Even Jacob Markstrom could not have saved the Vancouver Canucks.
After rattling off four straight wins to seemingly get their season back on track, the Canucks lost 6-2 to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night in a game that was frustrating for reasons that have become all too familiar this season. The team’s play was characterized by turnovers and defensive mistakes as the Canadiens scored one minute in and never looked back.
Both Montreal and Toronto have set themselves ahead of the pack in the early going of the North Division and tonight offered an opportunity for the Canucks to show that they belonged as well. Instead, goalie Braden Holtby was forced to face a rotating cast of Canadiens who got to take turns trying their shot at new breakaway moves.
The Canucks have proven that — when playing their best — they’re a forced to be reckoned with. They’re also starting to prove that they’re one of the worst teams in the league defensively and that Montreal knows exactly how to take advantage of that.
“They’re a good skating team, they do pressure the puck a lot in a lot of areas, yes, but the onus is mainly on us.” said defencemen Nate Schmidt to the media after the loss.
Every team has bad games but this wasn't just a bad game. It was a culmination of all the Canucks bad habits that they've continued to show so far this season and for the Canucks to join Montreal among the division’s elite, they’re going need to find a way to fix them.
Adam Gaudette has been in and out of the lineup in recent weeks as he fights to prove that he deserves a permanent position. Tonight he had a terrible turnover that led directly to the Canadiens second goal.
« Oups, c'est ma rondelle maintenant.»— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) February 2, 2021
"That's my puck now."
- Lehky#GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/ZUpBwjPF37
“I fumbled it a little bit and just should’ve made a decision quicker and chipped it,” said Gaudette who got the goal back later in the period with a shot that beat Carey Price.
Unforced errors have been at the root of many of the Canucks’ issues recently and this was just yet another example of many. Whether it’s more practices, a different approach to coaching, or changing the scheme, the Canucks need to find the antidote to their mental errors.
In addition to the turnovers and unforced errors, the Canucks defensive structure continues to be exposed by talented and hard-working teams. It felt as if the Canadiens had odd-man rush after odd-man rush and continued to sneak behind the defence even when the game was well out of reach.
“You don’t manage the puck, you make turnovers, you’re going to give up chances like we did” said coach Travis Green to media after the game.
The Canucks allowed 40 shots —and despite Holtby saying he doesn't care too much about shot quantity post-game — it cannot be denied that there’s a troublesome trend that now dates back to last season.
We’ve seen the Canucks play a stronger defensive game — like in their 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets where they only allowed 24 shots — but it has escaped them when they needed it most.
For the cherry on top of the embarrassment sundae, at the same time as the Canucks were floundering in Montreal, Chris Tanev scored and Jacob Markstrom had another great game half-way across the country playing for the Calgary Flames.
Oh, did we mention Tyler Toffoli scored as well?
In the grand scheme of things, this was just one game and hopefully one that can light a fire under the team so they can steal some points on the remainder of this road trip.
The good part about this compressed season is that there’s no time to dwell on losses. The bad part is that there’s not much time for Green to get his hands dirty and work the kinks out.
Win or lose, the season marches on and the Canucks can only deal with what’s in front of them. With plenty of young players on the team and a few new additions, it’s normal that they will take some time to figure things out. The only question is if they can beat out the clock that is this modified shortened season?