Canucks: 3 takeaways from a disastrous 6-2 loss to the Canadiens

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 25: Nick Suzuki #14 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at the Bell Centre on February 25, 2020 in Montreal, Canada. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 25: Nick Suzuki #14 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at the Bell Centre on February 25, 2020 in Montreal, Canada. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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Fresh off a statement win over the Winnipeg Jets, the Vancouver Canucks took the ice Monday night against the Habs to make another declaration: this team is wildly inconsistent. The cohesive defensive structure showcased on Saturday was traded in for bad improv that was punished again and again by an opportunistic Canadiens team.

Few Canucks were spared from what colour man John Garrett described as a “contagion” of turnovers. The Canucks fell behind early, and by the middle of the second period had effectively gift-wrapped the game to the Habs. Only a solid goaltending performance from Braden Holtby saved the Canucks from an even worse scoreline than they deserved.

There were a few notable bright spots in this game as the Canucks continue to get depth scoring, this time from Adam Gaudette and Jay Beagle. However, we have to start our three takeaways with the glaring issues.

Wipe this JT Miller performance from your memory

9. <ul><li>-3 (tied for team low)</li><li>0 SOG</li><li>18:33 TOI (first among Canuck forwards)</li></ul>. LW. Vancouver Canucks. J.T. MILLER

The resurgence of the Lotto Line came to a halt today, and the typically excellent J.T. Miller had a  rough night. Miller was left watching Nick Suzuki in front for the opening goal and was caught over-pursuing Paul Byron on the game-winner, who found a wide-open Jeff Petry alone at the point. Alarmingly, Miller wasn’t the only Canuck out of position in the play, as all five Vancouver skaters were caught on the same side of their own zone, which pretty much sums up the Canucks’ defensive performance this year.

What’s worse is that even after the first period gaffes, Miller continued his sloppy play into the second with a low-percentage backhand pass that soon turned into a Canadiens four on two rush, and the eventual nail in the coffin.

Miller attempted several poor outlet passes that led to Canadiens chances, “led” the team with 3 giveaways, and earned every digit of his -3 stat. I expect Miller to have a strong bounce-back game tomorrow, and head coach Travis Green summed up his off night fairly:

Jake Virtanen was one of the best Canuck forwards tonight

<ul><li>14:21 TOI (7th among Canucks forwards)</li><li>Even rating</li><li>3 SOG (T-1 among Canucks forwards)</li></ul>. RW. AKA Shotgun Jake. JAKE VIRTANEN. 18

Coming off a four-game win streak, eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Jake Virtanen would be slotting in for Antoine Roussel on the third line (later discovered due to an undisclosed injury to Roussel). Nevertheless, we were treated to the good Virtanen, as he was engaged early after getting stapled to the boards by Canadiens blueliner Alexander Romanov in the first period. His strong play was noticed by coach Travis Green, as he was later double-shifted on a makeshift line with Bo Horvat and Miller during the back half of the game.

We’ve seen this story play out plenty of times before with Virtanen, but I think on paper he’s a better fit with Motte/Beagle than Roussel. Whether that’s reflected on the ice is in his hands, but he’s earned another look on the third line for tomorrow.

The Canuck goalies are not the problem

The collective stat-line of Thatcher Demko and Holtby are down-right ugly, but it has to be said again that rarely has goaltending been the issue for the Canucks this season. All of our top defensemen are playing with new partners this season (Quinn Hughes/Jordie Benn, Alex Edler/Jalen Chatfield, Tyler Myers/Nate Schmidt), and the feeling out process for the back end has led to some shocking shot totals and a ton of high-risk scoring chances so far.

Routinely last year we watched the Canucks give up tons of shots (average of 33 shots against), only to see Jacob Markström bail the team out. I doubt he would fare any better against the firing squads the Canucks have subjected Demko or Holtby to so far this season.

Game Notes:

  • The nickname suggestions are flooding in for rookie Nils Höglander. John Shorthouse tossed in his own idea early in the first period during the broadcast: The Pepper Pot.
  • Jalen Chatfield had a strong start to the game on both ends of the ice, but got way too cute carrying the puck up ice in the second period, turning the puck over at center ice leading to a Brendan Gallagher breakaway to make it 4-1 for Montreal. Overall, I still think he’s trending up.
  • Green’s line of choice for shift after goals against today? Motte-Beagle-Virtanen.

Next. Canucks: The sky is the limit for star winger Brock Boeser. dark

The Canucks get a quick shot at redemption, with a 4 PM PST puck drop tomorrow to conclude the double-header against the Canadiens before a three-game series in Toronto.