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Canuck Player Recap: Jacob Markstrom

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The Swedish netminder was a league-average goalie during his first year as a starter, but he improved as the season progressed.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Dallas Stars
Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (25) faces the Dallas Stars attack during the second period at the American Airlines Center. 
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Who?

Jacob Markstrom

Born: January 31st, 1990

Position: Goalie

Catches: Left

Drafted: 2nd round, 31st overall by the Florida Panthers in 2008

With the departure of Ryan Miller in the 2017 offseason, Jacob Markstrom got what he finally wanted: a chance to be an NHL starting goaltender. It only took a decade after his draft year to get there, but Markstrom finally crested the 60 game plateau.

How did he fair? Check out his stats below.

Hockey Reference.

It was a bit of a surprise to see Markstrom hit the 60-game mark, although it was largely because Anders Nilsson lost the trust of the coaching staff. Markstrom had his struggles, especially early in the season, but the Travis Green and company simply didn’t trust the guy behind him.

It allowed Markstrom to really prove his worth as a starter this season. The verdict on his season after everything, is that he was a solid league-average netminder.

As my old University professor used to say, it’s not a bad thing to be average. It’s not good, but it’s not bad either.

For goalies that played 15 games or more, Markstrom’s .912 save percentage was 32nd among 62 goaltenders. Here’s a look at some of the deeper numbers among goalies to play more than 500 minutes at even strength.

Low-Danger Save Percentage: .971 (40th of 68 goalies)

Medium-Danger Save Percentage: .917 (32nd of 68)

High-Danger Save Percentage: .797 (39th of 68)

The refined numbers only solidify Markstrom’s position of a goalie who screams NHL average. His medium-danger save percentage is just above average, but his low and high-danger save percentage are slightly below the benchmark.

There is something to be said about the sheer number of chances that Markstrom faced though. Out of those 68 goalies, he saw the 15th-most scoring chances league wide. He also faced the 11th-most shots at even-strength as well.

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
Goalie Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Vancouver Canucks covers up the puck in NHL action against the Edmonton Oilers on March, 29, 2018 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

Even though Markstrom’s numbers were average, there were some reputable goalies who were worse than him during the regular season. One that comes to mind is Braden Holtby, who allowed more goals on less shots at even-strength (even if he was able to save his best for the playoffs). Martin Jones was another goalie who allowed more goals on less shots and still made the playoffs.

That’s part of the reason why Markstrom doesn’t get notoriety from the rest of the league. Even though he was able to establish himself as a starting goaltender, the lack of talent on the Canucks wasn’t enough to cover up his weaknesses. Those deficiencies were especially evident early on in the season, when Markstrom developed a nasty habit of allowing goals early on in the game.

He did clean that up as the season progressed. Overall, his game did improve month by month as long as you conveniently ignore April’s small sample size. There was a dip in his play after October, and he wasn’t that strong even when the Canucks were still in a playoff spot late in November. In 2018 however, Markstrom seemed to refine his game, and he cut down on the bad goals against.

Hockey Reference

After a putrid December where the Canucks were barely watchable, Markstrom did make steady improvements. He was 5-0-1 with a .937 save percentage in his last five starts, and from March onwards he had a .921 save percentage.

Now, any recap about Markstrom would be incomplete without acknowledging this long-awaited achievement.

His glove side might be a weakness, but it was out in force here.

Some more glove action, this time against a legitimate sniper.

Two whole shutouts! Wow!

The bottom line with Markstrom is that even though he wasn’t spectacular, he at least established himself as an NHL starter. For how long will that actually last though?

Markstrom will assuredly be the starter next season, but after that his place as the Canucks main keeper is up in the air. Thatcher Demko has increasingly improved his game in Utica, and is starting to breathe down Markstrom’s next. If the Galve, Sweden native wants to continue his career as a starting goalie, he is going to have to play well, and possibly outplay Demko when he arrives in Vancouver.

He might have won the “battle” against Nilsson, but the real battle for Markstrom is about to begin. As unfair as it may be, the curse of shitty defences is bound to follow Markstrom next season once again. While it’s unfair to expect him to improve without a better defence, he might not have much choice with the apparent arrival of Demko.

Maybe if Markstrom keeps telling himself this, he’ll be okay.