December Roadtrip a Great Chance to Test Eddie Lack


Okay, I know it’s a touchy subject around this team, but let’s talk goalies.

Specifically, let’s talk about how it’s time to get Eddie Lack some starts.

First off: it’s not that Ryan Miller has been bad this season…but he has definitely been inconsistent. And, with an uninspiring .915 EV SV%, (which places him around 40th of all qualified goalies this season, i.e., not ‘elite’), he has by no means been the saviour that the national broadcast team would have us believe.

However, despite his un-heroic overall stats, his blow-out losses, as well as his often awkward positioning on a number of goals, Miller has still been given the vast majority of the starts this season. Now, if I’m sounding overly critical, it isn’t my intention–in fact I can actually understand the coaching staff’s decision to roll with Miller so often so far into the season.

I suspect that their reasoning is twofold: firstly, given the history of goaltending in this city, and given the nature of Miller’s contract and the expectations carried in with it, they probably felt it necessary to establish early who the main, go-to guy is.

Secondly, they’ve probably also noticed Miller’s discomfort, and are taking advantage of the Canucks’ hot start offensively to get Miller out there as often as possible so that he can work his way into a solid routine. It makes sense: giving him extended playing time, especially while the team is winning, allows Miller to work out some of the kinks in his style.

And lately, it’s seemed like it’s working–his three starts before Detroit have shown that he’s trending upwards in quality of play and overall comfort level with his game.

This strategy, however, has had its downside for Eddie Lack, in that it hasn’t allowed him any chance to get on a roll himself. In the games Lack has appeared in, it’s either been janitorial work mopping up a Miller mess, or starting behind a depleted team on the second night of a back-to-back. As a result, Lack’s overall stats look ugly–and usually nothing about Eddie Lack can be described as ugly.

This is problematic, because while Miller’s strong W-L record is masking a lot of his technical deficiencies so far, Lack’s poor SV% (.894) and GAA (3.30) are actually hiding the fact that he’s looked really strong in net this year, in terms of technique: he’s square to shots, tight to the post, has had good rebound control, and faced a high shot volume, in difficult areas of the ice, despite his relatively small amount of games played. His game against Anaheim in particular filled me with confidence that Lack is a goalie who can compete against some of the toughest competition in the league. He just needs to be given more of a chance.

With all of this in mind, I think this road trip is the perfect chance to get Miller some extra rest, and get Lack in to get him a bit more comfortable, and to get a larger sample size in order to see just how good he is. And fortunately, the timing couldn’t be better.


1. The team is on its longest stretch of travel during the year, so it’s a great chance to sit Miller under the excuse that we need to keep him fresh.

2. It also comes after enough games into the year that Miller can feel good about his status as undisputed number one, without feeling threatened by the backup getting some extra starts.

3. It’s also easier to pull him after the Detroit game than after his back-to-back shut outs, because we’re no longer beholden to the ‘riding the hot hand’ narrative.

4. And, with the team facing the Eastern Conference, with the Penguins excepted, the stakes don’t seem as high as in the Western Conference (even if all points are equal in the standings).

And finally, it gives the Canucks a chance to show that they have the same faith in Lack that they have in Miller, and to see exactly where he’s at with his game. With five games remaining on the trip, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to give Lack at least three of those–say, Washington, Toronto and either Ottawa or Montreal. Giving Miller the start against Pittsburgh would reinforce his status as number one, while giving Lack the bulk of the other starts will hopefully boost his stats, confidence, and his reputation as a guy who can be the number one of the (near) future.

After all, he’s a guy who last year seemed like he was ready to take the reigns as a starter, but who faltered when he was over-exposed by playing every game for a dying team. This year, he’s been under-exposed, and while the logic behind playing Miller so much has been sound up to this point, Lack deserves to see more playing time. Now that Miller’s been given his chance to get in a rhythm and establish himself, it seems only fair that Lack should too.

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