Jacob Markstrom

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Markstrom’s absence shows his importance to Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have a massive game on Wednesday night when they host the Arizona Coyotes.

Not only are they looking to snap a three-game losing streak and break out of a funk that has seen them lose nine out of their past 13, but they are just two points ahead of the Coyotes in the Western Conference playoff race. They have quickly gone from first place in the Pacific Division, to bubble team just trying to get in the playoffs. Wednesday is your classic four-point game that could either see the Canucks take a major step toward distancing themselves from the Coyotes in the standings, or leave the door wide open for the Coyotes to eventually catch them and move ahead of them.

Probably the biggest issue facing the Canucks at the moment is the injury situation.

Brock Boeser, one of their top overall players, remains out of the lineup, while two of their top defensemen — rookie of the year candidate Quinn Hughes and veteran Tyler Myers — are both game-time decisions for Wednesday.

The biggest injury, though, is the one that has currently sidelined starting goalie Jacob Markstrom.

He is been out of the lineup for more than a week now (and is still at least one week away from returning, and maybe more), a stretch that has seen the Canucks go 0-3-0 and surrender 14 totals goals. Since the start of February the Canucks are just 1-4-1 in the six games Markstrom has not started, while their two backups (Thatcher Demko and Louis Domingue) have a combined .882 save percentage during that stretch.

That is a problem.

Their struggles without him are a testament to how much of an impact Markstrom has made for the Canucks this season when healthy.

For as much progress as they have made this season, and for as good as Hughes has been on their back-end, this still is not a particularly strong team defensively. Entering play on Wednesday, the Canucks rank among the bottom-six teams in the NHL in several defensive metrics, including total shot attempts against per 60 minutes, shots on goal against, scoring chances against, and expected goals against. That is a problem. The one thing that has consistently bailed them out this season and helped mask those flaws has been the play of Markstrom in net. For the season, he sits among the top-eight goalies in both overall save percentage and even-strength save percentage.

Given the number of shots and chances the Canucks give up on a nightly basis, Markstrom is easily one of the two or three most impactful players on the entire roster right up there with Hughes and Elias Pettersson. And given the position he plays and how dependent the Canucks’ defense is on his play, there is an argument to be made he is the most impactful player on the team.

This has been a huge season for Markstrom, not only for what it’s meant for the team, but also for what it’s meant for him personally. He is eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season, and he has made a pretty convincing case that he has a ton of value to the Canucks.

They have seen it when he is in the lineup with the way he’s helped get them back into a playoff position. And they are seeing it now when he’s not there to help stabilize their defense.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom to miss at least 2 weeks

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Some tough news for the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night as general manager Jim Benning issue an update on the status of starting goalie Jakob Markstrom.

Benning announced that Markstrom underwent a “minor lower-body procedure” on Wednesday and that his return to play status will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Canucks are already playing without one of their top wingers, Brock Boeser, due to injury. They are currently in a fight for the top spot in the Pacific Division. Their next game is in Ottawa on Thursday night as they continue their current four-game road trip. They play seven games over the next two weeks and will rely on Thatcher Demko and the recently acquired Louis Domingue to take over the goaltending duties.

It is definitely not an ideal situation for the Canucks. Markstrom may not get a ton of attention league wide, but he has solidified the Canucks’ goaltending position the past couple of years and has been outstanding this season with a .918 save percentage in 43 games.

He is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and has certainly played his way to a significant raise on his next contract.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Injury roundup: Yamamoto out for Oilers; Kuemper returns for Coyotes

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Checking in on some injury news around the NHL.

Another injury for Oilers

On Monday the Edmonton Oilers made two pretty significant trades to improve their forward lineup with the additions of Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis.

Those additions are taking on even more importance on Tuesday because of yet another injury to an already battered lineup.

The Oilers announced on Tuesday that promising young forward Kailer Yamamoto is going to be sidelined on a week-to-week basis due to an ankle injury. The Oilers are already playing without James Neal, Oscar Klefbom, and Kris Russell due to injuries. Connor McDavid had also missed six games before returning to the lineup on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Yamamoto, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, has taken a huge step this season in his development and is currently averaging a point per game (20 points in 20 games) this season.

Kuemper back for Coyotes

Some significant news for the Coyotes in their playoff push on Tuesday as starting goalie Darcy Kuemper returns to the lineup when the team hosts the Florida Panthers.

Kuemper, who currently owns the NHL’s highest save percentage this season (.929) among qualified goalies, has not played since Dec. 19.

The Coyotes enter the game clinging to a playoff spot following a month-long slump through most of January and February. They have, however, won three of their past five games and have two in a row at home against the Panthers and Sabres and are now getting their best goalie back for the stretch run. As long as Antti Raanta stays healthy they have one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL right now.

Markstrom’s injury will be tough for Canucks

Jacob Markstrom has been the underrated star of the Canucks’ turnaround this season and, very quietly, one of the league’s best goalies.

Now he is going to be sidelined for a yet-to-be-determined period of time, leaving the Canucks’ goal crease in the hands of Thatcher Demko and trade deadline acquisition Louis Domingue. The Canucks have lost six of their past nine games and a brutal schedule ahead of them that includes a four-game road trip that starts tonight in Montreal.

If Markstrom’s injury turns out to be significant, that might be the difference between a playoff spot and an early summer.

Clutterbuck back with Islanders

Cal Clutterbuck was back on the ice with the Islanders on Tuesday, but he is not yet ready to return to game action for their game against New York Rangers tonight.

He has been sidelined since December due to an ugly cut he suffered when his wrist was hit by the skate blade of Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron.

He recently played two games for Bridgeport in the American Hockey League.

Tarasenko getting closer

The St. Louis Blues did not add another winger before the trade deadline on Monday, but that does not mean some extra help is not on the horizon.

All-Star winger Vladimir Tarasenko is back skating with the team and inching closer to a potential return to the lineup, according to general manager Doug Armstrong.

Armstrong said on Tuesday that Tarasenko will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip, not because he is going to play, but to further assimilate himself with the team. When they return from that trip Armstrong said they will be able to sit with Tarasenko and the team doctors to figure out a return date for him. That update comes via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Pastrnak hat trick; Markstrom does Swede job honoring Sedin twins

Jacob Markstrom points to retired Sedin twins jerseys
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Three Stars

1. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

Consider this a 1a/1b situation with the player listed next. Really, though, it’s matter of taste.

Either way, Markstrom produced one heck of a performance. Markstrom managed a 49-save shutout after watching the Sedin twins’ retirement ceremony.

When you look at the Canucks’ 3-0 record, you might assume that Vancouver fed off the energy of that ceremony. If they did, they had a funny way of showing it. The Blackhawks managed a 49-20 shots on goal advantage, yet couldn’t beat Markstrom one time.

Markstrom stands out as rock for Vancouver, especially lately. In winning two games in a row, Markstrom stopped 85 out of 87 shots faced.

2. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

Again, this is a tough call. Pastrnak generated a hat trick on Wednesday, leading Boston to a helpful win against the hated Habs. “Pasta” now has two hat tricks against Montreal this season, and eight goals against the Canadiens in four games.

By scoring three goals, Pastrnak stands alone as the goals leader this season with 41.

That said, he got some help, particularly when Brad Marchand set the table for Pastrnak with a ludicrous display of skill.

3. Brandon Sutter, Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks faced off against the Blackhawks, and the Bruins prevailed. It really was a fitting jersey retirement night for the Sedins, eh?

Markstrom carried the Canucks on his back, but Sutter was involved in all three Vancouver goals. Sutter collected an empty-net goal and two assists. That included a primary assist on the game-winner. While the Flames squandered a chance to earn breathing room, Vancouver is in a solid position to win the Pacific.

Highlight of the Night

Marchand pounced on a turnover, bamboozled a bunch of Canadiens, then sent a tremendous assist to Pastrnak:

Sedin jerseys retired

This post has more on the speeches, appearances, and ribbing, but check out the Sedin ceremony here:

Factoids

  • Markstrom generated a 43-save shutout against Carolina on Dec. 12. Factoring in that, Markstrom became the first Canucks goalies to generate two 40+ save shutouts during the same season. Naturally, Markstrom drew attention to the Sedin twins when the crowd honored his big night. (NHL PR)
  • The Canucks note that Markstrom’s 49-save shutout is the most in franchise history.
  • Here is a fun side-by-side comparison of Henrik and Daniel Sedin from the league:

  • Pastrnak didn’t just jump into the Maurice Richard Trophy lead on Wednesday. Pastrnak joined Alex Ovechkin (tied for second at 40 goals) as the only two players with four hat tricks this season. The winger would need three more to match Phil Esposito’s seven from 1970-71 as the most in Bruins’ history, though. (NHL PR)
  • Hey, Pastrnak joined Ovechkin in another specific-yet-impressive category. Pastrnak and Ovechkin rank as the only active players to reach nine hat tricks (playoffs + regular season) before turning 24. “Pasta” has time to earn more, as he doesn’t turn 24 until May 25. Wayne Gretzky holds the overall record with a patently absurd 36. (NHL PR)

Scores

BOS 4 – MTL 1
LAK 5 – CGY 3
VAN 3 – CHI 0

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Stone ties career high; Vasilevskiy keeps point streak alive

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Three Stars

1) Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

He opened the game with two goals and then added three assists in the Golden Knights’ 7-2 win. Stone tied a career high with five points, a feat he previously recorded twice with the Ottawa Senators. Stone lit the lamp early in the first period when he banged home a loose puck in front, but his prettiest goal of the game came early in the second period. No. 61 danced around Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson and then lifted a shot over the glove of Sergei Bobrovsky. His three assists were also impressive as the Golden Knights ended a season-long eight-game road trip.

2) Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

It can’t get much worse in Detroit this season. However, Larkin has given Red Wings fans a reason to believe they have a foundational building block for the future. No. 71 scored twice including a neat breakaway deke with less than one second remaining in the opening period as Detroit snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres. Larkin also added a shootout tally after Detroit surrendered the game-tying goal in the final minute.

3) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Russian netminder improved to 15-0-2 in his last 17 starts and set a Lightning record for longest point streak by a goalie in the 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Vasilevskiy made 29 saves as he broke Nikolai Khabibulin’s record that stood since April of 2003. He also picked up his fourth assist of the season when Nikita Kucherov tallied an empty-net goal in the final minute. After a slow start to the season, the Bolts have regained their form as an elite team in the Eastern Conference.

Other notable performances

  • Marc-André Fleury claimed sole possession of fifth place on the NHL all-time wins list with his 460th victory, passing Henrik Lundqvist.
  • Kieffer Bellows scored twice in his second career NHL game in the New York Islanders’ 5-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings.
  • Cale Makar has made the transition to the NHL look too easy as he picked up his 39th and 40th point of the season.
  • Mackenzie Blackwood made 46 saves in his second career shutout as the New Jersey Devils rolled past the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-0.
  • Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho each had two goals and an assist as the Hurricanes topped the Coyotes, 5-3.
  • Steven Stamkos recorded his 25th of the season and has scored seven goals in the previous six games.
  • Jeff Petry sniped the overtime winner as the Montreal Canadiens collected their fourth win in the past five games.

Highlights of the Night

Connor McDavid can fly on the ice but his speed when he has possession of the puck makes him the most dangerous player in the NHL.

Vincent Trocheck showed great vision when he fired a pass from the top of the crease on one knee to set up Mike Hoffman late in the first period.

Kieffer Bellows scored his first NHL goal after Anthony Beauvillier delivered a pretty touch pass to set up the rookie forward. In two career NHL games, Bellows has a two-game point streak.

Damon Severson went coast to coast and wired a wrist shot off the post and in to give the Devils a two-goal advantage early in the second period

Ryan Dzingel sets up in Wayne Gretzky’s office and finds Jaccob Slavin darting toward the high slot.

Nikita Kucherov is known for his offense, but made a strong play in the defensive zone which led to a Stamkos goal. The Russian hustled back to intercept a cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby, then corralled the loose puck to set up the Lightning’s offensive attack.

Bloopers of the Night

Jacob Markstrom has to make a smarter play with the puck in this situation.

Panthers defenseman Riley Stillman over skated the puck, then struggled to find it and the Golden Knights capitalized.

Stat of the Night

Injury News

  • Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh did not return after blocking a shot in the second period against the Penguins.
  • Penguins defenseman John Marino took a puck to the face but early reports are that it was not as bad as it looked.

Scores

New York Islanders 5, Los Angeles Kings 3

Detroit Red Wings 4, Buffalo Sabres 3 (SO)

Montreal Canadiens 3, Anaheim Ducks 2 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Vegas Golden Knights 7, Florida Panthers 2

New Jersey Devils 5, Philadelphia Flyers 0

Colorado Avalanche 4, Ottawa Senators 1

Winnipeg Jets 4, St. Louis Blues 2

Minnesota Wild 4, Vancouver Canucks 2

Nashville Predators 3, Calgary Flames 2

Carolina Hurricanes 5, Arizona Coyotes 3

San Jose Sharks 6, Edmonton Oilers 3


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.