One of the biggest question marks heading into this season is Jacob Markstrom. The big Swede was outstanding in the AHL last season, putting up stunning numbers during the regular season, then carrying the Comets to the Calder Cup Finals in the playoffs. He gave every indication that he’s ready for the NHL.
There’s just one problem: he’s given every indication he’s ready for the NHL before, such as when he put up a .927 save percentage in the AHL in 2011-12 or .920 in 2012-13. At the NHL level, however, he’s been disastrous, with a career .896 save percentage.
Is he actually ready now? If Ryan Miller falters or gets injured, can Markstrom carry the load? Is he prepared to potentially have to be perfect behind a team that doesn’t look like it will score many goals? According to this game, yes. Yes he is.
Jacob Markstrom answered some questions when I watched this game.
- Markstrom’s shutout tonight comes with couple caveats -- it’s not the regular season yet and it’s only the Coyotes -- but he sure looked good, as he has all pre-season. At one point the Coyotes were outshooting the Canucks 30-10, but Markstrom stood tall. He also kneeled tall, butterflied tall, and kick-saved tall. Dude’s tall.
- Jake Virtanen got the prime assignment of being number 3 on the number 1 line with the 2 Sedins. He didn’t look out of place, throwing a massive hit on Antoine Vermette early in the first period and working effectively on the forecheck to free up pucks for the Sedins to cycle. He ended up credited with a game-high six hits, which isn’t a prime number at all. Disappointing.
- You’ll notice I italicized “prime” so that you would be primed for the joke.
- This was Virtanen’s best game of the pre-season and it came at just the right time -- when some people were suggesting Jared McCann might make the team, not him. Of course, McCann then had to show him up by scoring the only goal of the game. Selfish, McCann. Reeeeal selfish.
- McCann’s shot was superb -- albeit aided by a deflection off the defenceman -- beating Mike Smith short-side, which is the best side to beat a goaltender. It’s way too hard to beat a goaltender tall-side. They're so tall on that side.
- McCann started the game at left wing, but was moved back to centre in the third period, skating between Sven Baertschi and Radim Vrbata on the second line. If this was a goaltending controversy, Sportsnet would have immediately cut to Linden Vey wearing a baseball hat and chewing gum on the bench.
- Ben Hutton tallied his fourth assist of the pre-season on McCann’s goal, patiently drawing in a penalty killer to give McCann more room to shoot the puck. Hutton has been turning heads like Superman in Man of Steel all pre-season and, while he’s still likely to start the season in the AHL, he’s made an excellent case to be the first call-up from the Comets.
- I really liked Yannick Weber tonight. He led all Canucks in ice time with 22:08 and spent that time gaining zones like he was Sonic the Hedgehog. He was a one-man breakout in this game, which is good, because he was paired with Luca Sbisa.
Also good in this game: Sven Baertschi, Ronalds Kenins, Dan Hamhuis, and Alexandre Grenier. Brandon Sutter had a few good moments. Luca Sbisa was pretty good too. Most people are decent folk once you get to know them.