Vancouver Canucks: 3 key takeaways from win over Senators

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 17: Thomas Vanek
OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 17: Thomas Vanek /

The Vancouver Canucks rebounded from three straight losses, and played a well-rounded game to escape the nation’s capital with a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. Here’s what we learned from the shutout victory.

Exhale, Vancouver Canucks fans. As it turns out, this team can score goals on the power play. They’re capable of playing good defence when every player is on his game. And yes, they can win on the road.

After three consecutive losses (including a shootout defeat at the hands of the Senators last Tuesday), the Canucks spoiled Erik Karlsson‘s return and left with a 3-0 victory. Considering they were without top defenceman Alexander Edler and forward Loui Eriksson (both out four to six weeks), the win felt much more monumental.

The star of the game was undoubtedly goalie Anders Nilsson, who turned aside all 32 shots he faced to post a shutout in his Canucks debut. Jacob Markstrom — who had two uninspiring efforts last week — should be worried about losing his job.

Vancouver’s record moves to 2-2-1, and they trail the Vegas Golden Knights by five points for the Pacific Division lead (early, I know). They’ll visit their old rivals, the Boston Bruins, on Thursday night in Beantown.

This was by far the Canucks best game in their young season, and more efforts like this would go a long way, of course. Here is a look at three key takeaways from Vancouver’s win over the 2017 Eastern Conference runner-ups.

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Finally, a power play goal

The bad news for Vancouver was that they only had two power play opportunities in this one. The other bad news was the Senators hadn’t allowed a goal while short-handed all season. That all changed on Tuesday.

Brock Boeser scored his second goal of the season (this is why you don’t sit him, coach), off a scramble in front of the net. The Canucks had a better set up, and Michael Del Zotto seemed fine as the power play quarterback.

Obviously, there is plenty of work to do on this power play. But the Canucks got off to a nice start on Tuesday by scoring against the league’s best penalty killing unit. The Canucks can only hope that Boeser’s go will be the beginning of something special for this team when they’re on the man advantage.

Secondary scoring remains an issue

Boeser, Alexander Burmistrov and Thomas Vanek scored the three Canucks goals in Tuesday’s win. However, Vancouver is not getting goals from any of their top forwards this early in the season, and they all need to bust out of the early slumps.

Thus far, Bo Horvat and the Sedin twins have two points each, with the former not scoring since the season opener. Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi both came close to 20 goals last season, yet neither have hit the back of the net this season. Granlund continues to look for his first point.

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Jake Virtanen — who looked dominant and ultra-motivated in preseason — has yet to register a point this season. Both Sam Gagner and Brandon Sutter — who are usually in that 15-20 goal range — have a point each thus far.

It’s simple. The Canucks won’t be winning a lot of games if they don’t have three to five forwards consistently chipping in with offence. They really need all these guys to start contributing more. Otherwise, another long season is in the fold.

Anders Nilsson should be the starter

From what we know so far, Jacob Markstrom is a career backup goalie who has never lived up to his full potential. Anders Nilsson has been a serviceable backup throughout his career, having posted a .923 save percentage for the Buffalo Sabres last year.

Nilsson outplayed Markstrom in preseason, but the Canucks chose to play it safe and hand the latter the No. 1 role to start the season. Markstrom has looked shaky and somewhat rusty, while Nilsson was perfectly calm and poised in the shutout win over Ottawa.

A wise person once said “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So after that strong showing, why put Nilsson back on the bench? He should start against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. See how he plays, and roll with him unless his production slips.

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Nilsson put together a remarkable effort on Tuesday. Seeing how good he was last season and in the preseason, it’s only fair for head coach Travis Green to go with Nilsson as long as he continues to play well.