The Vancouver Canucks recorded their third straight victory, shutting out the Minnesota Wild 1-0 thanks to Jake Virtanen’s goal and a superb performance from Anders Nilsson. Here’s what we learned.
48 hours has made a difference for Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen, who has broken out of his early funk by scoring goals in consecutive games. This goal against the Minnesota Wild was a little more special, however.
Virtanen’s first goal of the season against the Detroit Red Wings was only an insurance marker to make it 4-1. But his goal in Minny was the only one of the game, and it paced the Canucks to their third consecutive victory.
It’s safe to say Virtanen isn’t frustrated anymore, but rather as confident as can be.
“I like the way he’s playing with the twins. Right now, it’s a good combination. His speed is helping them and they’re helping him with his speed,” said head coach Travis Green, via Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province.
Vancouver moved to 5-3-1 on the season, finishing that tough road trip with a 4-1-0 record. Next up: Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals at Rogers Arena tomorrow. That’s for another day, though. Here are three takeaways from Vancouver’s 1-0 win in the State of Hockey.
Defence held the fort
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With top-pairing defenceman Alexander Edler also out, the Canucks defence had a tough task in slowing down Minnesota’s quick-paced offence.
Mission accomplished. Though Anders Nilsson had to make some heroic saves to preserve the game, Vancouver limited Minny’s scoring chances. The Wild mustered just 29 shots on goal, and the Canucks blocked 14 shots.
This was a defensive slugfest, no doubt about it. The two teams fought for every inch of ice and barely came up with quality scoring chances.
Derrick Pouliot also had some flashes, getting a couple of scoring chances on the power play. His smooth, quick-skating skills have made him a solid fit with the Canucks so far. He’s more than earned a spot in the top-six until Edler and Stecher return.
Sedins are cutting it in bottom-six
I’ve written before about how it only made sense to see Daniel and Henrik Sedin accept a demotion to the third or fourth lines. Given Vancouver’s depth in younger and faster players, the 37-year-old twins needed to accept a lesser role.
But Green has been wise in playing the twins on a line with Virtanen. It helps the 21-year-old power forward learn from the veterans while finishing off their plays. Meanwhile, younger guys like Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser get to accept bigger roles.
The Canucks are simply winning more games with Daniel and Henrik in the bottom-six. This is a faster and all-around better team. The Sedins can still put up 40-50 points a season, and the lower ice time only helps them delay father time even more.
This is the legacy of the Sedins. They’ve always been willing to do what’s best for the team. The twins are happily mentoring younger players like Virtanen while sacrificing ice time. This is how it should be.
Another goalie controversy!
The Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider goaltending controversy ended in ugly fashion, in more ways than one. Former general manager Mike Gillis moved Schneider at the 2013 NHL Draft, while Luongo would be dealt back to the Florida Panthers before the 2014 trade deadline.
Vancouver had two top-notch goalies and managed to trade both away in an eight-month span. The Ryan Miller project didn’t work out, but the Canucks could have a new controversy on the way.
Jacob Markstrom had excellent showings on Friday and Sunday, both victories. But Anders Nilsson has posted shutouts in two of his first games with the Canucks. That forgettable game against the Boston Bruins is a long lost memory now.
So now, Green has a tough task of deciding who to go with. Both Markstrom and Nilsson have had a bad outing, but they’ve also stolen some games for the Canucks. At this point, there’s no doubting that this goalie controversy is far from over.
Enjoy it, Canucks fans. It’s a good problem for a team to have.