Jake Virtanen put the puck in the net 20 times this year, but only two came in the postseason, and it feels like we’ve been having this discussion since his first training camp. When will Virtanen figure it out?
18 goals in the regular season was a good accomplishment, but in the postseason, he was non-existent, which is frustrating since he has the tools to become a great player.
With speed, size and physicality, fans in the market couldn’t wait to see what Virtanen could do in the playoffs.
The answer we got was, he didn’t do much.
Before the Canucks travelled to Edmonton, they held training camp 2.0 at Rogers Arena, and for Virtanen, it didn’t go nearly as well as hoped. The words training camp and Virtanen are like Apple and Microsoft, they just don’t go together.
I’m doing my absolute best to avoid making an “unfit to play” joke about Virtanen, but he’s making it so hard. https://t.co/SBbIHC63yu
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) July 21, 2020
After stumbling out of the gates at training camp, Virtanen’s game started to round into form, but that’s easy when his previous form wasn’t all that appealing, to begin with.
#Canucks scrimmage notes from the 2nd frame:
– Jake Virtanen with a goal and an assist off of a nice forecheck. Needed it.
– Kole Lind with a goal, an assist and a penalty drawn: A+.
– Miller-Pettersson-Toffoli 🔥
– Markstrom 1 goal allowed in last 90 minutes of scrimmage time 🛑
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) July 22, 2020
Heading into the postseason, Virtanen did not dress during the Canucks only tune-up game against the Winnipeg Jets. Vancouver lost that game 4-1 and didn’t appear to have their legs under them.
This resulted in much debate among fans after the game as to whether or not Virtanen belonged in the Canucks’ game one lineup against the Minnesota Wild.
Again the answer given by head coach Travis Green was no.
Only after an injury to Adam Gaudette early in the series did Virtanen’s number get called.
Virtanen vs Wild
Once in the lineup, Virtanen didn’t produce much against the Wild. With zero points to show for his efforts, it was clear in this series that playoff Jake wasn’t going to be what people hoped he could be. The inconsistency in his game is rather frustrating.
Fans, and arguably, the organization want him to finish checks and be hard on pucks, but he only had three hits in the entire series. His Corsi numbers were precisely 50%; however, he laid a goose egg in a third-line role where blocked shots are expected.
Virtanen averaged 8:50 minutes in the three games and was a minus one. Virtanen didn’t use his speed to his advantage to drive the Wild defence back. Instead, he would stop in-between the blue line and face-off circle and take a shot, leaving a rebound and a quick transition for the Wild.
This wasn’t Virtanen’s strongest showing in the postseason, but to his credit, his production went up in the next round.
Virtanen vs Blues
Playing up and down the lineup all throughout the series, Virtanen was versatile against the Blues. With increased ice time — be it by two minutes exactly — he managed to tally a goal and an assist.
Leading the team in Corsi with 51.26%, Virtanen had a better series against the Blues. Along with a better Corsi percentage, Virtanen laid the body in this series with nine hits and two blocked shots. All in all, Virtanen was much more noticeable in this series than he was against the Wild.
Virtanen vs Knights
Everyone besides the two goalies had a tough series against the Knights. Virtanen, and the team as a whole, just weren’t very great in this series.
Virtanen opened the scoring in game six, which ended up being the game-winning goal. While that was an important goal, it was also the only point Virtanen got against the Knights.
Of the 18 combined shots in the 1st period, this is the only one that found the back of the net 🔥
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) September 4, 2020
His underlying numbers weren’t great, but again, neither were the rest of his teammates’. While averaging 12:41 minutes of ice time, his Corsi numbers were 41.67%, which was fourth among forwards who played 20 or more minutes. However, Virtanen did bring his physicality in this series with 22 hits, much better than zero and nine in the previous series.
“The lack of production puts to bed the theory of Playoff Jake being a different beast, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s that he quietly controlled play in the postseason. Virtanen had the best on-ice expected goal differential of Canucks skaters in the playoffs, which is a positive sign even if it came in sheltered minutes.”-The Athletic
As the playoffs progressed, Virtanen did get better, but it wasn’t enough. Jim Benning expected more from Virtanen throughout the playoffs, and so did everyone else.
One question remains for the RFA, did he play himself out of the organization’s future plans?
Overall in the postseason, Virtanen did make strides, but his lack of productivity and consistency in the playoffs garner him a C-.