Vancouver Canucks: The resurgence of Jacob Markstrom

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 27: Vancouver Canucks Goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) stretches to make a save on Los Angeles Kings Left Wing Alex Iafallo (19) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on November 27, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 27: Vancouver Canucks Goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) stretches to make a save on Los Angeles Kings Left Wing Alex Iafallo (19) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on November 27, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

It’s always easy to blame the goalie for a tough loss, especially when you lose 12 games out of your last 13. Jacob Markstrom however, is rarely the reason the Canucks lose games.

When Jacob Markstrom was acquired for Roberto Luongo on the day before the 2014 trade deadline, many Vancouver Canucks fans were unsure what to feel.

Prior to the trade, Markstrom was a highly touted prospect of the Florida Panthers. Taken 31st overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Florida hoped that Markstrom would be their goalie of the future when they became competitive again.

The solid play in the Swedish Hockey League that lead Markstrom to be so well regarded by scouts, never quite transferred over to North America.

In the 2011-12 season, Markstrom made the Florida Panthers opening night roster. After five games, he was sent down to Florida’s AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. With the Rampage, Markstrom went 17-12-1, while owning a .927 save percentage.

In the 2012-13 season, Markstrom bounced back and forth between the Panthers and the Rampage, and got to see more time in the Florida crease, after starting netminder Jose Theodore went down with an injury. Markstrom struggled with the Panthers, and it became evident that he needed more time in the minors to fine tune his game.

When Markstrom was traded to the Vancouver Canucks just a year later, he was still considered a young goaltender who possessed a good amount of upside, but many fans were left wondering if the young Swede and Shawn Matthias were a good enough return for the Canucks’ franchise leader in wins.

Markstrom then spent the 2014-15 season with the Utica Comets, boasting a .934 save percentage, alongside a 22-7-2 record, posting career highs in wins and save percentage across any league Markstrom had played in prior.

Markstrom looked solid and had Canucks fans excited after seeing his numbers. To add to the excitement, Markstrom even sprinkled in a fight during his time with the Comets.

When Markstrom came up to the Canucks to serve as the backup for Ryan Miller during the 2015-16 season, he looked like an average backup goaltender. That is all he was asked to be at the time, so few Canucks fans were complaining.

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It wasn’t until the departure of Miller prior to the start of the 2017-18 season when Markstrom got his opportunity to be a full-time starting goaltender. Over 60 games, he posted a .912 save percentage, and had a record of 23-26-7. Like many of the players on the Canucks roster last season, it was a year Markstrom would like to forget.

Fans were becoming impatient with Markstrom and felt that he would top out as a backup goalie at best, and were counting down the days until Thatcher Demko would be the Canucks number one goaltender.

This season, Markstrom came out playing well for the Canucks right away. He was doing the little things right. Making key saves late in games, and proving to be up to the challenge when teams come out firing early on.

Any fan suggesting that the Canucks pursue a goalie in free agency this year or trade for one, is just ill-advised in my opinion. Markstrom is a fine goalie for the Canucks.

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Markstrom doesn’t typically win games for the Canucks, but he certainly doesn’t lose games for them, either. More often than not, Markstrom keeps the Canucks in games, and gives them a good opportunity to win almost every night. Like any goalie, he has had his off days, but has been fairly sharp, especially as of late.

Last night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers was a prime example of Markstrom making the key saves early on. The Flyers came out of the gate running and gunning, and tested Markstrom early. Markstrom shut the door, and in turn, shifted the momentum in the Canucks favour, something he seemed to struggle with just a season ago. He faces a lot of shots, too.

The Canucks have been outshot in 23 of their 35 games played this season, and Markstrom has faced over 30 shots in 21 games this season. That’s a lot of pucks that need to be saved, and we all know that the shots the Canucks give up are seldom from harmless areas on the ice.

So what has caused this sudden change in Jacob Markstrom’s game?

The hiring of new goalie coach Ian Clark seems to have resonated well with Markstrom. He has talked about how Clark lets him play his game, and simply helps him to tweak the little things, something that has clearly benefited Markstrom thus far.

Markstrom is also a fierce competitor. He is emotional, and he wants to win. We have seen him get frustrated when he and the team are not playing well and pushes himself to be better every time he takes to the ice. This seems to be reflected in Markstrom’s game, as he seems to only be improving.

Jacob Markstrom is proving to be a good goalie. He keeps the Canucks in games more often than not, and makes some pretty big saves that get fans ranging from casual to hardcore on their feet and cheering.

Goaltending is not to blame for the reason why the Canucks don’t still sit atop the Pacific Division as they did a little over a month ago, it is the team’s play as a whole. Amid the dreadful losing skid the Canucks went on, the team continued to battle, and Markstrom continued to keep them in games, making key save after key save. The difference was, the team couldn’t convert their chances at the other end of the ice afterwards, like they have been doing lately.

Markstrom won’t steal games for the Canucks as Frederik Andersen does for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but saying that goaltending is the problem in Vancouver is just not true. Jacob Markstrom has showed that he wants to play and win games for the team. Now he just needs to continue doing it on a more consistent basis.

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What do you think Canucks fans? Should the Canucks be searching for a new goaltender through trading or free agency? I don’t think so. I think Markstrom will suffice while we wait until the likes of Thatcher Demko and Mike DiPietro are ready for the spotlight.