Giving up 259 goals, the Vancouver Canucks saw more pucks enter their own net than every team but the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference last season.
So as the team enters the 2018-19 season with same eight defencemen and two goaltenders that played the bulk of last year, you have to wonder how it gets better.
The answer could be Jacob Markstrom.
Markstrom started a career high 57 games last year, his first full season as a No. 1 goaltender, posting a 23-26-7 record.
The 28-year-old goaltender was under siege on many nights, but managed to sport a 2.71 goals against average and .912 save percentage, below average numbers among starting netminders.
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Though he battled inconsistency, the Gavle, Sweden native showed signs that he could carry the workload of a starting goalie as the season wore on. Markstrom posted a .906 save percentage in 27 starts before January 1. After the new year, Markstrom’s numbers were much better, compiling a .917 save percentage in his remaining 30 starts.
So does he have what it takes to solidify himself as a true No. 1?
“I would love to see that from me,” Markstrom told Daily Hive. “We’ve got some personal goals, but for me, it’s just trying to get better everyday, and keep building on what we started last year.
“That’s what you do when the year ends. You go home, look over the season, hit the gym for three months, you come back, and try and pick up where you left off, and improve as well. Personally, I would like to take another step.
“I hate losing. I want to be the guy who helps our team be successful. It’s a work in progress, but absolutely I feel better than I did last year at this point. I’m just trying to be better everyday.”
Going from backup to starter last year was not only a mental challenge, it was a physical one too. The most NHL games Markstrom had started in a season prior to last year was in 2015-16, when he started 30 games as Ryan Miller’s backup. He had to adjust on the fly.
“The physical demands, most of all that’s what you take care of in the summertime,” Markstrom explained. “Stay fit, become stronger, and then during the season, you just maintain that. You try to keep your body healthy.
“It’s a pressure position being a goaltender, on your body, knees, groins. You just have to be prepared, prepare everyday for practice, a game, and work. You’ve got to make sure you spend the time in the gym to stretch, ice, cold tub, and do what it takes to recover.”
The long grind of training camp, preseason, and an 82-game regular season can take a toll. You have to be in peak physical condition by eating right, hitting the gym, practicing, and knowing when to give your body a rest. That’s what Markstrom had to learn.
“I learned a lot,” Markstrom said. “When you play more game than you’re backing up. You’ve got to have a short-term memory. You can’t really let a bad game bring you down for too long, and a good game. You can’t get too high, for too long. There’s games every other day, and you’ve got to be strong mentally.
“You don’t practice as much. Practice is really important with the small details, and keep improving on those when you’re on the ice so you don’t forget about that.”
With an undermanned lineup in front of him, an improved Markstrom between the pipes could go a long way to ensuring the Canucks surprise some people this season.