Vancouver Canucks: 3 takeaways from their third win in a row

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 11: Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks high-fives his teammates after scoring a goal during the third period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 11, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 11: Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks high-fives his teammates after scoring a goal during the third period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 11, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks made it three in a row against John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets. A slow start led to an exciting finish, led by the kids once again.

That Vancouver Canucks game was sure something, right? It started off as a fan’s nightmare with low event, trap hockey. I’m sure Travis Green and John Tortorella both loved that. But the Canucks kicked it into high gear during the third period where the excitement picked up.

Another win (the team’s third in a row) and led by the kids once again. You can’t ask for much more during a rebuild. The Canucks aren’t in the playoffs and last place is not exactly a world away. As the rest of the league plays their games in hand, it will be interesting to see if this squad tops out as a bubble team or returns to the form we’ve seen for the last month and a half.

Jacob Markstrom was very good, but that is lost in the rough goal given up in the first minute. He faced 36 shots, surrendering two. I find it hilarious when people want to pin the entire season or even the last three years on Markstrom. Any way to avoid discussing the mediocre pro acquisitions made from up top.

Markstrom took two pucks off his current mask, retiring the ears. Thank goodness. Man, I hate that helmet. The Canucks stormed back and salvaged a game that tried to trap its way to the finish. Here are a few takeaways from the team’s latest win.

A scoring winger conundrum

For this game, Travis Green kept his top six the same. Things didn’t start off well since the big line of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Josh Leivo failed to register a shot on goal in the first two periods of the game.

Green stuck with lines longer than he usually did, but mixed up a few things in the third. Leivo finished the game with a pair of points and so did Pettersson. The duo helped tie the game in that third period. Unfortunately for Boeser, he was left off the score sheet and was not credited with a single shot on goal.

Nikolay Goldobin picked up an assist on the game winning goal, but does not seem like he is maximizing his potential when not on Pettersson’s line. And if you him out of a scoring role, he doesn’t mesh very well there. I think Justin Morissette sums this up pretty well.

It makes things tricky for when Sven Baertschi returns. Jake Virtanen, Leivo and Baertschi have that flexibility to move down, but since the former two are playing so well lately, is that fair? I don’t think Green wants to start Baertschi in the bottom six when he is healthy, so it puts him in an interesting spot.

If more scratches are in store for Goldy later on, this could be why. Again, this would not be fair, but I would not be surprised. Coaches are conservative to a fault and rarely take risks. Pettersson played 16 minutes, but his ice time is not exactly consistent. And that’s for the best player on the team. How much rope do you think Goldy will get? Simply not enough.

At this point, I would argue that Leivo is more of a passenger on Pettersson’s line than Goldobin. I wouldn’t mind putting Leivo on the third line, but based on Green’s deployment, that may not work for him. This is speculation dependent on Baertschi’s return, but it seems likely that he will return this season, so the conversation has to be had sooner rather than later.

The comeback makes up for listless start

More from The Canuck Way

Like I mentioned earlier, the Canucks sure had a bad start. Columbus only needed 47 seconds to get the opening goal. Green started the game with his fourth line and guess who was on the ice for that goal? It’s not the first time that line has been caught for an early goal. Maybe Green should consider any other line. I don’t care if you’re on the road with the first change, put someone else out there to start the game.

The Canucks had 14 shots after two periods. Columbus had 26. I can’t believe it was only a 1-0 game going into the third. But blame the goalie, right? That third period did a good job of making us forget about the opening 40.

A slow, methodical game of trap hockey was a dream come true for the coaches. Their dream was our nightmare and thankfully Joonas Korpisalo was rather porous towards the end. Was the Pettersson goal lucky? Sure, but we’ll take what we can get.

Vancouver finished the game with only 25 shots on goal, but they had the run support to pull out the win in the final two minutes. They may have had a run of good luck recently, but wins are wins, much to the chagrin of Team Tank. For our tankists out there, take it in stride. I feel if the kids are leading the way to a win, we can live with it.

This is a point I’ve made before, but if the team can still finish in the bottom five while winning 30 games. The Canucks have 14. Victories led by veterans who will be off the roster in three years hurt a lot more. But that’s a problem to deal with in March, not now.

The Calder vs Shotgun Jake

So, we saw something interesting pop up during the game. Personally, I thought Jake Virtanen had the Canucks first goal of the game. It looked like the puck went in off his skate and the broadcast certainly agreed.

Unfortunately, Canucks fans had a premature Shotgun Jake and were pushing to give him credit for the goal. As of writing this post game (8:35 pm PST), the NHL still has the goal credited to Leivo. I’m all for the fun of watching Shotgun Jake videos, but this is an important point.

If Virtanen gets the goal, Pettersson loses an assist. Maybe it doesn’t make a difference in the Calder race later on, but maybe it does. Jake Virtanen won’t suddenly stop scoring goals ever again. And if you had precognitive abilities, you would know Big Tuna scores the game winner.

Seeing how an injury cut Boeser’s Calder-nominated season short, every point matters in that race. It’s not that Shotgun Jake is unimportant, just a little less if we are looking at something bigger than the team.

I don’t know about you, but seeing Pettersson win the Calder means more to me than an extra celebration goal. Regardless, Jake gets a proper shotgun moment to win the game and match his goal totals from 2017-18. It’s only December, so even if he goes cold, that’s a pretty good result.

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I guess you could say it’s a win-win for everybody. Unless the NHL changes the scoring tomorrow, rendering the discussion pointless. Regardless, congrats to Jake! Only 33% of that Canucks game was fun to watch, but the youth movement is putting in some serious work, which is great.