Vancouver Canucks: 3 takeaways from 4-1 win over Tampa Bay

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 11: Goalie Anders Nilsson #31 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates the win with teammate Erik Gudbranson #44 and against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on October 11, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 11: Goalie Anders Nilsson #31 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates the win with teammate Erik Gudbranson #44 and against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on October 11, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Two days after a frustrating and ugly road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Vancouver Canucks visited the Tampa Bay Lightning and escaped with a surprising 4-1 victory. Here’s what we learned.

Good luck trying to figure out who these Vancouver Canucks are.

This team put together a complete effort on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, taking down the reigning Eastern Conference runner-ups 4-1. This came two days after they fell 7-4 to the Carolina Hurricanes on the road.

So the Canucks are able to take it to a Lightning team filled with superstars like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov? But they weren’t able to slow down a Carolina team that’s known for, well, not scoring a lot of goals?

This Canucks team also beat the Calgary Flames 5-2 soundly in their home opener a nine days ago, only to follow it up with a 7-4 road loss to finish up the home-and-home. Again, good luck trying to figure out this team.

Some days, people are saying 2018-19 will be a painful year. Then Elias Pettersson does Elias Pettersson stuff, and this team looks like it could keep up with anybody. While you guess what kind of team the Canucks will ice in 2018-19, here’s a look at three takaways from their 4-1 win over Tampa Bay.

Jake Virtanen train keeps on rolling

We’ve discussed on here many times how 2018-19 is a make-or-break year for power forward Jake Virtanen. Well, he put it all together in Thursday’s big win, icing the game with an empty netter while assisting on the fourth goal, scored by Markus Granlund.

Virtanen played 14:08 and came around in the third period, just when it looked like Tampa Bay’s suffocating defence would hand Andrei Vasilevskiy a shutout victory. Not trying to get too excited here or anything, but Virtanen will hit the 40-goal mark if he keeps scoring every second game.

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If this play continues, the Canucks will have to think about giving Virtanen first line minutes. He’s looking just as motivated as last year. It took him the seventh and eight games to pot his first and second goals, respectively, last season. Through four games, he’s got two.

Virtanen is now 18 goals away from 20. And he’s on pace to double that. Maybe things are finally coming around for the first-round selection from 2014.

Okay, stop panicking about Brock Boeser

You know how Brock Boeser hadn’t scored a goal in his first three games? And many fans were freaking out because he only had one assist in the trio of contests? Boeser scored the game winner on Thursday, so please exhale now.

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Some fans forgot to remember that this man is still easing his way back into hockey after suffering a scary back injury last year; one that almost ruined his career. Are you really going to worry about him scoring two points in four games? You shouldn’t.

Boeser’s game-winning goal was a beauty from behind the right face-off, capitalizing on a sloppy Tampa turnover and wiring it past Vasilevskiy to put Vancouver ahead.

There was ‘The Flow’ and his wicked release. That’s what fans wanted, and that’s what they got.

Boeser had four points through his first four games last season. He finished with 29 goals and 55 points in 62 games. The 21-year-old has his first of many goals for 2018-19, and he’s going to start forming the chemistry with Pettersson soon.

Everybody exhale. He’s going to be fine.

Anders Nilsson creates controversy in crease

Yes, we’re trying our best to avoid overreactions this early in the season. One must remember that Anders Nilsson won first of his first five starts with the Canucks last year. From December to the end of the season, he only won a single game. So yeah, not the best finish after a promising start.

But Nilsson was at the top of his game in this one. He turned aside 33 shots and kept the Canucks in the game, while the star-studded Lightning looked like they were about to put it away. Nilsson stood tall (literally and figuratively), and helped the Canucks rally for the win.

So there’s Nilsson at 1-0-0, playing an excellent road game against arguably the best team in the NHL. Markstrom owns a ghastly 4.03 goals against average and .883 save percentage. So yeah, it’s safe to say he’s on thin ice right now.

Head coach Travis Green should look to give Nilsson more starts, and see if he’s able to push or even outshine Markstrom.

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We all know Thatcher Demko is the long-term answer in goal, so Nilsson and Markstrom are essentially vying for future backup jobs. May as well play them both and see who wins the battle, coach.