On July 1, the Vancouver Canucks lost former Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller to the Anaheim Ducks in free agency. With this reshuffling of the pack, Jacob Markstrom has been earmarked as the main man going forward. He can dominate the crease for the Canucks, and here is why.
Markstrom’s Difficult Path
It’s safe to say that Markstrom has not had it easy, nor has he made it easy for himself at the NHL level. His time with the Florida Panthers was marred by being flipped between the NHL and AHL like a yoyo. The season he showed the potential which was seen in Sweden and with the national team at junior level was a 32-game regular-season stint with the Utica Comets (2014-15). This left the Swede with a .934 save percentage, five shutouts, and a 1.88 goals-against average. Added to this, he achieved a .925 in 23 playoff games.
You might be thinking, yes, that’s all well and good but that’s a much lower level than the NHL. It was the next season (2015-16) in which he got 33 outings with the senior club, achieving a .915 save percentage and then culminating in a .910 in 26 games last season with Ryan Miller dominating the Canucks’ crease, showing that he has the talent.
Time to Believe
The Canucks have not had much luck with goaltenders over the years, and have placed their trust in big names that never really came to fruition. Therefore, it’s time for the organization and fans alike to believe in a guy who knows the club and has the raw potential. I’m thoroughly intrigued to see Markstrom play over 40 games this season. Some players need to be believed in to reach their true potential. Given the rough treatment he received in Florida and how his numbers dropped, it leads me to believe that with the right backing, he can excel.
Corey Hirsch’s Thoughts
Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Corey Hirsch, who has 101 games under his belt with the BC side, gave his thoughts to Sportsnet this week.
When asked whether Markstrom can be a natural number one, he replied “I definitely think so. It’s his time. He has to stay healthy, and that’s an understatement. He’s 27. That’s perfect because that’s when goalies mature. You have the 26-to-33 age range for goalies where they’re at their best. They’ve learned from their mistakes, and now it’s time for him to be a No. 1. They’ve developed him, brought him along, and there’s no question he can do it. He’s a good goalie.”
Markstrom Style of Play
At 6-foot-6 and 196 pounds, Markstrom is tall without being too heavy, allowing the Swede to maintain flexibility and athleticism. Hirsch said in his interview that “His biggest [hurdle] is that sometimes he gets in his own way. During a game, I see things will bother him that shouldn’t. That’s part of maturing. He’s made his mistakes, and it’s time to turn the corner. I’ve seen him play some fantastic hockey.”
Personally, I’m a fan of the spring and speed in those long legs of his. It makes him reactive to snap shots and crease movement is not a problem for him. He’s quite clearly a rhythm player and players like this need to have constant games to maintain that rhythm.
With Anders Nilsson being acquired from Buffalo, he will be breathing heavily down Markstrom’s neck. With a marginally greater career NHL save percentage, .908 as opposed to Markstrom’s .906, the pressure will be strongly on the Swede.
Given the spotlight, Markstrom will either sink or swim. This is his chance. There is no simpler way to put it. Vancouver has given him the platform and it his time to prove why they placed their faith in him. Staying healthy will be key and getting regular games could make all the difference.
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