The Canucks had some tough luck with injuries last season, something Jim Benning has been quick to point out despite his stated reluctance to use injuries as an excuse. Just one Canuck played all 82 games this season: Bo Horvat.
One other Canuck, however, was on the roster for all 82 games this season and shows that the Canucks’ luck with injuries could have been a lot worse. Jacob Markstrom played 60 games this season, but was actually on the roster for all 82; he didn’t miss a game.
There were a couple injury scares for Markstrom here and there — Richard Bachman got an unplanned start in mid-November and there was the infamous unplanned start for Michael DiPietro — but Markstrom was still there on the bench for both of those starts. By the end of the season, just six goaltenders started more games than Markstrom, a testament to his durability. If not for splitting starts with Thatcher Demko down the stretch after the Canucks were out of the playoff picture, Markstrom likely would have finished higher on that list.
Unfortunately, Markstrom’s string of good luck avoiding injuries came to an end on the weekend, as he got taken out of a tune-up game for the World Championships with a shoulder injury after a nasty-looking collision with Finnish forward Juhani Tyrväinen. Markstrom came out to play the puck and got absolutely leveled by Tyrväinen, hitting the ice hard and staying down for some time.
Jacob Markström leaves the game after this collision.— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) May 5, 2019
Not the first time Juhani Tyrväinen runs over a goalie. SHL goalies need to keep an eye on him next season. pic.twitter.com/d9WUSUNHJS
The close-up replay of the hit looks even worse.
Ouch! That didn't look good.... at all. @j_markstrom pic.twitter.com/mGhdDj5dfF— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) May 5, 2019
Tyrväinen has a reputation for dirty play — it’s not his first time running over a goaltender according to Finnish prospects writer Jokke Nevalainen. Last year, Tyrväinen got some attention for intentionally cross-checking Winnipeg Jets prospect Kristian Vesalainen in the side of the knee during a Liiga match, a dangerous play that could have resulted in a serious injury.
Tyrväinen halus lopettaa Vesalaisen kauden..! Onneks ei sentään onnistunut. #Kärpät #Hifk #Liiga pic.twitter.com/v1F2SIRW2p— Viljami (@viljamipel) March 3, 2018
It’s understandable that the Swedish team were incensed and would suspect Tyrväinen of intentionally running Markstrom. Swedish captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson went after Tyrväinen, but was pulled off the Finnish forward by the 6’8” Marko Anttila.
Tyrväinen received a two-minute minor for interference, but somehow Finland ended up with a power play out of the incident, which further infuriated the Swedes.
“F***ing bull****!” shouted Swedish coach Rikard Grönborg, according to HockeySverige.
According to SVT (with help from Google Translate), Grönborg continued, “Stop this f***ing tram, it should be five minutes.” He argued that goaltenders need to be protected and that Tyrväinen should have received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Patric Hörnqvist got straight to the point: “I see that they run Markstrom; when their goaltender takes the puck, we get to see if we run him.”
According to SVT, Markstrom suffered a shoulder injury, but shouldn’t miss too much time. He was taken out mainly as a precaution and should return in time for the World Championships, which start on May 10th. Still, it was a violent collision, so we shouldn’t be surprised if he misses a little time.
Meanwhile, Michael DiPietro suffered his own scary-looking injury on Saturday.
DiPietro has been lights out in the OHL playoffs, helping the Ottawa 67’s to go undefeated to this point. They swept the Hamilton Bulldogs, Sudbury Wolves, and Oshawa Generals in the first three rounds, and are up 2-0 in the OHL Championship against the Guelph Storm. DiPietro’s .914 save percentage is third among OHL goaltenders that have played at least 10 games.
He might be done for the OHL playoffs, however, after suffering what appears to be a high ankle sprain.
#Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro was forced to leave today’s @Ottawa67sHockey game in the first period due to this injury ⬇️pic.twitter.com/TiSrP5Nivy— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) May 4, 2019
A high ankle sprain can be tricky for goaltenders that tend to put a lot of torque on their ankles. Recovery time can vary from a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the sprain. The 67’s have classified it as a first-degree sprain, meaning the ligaments have been stretched, but not torn, which should shorten the recovery time.
DiPietro is wearing a walking boot on his right ankle, which is a rite of passage for Canucks prospects and players.
The 67’s still have Cedrick Andree, who was their starting goaltender before they traded for DiPietro. He had a solid .910 save percentage in the regular season and made 26 saves on 27 shots in relief of DiPietro to help the 67’s to the 4-3 win.
The Memorial Cup isn’t until May 17th, so it’s possible that DiPietro will be available to play for his second career Memorial Cup championship, assuming the 67’s defeat the Storm without him.
The health of both Markstrom and DiPietro could be key for the Canucks next season. Markstrom was named the Canucks’ MVP for good reason, as he carried the Canucks to victories in a lot of tight games. His worst stretch of the season came when he didn’t have a quality backup to spell him in November.
That’s when Anders Nilsson missed a month with a fractured finger. Fatigue seemed to set in for Markstrom and there’s an argument to be made that the Canucks missed the playoffs in November: with a more reliable backup goaltender to spell Markstrom and keep him well rested, perhaps the Canucks win more than three games that month. If the Canucks win three or four more of those games, they would have been right on the bubble of the playoff picture down the stretch.
Thatcher Demko will backup Markstrom next season and could compete for the starting job, but if one of the two get injured, DiPietro could get called up from the Utica Comets. The team needs good, healthy depth in goal to prevent them scrambling for a goaltender as they did this past season.