Two days removed from a disappointing overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Canucks find themselves 0-2-1 in their last three games. Though they didn’t face ex-Canuck Cory Schneider in their last contest, Vancouver will no doubt be up against another former member of Vancouver Canucks organization when they take on the John Tortorella led Columbus Blue Jackets tonight.
Game Time: 4:00 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
The last time John Tortorella was being talked about as a head coach in the NHL, it wasn’t pretty. The Vancouver Canucks had just completed their worst full season since 1999-2000 and missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
The so-called “Torts Experiment” had been a miserable failure.
Blocking shots, overworking the Sedin twins, slighting Roberto Luongo, and boring hockey became the stake Torts would tie himself to and in the end, he was sent packing.
With that said, it’s clear some positive feelings still exist between the two parties.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin came to the rink on a day off to say hello to Tortorella. He says that's a relationship he treasures. #Canucks
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) November 9, 2015
(Side note: How awesome are the Sedins?)
Despite the lack of success in his last job, Tortorella was the frontrunner to replace Todd Richards after the latter was fired following Columbus’ putrid 0-7-0 start to the season.
Though history would tell us that the Blue Jackets have probably already scuttled their chances at a playoff berth, you can bet that won’t stop the proud Tortorella from attempting to put the very best product out on the ice night in and night out.
Though Torts claims this is just another game, you can bet he’d relish an opportunity to stick it to the team that cut him loose two summers ago.
Few were surprised when the Canucks cleaned house following the disastrous 2013-14 season that saw Vancouver accrue a measly 83 points and finish in 25th spot in the league. Tortorella was supposed to be a breath of fresh air after the Canucks and New York Rangers effectively swapped coaches. Long story short: he wasn’t.
Fire Torts. Fire Torts. Fire Torts.
— Beantown Canuck (@BeantownCanuck) March 2, 2014
After an entire year away from the NHL, the Blue Jackets picked up Tortorella and actually sent a 2nd round pick to Vancouver by way of compensation (the Canucks weren’t even halfway through their five year deal with Tortorella). In 8 games since his hiring, the Blue Jackets are 4-4-0 with impressive wins over the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) May 20, 2015
One player likely not enjoying the “Torts experience” so far is their #1 centre, and Vancity Buzz office visitor, Ryan Johansen. Before the coaching change, Johansen had 6 points in 7 games and was averaging 18:50 of ice time per night. Since the change, the pride of Port Moody has been benched, called out in the media for being out of shape, and scored just 2 points in 6 games.
The Canucks called up Jacob Markstrom from the AHL Utica Comets, and after he injured his hamstring on October 6th, we could see Markstrom in his first regular season action since last year.
After recall from AHL, Jacob Markstrom is most likely starter for Canucks vs CBJ tomorrow night. Chris Tanev might be back too.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) November 9, 2015
His impressive preseason play included a shutout, a 1.01 GAA, and a .962 SV% in 4 games. Markstrom completed a conditioning stint in Utica over the weekend and after allowing 4 goals on 30 shots in a 5-4 shootout win on Friday, he bounced back allowing only 1 goal on 20 shots in a 5-1 over the Providence Bruins.
Spotting Ryan Miller a few starts over the rest of the season could go a long way towards keeping Miller healthy and rested. The veteran has already started 14 of 15 games this year.
Speaking of goalies, 2014 2nd round pick Thatcher Demko has been on a roll for Boston College to start this Hockey East season, and that’s putting it lightly. In 9 games, Demko has gone 8-1-0, with 6 (!!!) shutouts, a sparkling .974 SV% and a ridiculous 0.67 GAA. That’s going to get you some love, even from ESPN.
It appears that the comments from Demko about his hip surgeries hold true: he’s just fine and may be better than ever. Due to the looming surgeries, his draft stock fell in 2014 and after basically landing in the lap of Jim Benning, the former Boston Bruin executive had seen enough in his own backyard in years prior to take the young goalie from San Diego.
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you who the last Boston College goalie to be selected by the Canucks was…
The Canucks had an off-day on Monday, so we won’t get lineup hints until the morning skate. Chris Tanev missed last game with an upper body injury, but it sounds like he’s close to returning.
Rather than force Ryan Miller to play 3 games in 4 nights, Jacob Markstrom should get his first start of the season.
As always, we’ll update this section as more information becomes available.
*Update: Jake Virtanen will have the night off, Chris Tanev will be a game-time decision, and Markstrom will start.
Tanev close, may play tonight. Looks like Cracknell in for Virtanen. #Canucks
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) November 10, 2015
Markstrom starts tonight. #Canucks
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) November 10, 2015
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Vrbata|
Without John Tortorella, this is probably just a game against a tough Columbus Blue Jackets team, but with the new addition behind the bench, the Canucks have an opportunity to turn tonight’s contest into somewhat of a statement game. I think Vancouver collectively recalls how much blocking all those shots hurt and exacts a measure of revenge on Torts, winning 4-1.
Let’s just hope Willie D. doesn’t get on Torts’ bad side.