One could argue that the Vancouver Canucks largest strength this season was goaltending.
There were two big developments in the crease for this team that cannot be ignored. One was that Markstrom emerged as not just a Vezina-calibre goalie, but one who deserves some Hart Trophy love as well. After drastically elevating his game over the course of 2018-19, Markstrom continued his strong play, posting a career-high .918 save percentage.
Markstrom was able to accomplish this despite the fact that the Canucks were one of the most porous teams defensively in the NHL. It’s been noted before that this team was actually worse defensively than the 2018-19 team, which employed Ben Hutton, Derrick Pouliot and Erik Gudbranson.
Without Markstrom, the Canucks aren’t close to being a playoff team.
The second development worth noting was the rise of rookie Thatcher Demko. Not since the arrival of Eddie Lack in 2013-14 have the Canucks had a rookie goaltender play for the team full-time. Like Lack, Demko has hid successes and his struggles as a rookie, but he still projects as a future number one goaltender in the NHL.
Keep these developments in mind while checking out three captivating stats from each Canucks goaltender below. Yes, even Louis Domingue is included, just for fun.
1) .938 SV% on 1 day rest
This is an interesting stat for a few reasons. One is that Markstrom’s numbers prove that he doesn’t play better with rest. He posted a .938 save percentage in 18 starts when receiving just one day of rest, but he has a .894 save percentage in eight starts on two days of rest.
The trend of mediocrity continues if Markstrom has had a longer layoff. He has a .904 save percentage in 10 starts on 4+ days of rest.
Those numbers are a bit mind-boggling, but it points to the trend of Markstrom entering his “Twilight Zone,” so to speak, and playing better against a higher volume of shots. It’s also clear that he performs better when he’s in a rhythm of playing games every other night.
Markstrom was 13-4 this season when the Canucks allowed more than 35 shots, compared to 6-10-4 when the Canucks allowed less than 30 shots. Go figure.
2) 31.5 even-strength saves per-60 (third-highest in NHL)
Yeah, so Markstrom faced a number of shots this season, but this statistic is notable for a few reasons. One is that the average team fires around 30 shots per game. Not only is Markstrom facing more than that, but he’s making more saves relative the the average number of shots a team generates total. Only Robin Lehner and Igor Shesterkin made more even-strength saves per-60.
3) +25.45 Save Contribution Rating (leads NHL)
Clear Sight Analytics provided data that truly showed how valuable Markstrom was this season. This calculation for save contribution rating notes the difference between expected total goals allowed from scoring chances versus the actual goals allowed on scoring chances. By this statistic, Markstrom is the best goalie in the NHL when accounting for the sheer volume of scoring chances he stymied throughout the year.
1) .776 high danger SV% at even-strength (62nd among 66 goaltenders)
I mentioned this previously, but one of Demko’s greatest areas of weakness is also arguably the hardest area for a goaltender to improve. Demko’s .776 high danger save percentage was one of the worst in hockey this season. While Demko did make some highlight-reel saves this season, a few more might have us talking differently about his first full NHL season.
On the bright side, his .926 medium danger save percentage ranked 20th among 66 goalies (Markstrom was 22nd at .925) and his low danger save percentage of .976 ranked 26th (Markstrom was 40th at .969).
2) .923 SV% in 4+ days rest
It’s necessary for back-up goaltenders to provide a solid performance after a prolonged period of rest. Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue for Demko. Who had the league’s 10th-best save percentage when playing on four or more days of rest.
Demko’s problem was opposite to Markstrom. In the nine games he played on one day of rest, his save percentage was down at .895. A small sample size to be sure, but more consistency from Demko will be needed going forward if he’s going to be an NHL starter.
3) .895 shorthanded save percentage
Call it luck, or call it a suave attitude while playing under pressure, but young Demko was one of the best goaltenders in the league while playing shorthanded. His .895 shorthanded save percentage was seventh-best in the NHL.
What makes Demko’s shorthanded save percentage even more noteworthy is that he was facing a barrage of chances. He faced 22.96 high danger chances per-60 while shorthanded, the highest rate in the NHL.
For the record, Markstrom’s .876 shorthanded save-percentage is just above the middle of the pack.
1) 130 Goals Against Percentage
Did you think we’d forget about one-game legend Louis Domingue before wrapping up?
Now Domingue is a sub-standard NHL goaltender at best, but this was easily the worst season of his career. The goals against percentage stat reflects that, as it measures how a goalie’s goals against average ranks against their peers. 100 is exactly average, lower is better, and zero is perfect.
Markstrom, for example, has a 91 Goals Against Percentage, Demko is at 105. The two worst goaltenders in the league, by this metric, were Domingue and Jimmy Howard. That’s some bad company, and not the good kind of Bad Company either.
2) 5 “Really Bad Starts”
One thing that all three Canucks netminders have in common this season? They all had five “Really Bad Starts.” And yes, that is a real statistic developed by Rob Vollman, which measures the number of starts in which a goaltender had a save percentage below .850.
Domingue achieved this in five of his 15 starts. Demko had five Really Bad Starts in 25 games, and Markstrom the same in 43 starts.
3) 3.93 G.A.A at even-strength (Worst in NHL)
This is 1980’s bad. Only Red Wings netminder Howard (4.20) and Keith Kinkaid (4.24) were worse among goaltenders to play more than three games.