There’s nothing quite like a backup goaltender posting a shutout to stoke the fires of a goaltending controversy. Yes, I said it: goaltending controversy. There’s no point avoiding the phrase, because it’s inevitable.
Jacob Markstrom has been mostly very good through the first four games, but Anders Nilsson was simply outstanding in his very first game as a Canuck. Travis Green jokingly described his philosophy on goaltenders as, “I like goalies that stop the puck. I don't like goalies that don't.” Nilsson stopped all of the pucks on Tuesday.
Should we overreact to one good game after Markstrom’s one bad game? Of course not. But the truth of the matter is that neither Markstrom nor Nilsson have proven themselves as number one goaltenders in the NHL, so, in my eyes, this should be treated as a true battle for the number one job. Instead, people seem to be treating this as Markstrom’s job to lose. I just don’t understand that.
Frankly, a goaltending controversy borne of both goaltenders performing well rather than the opposite, is exactly what the Canucks need. I saw Nilsson kick open the door that Markstrom left cracked when I watched this game.
- It feels like every game reaffirms the absurdity of Brock Boeser sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season. With a goal and an assist in this game, Boeser now has points in three straight games, which qualifies as a certified streak. For the cherry on top, he’s now leading the Canucks in scoring.
- While Travis Green deserves a helping of scorn-on-the-cob for sitting Boeser to start the season, he also deserves the maize of praise for landing on some unexpected, yet effective linemates for him: Sven Baertschi and Alex Burmistrov. The coach’s claim that Burmistrov boasts a lot of offensive skill had a kernel of truth to it and the trio provided some pop on the power play, recording the Canucks’ only two shots with the man advantage.
- My apologies for the corny jokes in the previous bullet point.
- Boeser opened the scoring on the power play after some nice puck movement by his unit and some yeoman’s work in front of the net by Burmistrov. While Burmistrov battled with Cody Ceci, Craig Anderson tried to swat the puck away, but sent it right onto the stick of Boeser, who treated the net like it had been cast on the right side of the boat and filled it.
- The story of the first period wasn’t Boeser’s goal, however; it was Anders Nilsson, who made 17 saves as the Senators dominated the opening frame. Where Markstrom sometimes made his 6’6” frame look small, Nilsson looked large and in charge: he kept his shoulders up to take away the top of the net in his butterfly and swallowed up shots like Tyrone “Cloak” Johnson. Obviously he pitched a shutout, but it was his performance in the first period that was the most impressive.
- Michael Del Zotto and Chris Tanev deserve a lot of credit: they started the vast majority of their shifts in the defensive zone and played mostly against the top two forward lines and Erik Karlsson, but the Canucks out-shot the Senators when they were on the ice. Del Zotto played a game high 25:31, had 3 shots on goal, 3 hits, and 3 blocked shots. It was about as complete a performance as you could ask for from DJ DZ.
- Erik Karlsson may be coming off ankle surgery, but he made Erik Gudbranson look foolish on a power play dash up the ice, causing the big defender to lose his balance and completely fall over. Only an alert pokecheck by Tanev prevented a breakaway chance, but Gudbranson was still left checking to make sure Karlsson didn’t perform a procedure on his ankles when he knifed past him with such surgical precision.
- After a Sutter tip-in was disallowed for a high stick, Burmistrov gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead with a tip-in of his own. After some quick puck movement, Boeser rotated up to the top of the zone and swung a quick shot on net that Burmistrov deftly tipped past Anderson. It was the most effective deflection since Trump claimed the kneeling NFL players were protesting the American anthem and flag instead of of police brutality and racial inequality.
- In what should really be a huge story, the Sedins played just over 12 minutes in this game, continuing a pattern of limited minutes this season. Some fans might complain that the Sedins have been invisible, but they actually seem to be thriving with the reduced ice time. When they were together at 5-on-5, the Canucks out-shot the Senators by a big 10-4, good buddy.
- Karlsson wasn't the only player breaking ankles, as Henrik pulled off a slick spinorama that sent Kyle Turris sliding to the ice. He then did what Henrik does: pass. He passed up on a chance to take a straight lane to the net, then passed to Daniel for a lesser scoring chance. Generally I find that people get more direct as they get older, but Henrik is still so circumspect. Cut to the chase, Henrik, or in this case, cut to the net.
- Thomas Vanek sealed the game with the 3-0 goal on an end-to-end-to-end play. At the Senators end, Vanek got knocked off the puck too easily, giving it up to Karlsson, who went to the other end and rang the puck off the crossbar. Vanek, late getting back into the play, ended up in perfect position to take the ricocheting puck for a breakaway back to the Senators end, at whcih point he ripped a slap shot so hard that it tore a hole through space and time to his younger, 40-goal-scoring self, ringing the puck off the far post and in. His hellacious slap shot was impossible to stop for Anderson and may have doomed the entire universe.