Vancouver Canucks: 3 takeaways from loss to Washington Capitals

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (40) slips between Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) and Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov (9) during the Vancouver Canucks vs. the Washington Capitals NHL game at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (40) slips between Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) and Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov (9) during the Vancouver Canucks vs. the Washington Capitals NHL game at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks were defeated by the Washington Capitals by a score of 3-2 Tuesday night. Here are my three takeaways from the game.

It was a game where the Vancouver Canucks didn’t seem to have their legs under them coming out of the gate. It was a game that showed us just how important your top defenseman is to a team. It was a game that the Canucks would go on to lose.

1.Hole in the defense in the absence of Edler

Alexander Edler went down with what his teammates described as an all-around frightening injury Monday night that instantly brought an immediate hush over Wells Fargo Center.

Edler’s stick got caught up with Jakub Voracek‘s skate, and as Edler turned to his right to face the puck, his stick pulled him the opposite direction- causing Edler to hit the ice face-first, unable to brace himself at all.

Whether you’re on team-tank, team-playoffs, or team waive and re-sign, we all hated to see this. Edler is arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, and he’s been a rock on defense for the Canucks, especially these last two seasons. To see him go down like that, you can’t help but worry about him, especially after seeing the pool of blood that had collected by his head area.

Despite looking like one of the worst injuries to ever happen during a Canucks game, the Canucks twitter account tweeted that head coach Travis Green said, Edler, returned to Vancouver for an MRI and will be out at least a week with a concussion. That’s almost the best case scenario, as the injury looked much worse than that and only seemed to get worse with each new angle provided by instant replay.

In the absence of Edler during this time, the Canucks will have a hole to fill on the blueline, as most teams would when their top d-man goes down with an injury. The defense pairings looked as follows Tuesday night:

The Canucks called up left-handed defenseman Guillaume Brisebois early Tuesday morning, so we will have to see if he is indeed called upon to make his NHL debut in the absence of Edler.

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Without Edler, the defense will obviously need to step up in a big way. That’s exactly what the pairing of Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher did in Washington. Not only did Hutton pick up an assist, but the pair were also solid in their own end, and Hutton quarterbacked the first powerplay unit almost seamlessly. Hutton also logged nearly 30 minutes of ice-time, while Stecher logged just over 25 minutes.

Despite this great performance from Hutton and Stecher, there are still some question marks that remain regarding the current Canucks’ defense.

Slotting in Brisebois in favour of Pouliot is a move that I would not be surprised by or mind to see at all. The opportunity is there for Brisebois to be given a look, and considering he is a prospect general manager Jim Benning has been high on, I expect we will see him play in at least one of the next coming games.

2. Jacob Markstrom continues to be a rock in goal

I sound like a broken record. Jacob Markstrom continues to play out of this world. The Canucks had no business being in that game the way they played through the first 20 minutes of play. Markstrom kept them right in it.

Let me break down the first period. The ice appeared to be tilted against the Canucks, as it often appears to be early in games. The Capitals had eight shots before the game was ten minutes in, and the Canucks had one.

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Huge save after huge save, Markstrom kept the Canucks from getting blown out early on. At the end of the opening frame, the shots were 18-5 in favour of the Capitals. The slow start hits again. As Markstrom said of the eventual game-winning goal, “It’s just a [expletive] bounce at a [expletive] time in the game and at a [expletive] time of the year.” I’ll call it an unlucky bounce.

Markstrom was solid all the way to the final horn for the Canucks. In a way, Markstrom was the best defenseman and penalty killer the Canucks had last night. He will need to continue his improved form if the Canucks want to keep their playoff hopes down the final stretch.

3. This team battles and Elias Pettersson sets the bar

This team battles. Slow starts aside, this team never goes into a game thinking they don’t stand a chance against their opponent. They can fall behind in games early, but they have that mentality required to come from behind and beat a team late.

The problem is, sometimes it’s too late before they turn it on, as it was last night when they had the goalie pulled with over two minutes left to play. Elias Pettersson potted the 24th goal of his astounding rookie campaign with just under ten seconds remaining in the game- too little too late.

This team has embraced the underdog role. Everyone wants to work hard and win for one another. As we have all heard before, Pettersson leads by example. Whether you’re on the bench or on the ice with him, seeing your team’s top scorer skating as hard as he can to get back on defense makes you personally want to work harder.

What a difference between this team’s compete and effort level when trailing in games in comparison to that of the teams under former head coach Willie Desjardins.

When the goalie was pulled, Pettersson was back in the defensive end, on his knees trying to guard his team’s open net while the Capitals rushed down the ice. When I see this, my heart jumps because I don’t want to see him get hurt anymore this season. But it also makes me beyond excited to know that we have a superstar who is willing to do whatever it takes to win a hockey game- even if that means putting himself in harm’s way.

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Those are my three takeaways from Tuesday night’s game in Washington. The Canucks will battle the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday evening before returning home for a two-game homestand where they will face the Flames and the Sharks.