Canucks were torched 6-2 by the Flames on Saturday night

G: Pearson (16), Gaudette (9)

Jacob Markstrom stopped 26 of 31 shots with Calgary scoring its final goal into an empty net

 

TAKEAWAYS

 

1) It's probably too soon to declare a state of emergency around the Vancouver Canucks, but with losses in four straight games (0-3-1), you might want to at the very least locate the panic button in case you need it in the days ahead. Despite jumping on the Calgary Flames and opening the scoring on the first shot of the hockey game just 34 seconds in, the Canucks struggled for much of the remainder of the night. The Canucks have been far too permissive for weeks, if not months, now but have generated enough offense and had terrific goaltending to get by for a while. But with regulation losses in Boston and Minnesota followed by the setback at home against the Flames, the Canucks have now been outscored 14-4 in their past three outings. Perhaps their loose defensive play is finally catching up to them at the wrong time of the season. The Canucks have allowed three or more goals in their past five outings (NYI, CAR, BOS, MIN & CGY). Beyond the goals against, the team is giving up far too many shots to opponents. Since the All Star break, their shot totals against are 37-40-37-32-42-37 and 32 on Saturday night. The only time the Canucks have outshot an opponent during that stretch was last Sunday in Carolina.

 

2) I thought Travis Green had one of his strongest and sharpest post-game breakdowns of the season. In measured tones, the coach made it abundantly clear that the Flames were better than the Canucks in a number of key areas. He pointed out that Calgary looked like a team that was more experienced and, as a result, more comfortable in such a high stakes contest. He also noted that the Canucks missed too many shots on goal. While he didn't name names, it was interesting to hear that observation from the coach on a night that Canucks scoring leader Elias Pettersson didn't register a single shot on five attempts. Pettersson, who returned to the line-up after missing Thursday's road trip finale in Minnesota, didn't look as sharp as usual and missed the mark with four his attempts and had another one blocked. 

 

3) Quinn Hughes has earned every benefit of the doubt with his play this season. But Saturday wasn't his strongest game. They can't all be masterpieces and this one wasn't. That said, he still made a terrific play to get the puck to Tanner Pearson for the game's first goal and in the process collected his 41st point of the season. But on the night, Hughes and Chris Tanev struggled against the Flames top line with Calgary controlling 60% of the even-strength shot attempts against the Canucks top pair. Hughes and Jake Virtanen had chances to clear the zone on the play that led to the third Calgary goal that proved to be the game winner. The rookie defender was also on for Sean Monahan's third period goal that extended the Flames lead to 5-2. The most-notable takeaway from the night for Hughes was that with his team trailing he seemed to try to do too much on his own. On many nights he's been able to have success playing that way. But on Saturday he was guilty of a few too many low percentage pass attempts that were uncharacteristic of the budding superstar. This is by no means an attempt to pin the loss solely on Hughes who had four shots on seven attempts. It's an illustration of how high he's set the bar for himself with his tremendous play that mediocre nights stand out because they're so few and far between. And the positive is that Hughes is such a competitor and so confident that he will surely learn from nights like this one and be better for it in the long run.

 

4) Brock Boeser played just one shift in the third period and left the game with what the team is calling an upper body injury. Following the contest, Travis Green said Boeser would be out 'for a little bit.' That is not good news for a team that tried to get by without Elias Pettersson in Minnesota on Thursday -- and that didn't go well. While Boeser has gone 11 games without scoring, Saturday was one of his more prominent outings of late before he left the game. He had three shots on goal on eight attempts and as a volume shooter those are promising numbers for a player trying to bump a slump. But it sounds like he'll have to wait now for his chance to score that next goal. The Canucks can move Jake Virtanen back up to the top line with Pettersson and JT Miller, but the team can't replace Virtanen's offense lower in the line-up with the players they currently have on recall from Utica. In the short term, Justin Bailey may finally get a look with the big league club after a red-hot January in the minors, but more likely if Boeser is out any length of time, the Canucks will need to consider the likes of Sven Baertschi, Nikolay Goldobin or even Reid Boucher to fill the offensive void. The Canucks need someone to fill Boeser's spot on the power play. The injury is unfortunate for Boeser who has dealt with back, wrist and groin issues during his first two seasons in the NHL, but to this point had played in all 56 games for the Canucks this time around.

 

5) It was good to see Adam Gaudette find the back of the net for the first time in more than a month. The young centre continues to learn on the job in the National Hockey League and hadn't scored since January 2nd against Chicago. But late in the first period, Gaudette got a fortunate bounce off the end boards behind David Rittich and was able to work his way to the front of the net and bury the puck. The goal tied the game at 2-2 and should have given the Canucks more momentum than it did after they had squandered the early 1-0 lead. That, unfortunately, was it for the Canucks offense on the night although Gaudette had another decent scoring chance at 3-2 midway through the second period when he chased down a loose puck behind the Calgary defense and got a shot away off right wing. Gaudette is on that long list of Canuck players that have not tasted NHL playoff action yet in their careers and so games like Saturdays should serve as a learning tool about what is needed to compete -- and ultimately succeed -- in games like this one. In 11:07 of even-strength ice time, Gaudette had an individual corsi of 55.6% although the shots were even at seven apiece and the Canucks were outscored by a 2-1 margin.