It took Jacob Markstrom 129 games to record his first career NHL shutout. It took just one game for Markstrom to record his first shutout against the Vancouver Canucks.
Up until Saturday night’s game in Calgary, Markstrom had never faced the Canucks. Perhaps he would have recorded his first career shutout a lot sooner if he had played them earlier in his career.
Markstrom stopped all 32 shots he faced, though it certainly didn’t feel like the Canucks took 32 shots on goal. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Canucks had just two high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5, compared to five for the Flames, and only four high-danger chances in total.
However the Canucks count scoring chances, the conclusion was similar: they just didn’t create enough.
“I think even-strength chances were 6-to-6 tonight, so neither team really created a whole lot 5-on-5,” said head coach Travis Green. “They didn’t score a 5-on-5 goal and neither did we. It’s no secret, we’re going to have to get more shots in to the net, but not just shots, but traffic and find rebounds. That’s how a lot of goals are scored and if you’re not scoring 5-on-5, that’s the best way to get out of it.”
In their first opportunity to face their old teammate, the Canucks simply didn’t give him enough to do. The first time Markstrom made a save that actually made me think to myself, “That was a good save,” came with just over a minute left in the game when Nils Höglander cut to the slot and forced Markstrom to flash out his right pad to kick the puck aside.
By that time, the Canucks were down 3-0 and the game was essentially over.
Like Markstrom watched his former teammates flounder, I watched this game.
- This game was hard to watch. I can’t imagine it was much fun for the Canucks to play either. No one was particularly good, with the possible exception of Quinn Hughes. The young defenceman skated miles on Saturday night, playing 20:51 at 5-on-5 alone and over 26 minutes in total. He was by far the Canucks best player, but no one else was playing up to his level.
- As Green mentioned, neither team generated much at 5-on-5, so special teams were the difference, though it didn’t help that the Canucks gave the Flames six power plays. The Flames scored on three of them and the Canucks didn’t score on any of their four power plays, including a long 5-on-3. In technical terms, that’s not great.
- Markstrom wasn’t the only former Canuck playing his first game against his old team. Chris Tanev and Josh Leivo were both on the ice for the opening faceoff, as if to rub it in the Canucks’ faces. Travis Hamonic suiting up for the Canucks against his former team just didn’t quite have the same sting to it.
- Tanev played a pretty significant role in the Canucks going 0-for-4 on the power play, playing 4:27 shorthanded, including the entirety of the Canucks’ two-man advantage. He seemed to anticipate where the puck was going the entire time, perhaps because he’s spent several years practicing against this exact power play setup.
- Green was dismissive of the idea. “Tanny’s a good penalty killer,” he said. “It’s not just our power play, he’s a good killer against all of them.” Fair enough.
- The Flames scored a power play goal in each period: a bang-bang passing play into the slot in the first, a one-timer from someone at the right faceoff circle that was insanely open, and finally a bad rebound from Braden Holtby, who seemed to have the puck absorbed until Matthew Tkachuk whacked the loose puck into the net.
- With no J.T. Miller, the Canucks keep trying Jake Virtanen on the top line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser and it just isn’t working. Virtanen’s passes are seeing less tape than a broken Walkman. At one point Pettersson had the opportunity for a clear breakaway and Virtanen’s pass wasn’t just a wobbly mess but hit Pettersson in his back skate.
- With the first line struggling, Green was forced to juggle lines again, trying Höglander on their wing, a couple of shifts with Tyler Motte, and even a few shifts with Bo Horvat when they were desperate for a goal. As much as the Canucks desperately need J.T. Miller back, the absence of one player, even a first-line forward, shouldn’t leave a team with so few options.
- “I thought Jake was a lot better tonight. He was skating. Played him on a couple different lines,” said Green. “We haven’t found someone to click with that line yet. Tried Höglander there a little bit tonight. We’ll keep toying around with it until we find something that works.”
- If Jake was "better tonight," then he must have been even worse than I thought in the first two games. Yikes.
- So far this season, Tyler Myers has been an adventure in his own zone, and not the fun type of adventure, with halflings and wizards and magic rings, but the bad type of adventure, like when your Dungeon Master pulls out Tomb of Horrors and you know that your beloved wood elf ranger is going to die a gruesome, horrible death. Except in this case the wood elf ranger is a good defensive play. I think I lost control of this metaphor, much like Myers loses control of his skates when asked to defend a 2-on-1.
- Below are a couple examples of Myers’ adventures in the defensive zone against the Flames. Through great fortune, neither resulted in a goal.
- When Connor McDavid was held off the scoresheet in the first game of the season, the broadcast, looking for something positive to say, praised him for going 12-for-22 on faceoffs. When he had a hat trick the next game, they didn’t say a word about him going 2-for-8 in the faceoff circle. Apropos of nothing, Bo Horvat went 20-for-28 on faceoffs, an absolutely dominant performance in the circle.
- Alex Edler might be the calmest person alive. After he took an interference penalty on Matthew Tkachuk, Edler calmly skated up to the referee and showed him that Tkachuk’s skate had cut him and he was bleeding. Instead of rushing off the ice, he patiently waited to get the referee’s attention to let him know why he wouldn’t be going to the penalty box.
- So, the Canucks have lost two straight, Pettersson has yet to score a goal this season, the power play is 0-for-11, and Holtby and Demko have allowed 11 goals against in three games. But keep cool, my Canadian babies: the season is young yet and things could still turn around in a hurry.