Healthy Scratches, Hot Goalies, plus more…
First, a quick thought about the Mike Matheson two-game suspension: I never thought I’d write this, but the NHL issuing a suspension here is a step in the right direction. Comparing apples to oranges as well as a very small sample size, the NHL generally seems to be tougher on suspensions this season – case in point the Tom Wilson 20-game suspension. In the past I know this would have gotten completely ignored and shrugged off as “part of the game,” but this matters when you consider the careers of star players cut short by head injuries (Lindros, Kariya, Lafontaine, etc.) and what we now know about head injuries. There have been a ton of takes about the hit and the Canucks’ (lack of) response afterward, so I won’t dive into this one any further.
So who took over Elias Pettersson’s spot on the first-unit power play on Tuesday? No one! The Canucks didn’t receive a single power play against Pittsburgh. In fact, there was only one penalty in the entire game.
But there was something happening with goaltending in this game, specifically Canucks’ goaltending. In case you haven’t noticed, Anders Nilsson started his third consecutive game. He also earned his third consecutive win, posting a 1.67 GAA and .943 SV% over that span. Yes, I’m as surprised as you are. And yes, I’d expect him to start the Canucks’ next game Thursday in Winnipeg, which will be a tall order for the 6’6” goalie. But if you need to ride a hot hand in net, he’s worth a gamble. Remember that after last season, he backstopped Sweden to a World Hockey Championship. So there’s that.
The more long-term question is whether Nilsson will unseat Jacob Markstrom as the de facto number one in Van City. I’d say that Nilsson would need more consistency than we’re used to with him before I would proclaim that he will be the guy two months from now. He could also easily force a timeshare with Markstrom, which might be the more likely scenario here. The Canucks are playing well right now, but their defense is the envy of no team. So over an entire season, I still wouldn’t consider either Nilsson or Markstrom to be a must-own.
You may have heard of this by now since it was Monday’s news, but Brandon Saad could be a healthy scratch for Thursday’s game. As Mike Clifford mentioned, Saad has scored just 12 goals in his last 76 games last season, and he has not scored a goal in five games this season. Saad was demoted to the fourth line on Saturday alongside