protecting guys like Petterssson.

2.  Once again, no secondary scoring

This has been an ongoing issue for far too long, but there’s no sign of the Canucks solving it any time soon.

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With Pettersson getting hurt, Brock Boeser unable to capitalize on chances and Bo Horvat having an off night, the Canucks certainly could have used some offence from the other players. But unsurprisingly, this team wasn’t able to score a single goal, with their top players having quiet nights.

Jake Virtanen now has one goal in his last 11 games, and it suddenly looks like he might not reach 20 after all. Markus Granlund continues to struggle offensively in what can be deemed as a make-or-break year.

And yes, $36 million man Loui Eriksson isn’t coming up with the offence to reflect his salary. Ho hum.

It’s scary that the Canucks don’t really have any forward prospects that aren’t exactly NHL ready. Because the way things are set up now, the offence will live and die by the star trio of Boeser, Pettersson and Horvat.

Good thing Brandon Sutter and Sven Baertschi are both healthy and back in the lineup. Hopefully they’ll be able to provide the much-needed secondary scoring to save this team. They’re the only hope at this point, since head coach Travis Green appears to have given up on Nikolay Goldobin.

3. Pettersson deserves better

It’s unfair that Pettersson has barely played over a half a season at the NHL level, and he’s already been a victim of two dirty hits. Nobody needs a reminder about what Mike Matheson did to Pettersson earlier in the season.

Now, the slick Swede is hopefully going to be okay after that incident with Kotkaniemi. Even if he is, it’s disappointing that a hard-working, classy and humble guy of Pettersson’s caliber has to deal with these hits.

There’s no easy solution for the NHL to crack down on such hits to its star players, which is the unfortunate part. Pettersson simply has to live with the consequences of being a superstar player; Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby have had to deal with it. They can all relate to what Pettersson has to go through.

It’s one thing to be physical against a star player in an attempt to rattle him and knock the guy off his game. But what Matheson and Kotkaniemi did to Pettersson is inexcusable and simply doesn’t belong in hockey. That’s why there has been such an outrage over some of these hits that Vancouver’s star rookie has had to go through.

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Ah well, at least Pettersson is the only scoring in bunches and embarrassing defenders with his slick shot and playmaking skills. There’s no effective way of getting Pettersson off his game, so good luck trying to figure it out if you’re the opposition.