Canucks: Travis Green has to play Jake Virtanen in Game 2


The Vancouver Canucks lacked energy and intensity in Game 1. Head coach Travis Green has to play Jake Virtanen in Game 2.

Well, the Vancouver Canucks‘ overall play on Sunday evening left a lot to be desired.

There was very little energy, pace, structure and few grade-A scoring chances against the resilient, stingy and defensively responsible Minnesota Wild. If it weren’t for stellar play from Jacob Markstrom (again), the scoreboard would have been a lot uglier.

Excluding last week’s meaningless exhibition game, this was Vancouver’s first contest in almost five months. So rust and mistake-filled segments were expected. But the Wild looked anything but rusty and sloppy on Sunday.

Vancouver has more speed, star power and skill, sure. But that’s irrelevant if you’re defensively sound and focused like this well-coached Minnesota team. Adjustments have to be made if the Canucks are to get back in this series.

Enter Jake Virtanen.

Yes, he appears to have lost the trust of head coach Travis Green. Yes, his time in Vancouver could be winding down. Yes, many fans are growing frustrating with his inconsistent production and the disappointing outing in training camp.

But now’s not the time for coach Green to send a message to Virtanen. It’s time to go “with the best lineup” that will give Vancouver “the best chance to win,” as Green would say.

Say what you want about Virtanen’s inconsistency and lackluster training camp. The man was on the cusp of hitting 20 goals for the first time in his career. And when he’s at his best, this guy can take over games with his speed, physicality and energy.

Vancouver was lacking in all three of those phases in Game 1.

Virtanen may only have one last chance to prove himself. What happens if he gets inserted into the lineup, and what if he manages to become the turning point in the series? Well, then Green will surely regret sitting him in Game 1.

With all due respect to Vancouver’s bottom-six forwards, the bulk of them just aren’t capable of changing a game the way “Big Jake” can. He matches their toughness, physicality and energy, but the difference is that Virtanen can also score the big goal.

The Wild completely clogged up the slot and the front of the net in Game 1, forcing Vancouver to work from the outside. Well, we’ve seen Virtanen put that slick release to good use from the circles several times.

If Minny is happy to surrender the outside areas, Virtanen can help exploit it. Even if he’s not scoring goals from there, Virtanen’s speed will at least draw the Wild defenders in, thus opening up the ice for his teammates.

dark. Next. Canucks: Ferland proved why he's in the lineup

Add it all up, and quite frankly, coach Green has no excuse to bench Virtanen in Game 2. The Canucks are already hanging on by a finger, and it’s now time to put together the “best lineup” that will give this team the “best chance to win.”