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Jacob Markstrom to start against Kings, because obviously

Canucks backup needs more starts.
Jacob Markstrom
Jacob Markstrom

Monday night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks was a debacle, with the Canucks failing to produce anything remotely exciting offensively and collapsing like a cake without enough flour defensively. Midway through the third period, when the Ducks went up 4-0, it seemed like the appropriate time to pack it in, accept the loss, and get ready for the second half of the back-to-back.

And when Willie Desjardins pulled Ryan Miller, it seemed like that’s what he was doing.

It’s not unusual to pull your goaltender after he lets in 4 goals, but it is a little unusual to do so with a game the next day. Unless, that is, the plan is to start that goaltender in back-to-back games. That was the immediate speculation from Canucks fans on Twitter. After all, it seems to make sense to leave Jacob Markstrom on the bench to benefit from the rest heading into a start the next night.

Fortunately, sanity prevailed and Desjardins announced that Markstrom would start against the Kings shortly after the game against the Ducks ended.

If anyone is questioning that decision, they really shouldn’t. There is absolutely no reason to start Ryan Miller against the Kings.

The only possible argument that could be made is that the game against the Kings is vitally important, being a game against a divisional opponent ahead of them in the standings, so you would want your number one goaltender to play.

The opposing arguments are just too numerous for that to stick.

The first issue is that goaltenders league-wide tend to struggle when starting in back-to-back games. This is a large-scale phenomena, of course, and it’s easy to point to occasions when a goaltender has played lights out in his second start in as many nights, but it’s generally not a smart thing to do.

This is especially the case with an older goaltender like Miller, for whom fatigue and the risk of injury are larger factors.

Frankly, Miller should be playing less overall. Through the first 11 games of the season, Miller put up a solid .927 save percentage, helping to carry the Canucks early. Over his last 10 games, however, Miller has struggled, putting up an .892 save percentage, with bad goals costing the Canucks points on their Eastern road trip.

It’s not hard to see that fatigue, both physical and mental, have played a role in Miller’s struggles. With Markstrom injured and Desjardins showing little faith in Richard Bachman, Miller played in game after game, and mental mistakes started to enter in.

The other issue is that the Canucks have to get Markstrom more starts. If the intention is to groom Markstrom as the heir to Miller or, at the very least, as a stopgap until Thatcher Demko arrives, he needs to play.

We’ve been told that Markstrom has fixed his game with help from Rollie Melanson and his work in the AHL last season would suggest this is the case, but we haven’t seen enough of Markstrom to properly assess him this season and neither have the Canucks. Is Markstrom ready to be an NHL goaltender? He’s certainly looked better, but he still has just a .904 save percentage, allowing 10 goals against in just 3 starts.

Markstrom needs to play in more games to get into a rhythm and the Canucks need to see him in more games to know whether he’s capable of being a number one goaltender. They need to do more than just start him in the second half of back-to-backs, but get him regular starts, with the added benefit that it would spell Miller and keep him fresh.

If you still have any doubts that starting Markstrom against the Kings is the right move, consider this: on Monday’s post-game show, Doug Maclean suggested that pulling Miller so that he’d be fresh to play on Tuesday was a good move. Doug Maclean thought Miller should start against the Kings. That alone should be enough to tell you it’s a terrible idea.