Jacob Markstrom is a big reason why Canucks are in a playoff race again

Jan 4 2019, 3:31 pm

Jacob Markstrom is on fire, and it’s making a huge difference for the fortunes of the Vancouver Canucks.

As of Friday, the Canucks sit in ninth place in the Western Conference, one point behind Anaheim for the final wild card spot. Sure, they’ve played more games than every other team, but they’re also closer to the playoffs at this point in the season than anyone predicted.

Recently injured Elias Pettersson is obviously a huge reason for that, but Markstrom has been a big factor too, specifically since the beginning of December.

Since a 5-3 win against Nashville on December 6, Markstrom is 9-2-0 with a .938 SV% and 1.82 GAA. Only three goalies have a higher save percentage in that stretch and all three have played fewer games.

His only two losses in that stretch came when the Canucks were shut out. The Canucks have won every game since the start of December provided they scored a goal and Markstrom was in net. Not bad.

Even with his terrible November, Markstrom’s recent play has improved his season numbers up to above average statistically.

He’s 17-11-3 on the season with a .910 SV% and 2.79 GAA, with both those numbers coming in slightly better than the league average marks of .908 SV% and 2.87 GAA.

Markstrom also has a positive GSAA (goals saved above average) at +1.65, coming in just ahead of Braden Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky.

The knock on Markstrom has always been his penchant for letting in soft goals, specifically early in games.

Lately though, those soft goals have disappeared.

I went back and rewatched all 20 goals Markstrom has allowed since that Nashville game. I only counted one bad goal – this one by Oliver Bjorkstrand in a 3-2 Canucks win in Columbus.

There’s a bit of a screen, but it’s from far out and goes off Markstrom’s shoulder, it’s one he would probably want back.

But only one weak goal in 11 games is very good, and a lot different than what we are used to seeing from the 28-year-old netminder.

Compare that to November, where he let in at least five bad goals by my count, and it’s an enormous improvement. We’ve seen hot streaks from Markstrom before, but this has easily been the best stretch of his NHL career.

The next step is to keep this going. With goalie of the future Thatcher Demko having been recalled to begin his full-time NHL career, it’s up to Markstrom to prove he’s a legit NHL starter of the present.

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