Five takeaways from Canucks’ streak-breaking win vs. Canadiens

Jared McCann scored twice and Ryan Miller made 25 saves as the Vancouver Canucks beat Montreal 5-1 on Tuesday night to hand the Canadiens their first loss of the season.

The Vancouver Canucks snapped a pair of streaks on Tuesday night with a convincing 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

With the win, the Canucks prevented the Canadiens from becoming just the third team in NHL history to start the season with 10 consecutive victories. They also avoided extending their home losing streak to six games.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday night’s game.

Streak breakers
If you’re an original six team protecting a historic winning streak, the Canucks can be counted on to snap it.

In late Feb. 2012 the Canucks got up for a game against the Detroit Red Wings, who were riding a 23-game home winning streak at the time. Vancouver was at their best that day, tying the game with just over a minute remaining in the third period and winning the contest on an Alex Burrows shootout goal.

On Tuesday night in Vancouver, the streak-breaking Canucks were at it again.

The visiting Canadiens were riding high and nursing an NHL record nine-game regulation winning streak. If the Canadiens won again, they’d have joined a very small, elite group of teams who have managed 10 consecutive wins without a loss to start the season.

It wasn’t to be, though. The Canucks were at their absolute best. The fourth-line manufactured three even-strength goals on Tuesday, including two in the first period. Luca Sbisa scored his first of the season. Ryan Miller shut the door from there.

And when the Canadiens threatened to make it interesting in the third, the Canucks stepped on their throat – outshooting ‘les imbattable’ 8-3 in the frame and getting two quick goals from Radim Vrbata and Derek Dorsett to seal it.

Alex Burrows didn’t get to do his streak-breaker taunt against his hometown team, but it was nonetheless a vintage Canucks performance.

“Can we keep them, Jim?”

It’s decision time for the Canucks.

19-year-old forwards Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen stood out in the club’s lopsided 5-1 victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday night. Virtanen threw seven hits, made an excellent athletic play to set himself up for a breakaway in the first period, and was credited with his first NHL point on Derek Dorsett’s third-period goal.

McCann was even better. The young pivot recorded five shots on goal, beat the best goaltender alive twice in the first period and won six of 11 faceoffs.

Vancouver’s prized teenagers are rapidly approaching the 10-game benchmark, at which point the Canucks can either press start on the first year of their respective entry-level contracts or return the promising young forwards to major junior.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Tuesday that the club is expected to make their decision shortly. It won’t be an easy one.

Though Virtanen and McCann have captured the imagination of a fanbase pining desperately for an infusion of youth, head coach Willie Desjardins has stapled the young forwards to the bench late in close games. Further complicating matters is the injury status of Chris Higgins, who is nearing a return to the lineup, and Brandon Prust, who left Tuesday night’s game with an apparent ankle injury.

The internal discussions continue, but surely both McCann and Virtanen helped their cause with a pair of stellar performances on Tuesday night.

Miller shines again
Ryan Miller is having an October to remember.

The 36-year-old netminder is coming off of a significant knee injury, and is working through a variety of technical adjustments early in the year. Jacob Markstrom, Miller’s backup, is on the shelf with a hamstring injury and Miller has started every single game the Canucks have played as a result.

Age. Injury. Playing at a different depth in his crease. Workload.

Listing them is fun, but we can save our built-in excuses because Miller doesn’t need them. He has been simply spectacular for the Canucks in the early going.

On Tuesday night Miller stopped 25 of the 26 shots the Canadiens threw at Vancouver’s net. It took a fortunate deflection to finally beat him.

You know your goaltender is in the zone when he’s turning away 2-on-0s like they’re nothing:

Getting back to a four-line approach
The Canucks juggled their forward lines ahead of Tuesday night’s contest, and their adjustments may have made the club tougher to match up against.

The very young line of Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Sven Baertschi was split up, as Willie Desjardins sprinkled his veteran and rookie forwards more evenly throughout the lineup. Virtanen played with Brandon Sutter and Burrows, while Jannik Hansen joined Horvat and Baertschi. McCann, meanwhile, centered Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust.

In recent games the Canucks have shortened their bench late, leaving rookies to gather cobwebs on the bench in the third period while the club rolls just three forward lines. Perhaps that wasn’t necessary because of the lopsided score line on Tuesday night, but it seems probable that the club’s fatter lineup also didn’t necessitate it.

The Canucks have taken pains to dole out soft assignments and matchups to their bevy of young forwards, which has compromised the ‘four-line team’ identity that the club carved out in the first year of Desjardins’ tenure. Considering that the Canucks’ third and fourth line combined to score four even-strength goals on Tuesday night, it’s safe to say that the decision to give every line a reliable two-way veteran piece appeared to pay dividends against the Habs.

Meant to regress
Carey Price has stopped everything thrown at him in the month of October. He was due for a night like this.

The Canucks have been extraordinarily snake-bitten on Rogers Arena ice in the first few weeks of the 2015-16 campaign. The club entered Tuesday night’s game shooting worse than four per cent at home at even strength. They were similarly due for a night like this.

No one is ever ‘due’ for regression. The roulette table doesn’t remember what occurred the spin before. On Tuesday night though, in a clash of unsustainability, regression happened.

Hockey is a weird game. In the first five home games the Canucks played this season they found a way to make every goaltender they faced – from Anders Nilsson, to Petr Mrazek, to Jonas Hiller – look like Price. Finally the club faced the real deal on Tuesday night, and became the first team in the NHL this season to make Price look human.

Go figure.

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