Louis Domingue

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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 Fantasy Hockey: Post-trade deadline reactions to noteworthy deals

Every week I write an article where I recommend players I think are worth adding or dropping in fantasy leagues, but because of the recently passed NHL trade deadline, I’m going to do something different this week. Instead, I’ll be going over some of the most noteworthy players who were dealt at the deadline who I think will be positively or negatively impacted by the trades they were involved in.

I’ll evaluate noteworthy players from the most recent trades first and work my way backwards.

NHL Trade Deadline tracker
PHT Trade Deadline Live Blog

Louis Domingue: Devils to Canucks – Domingue has left plenty to be desired this season with a 3.79 GAA and .882 save percentage in 16 games. Those numbers are terrible under any circumstances, but it obviously didn’t help that the Devils squad in front of him has been bad. He was put on waivers on Feb. 20th and sent to the minors upon clearing, but Vancouver ended up acquiring him because Jacob Markstrom is expected to miss the next three-to-four weeks due to a lower-body injury. Thatcher Demko is the de facto starter during Markstrom’s absence, but Demko isn’t having a great season, so Domingue should get an opportunity to start in some games with Vancouver. Domingue doesn’t have much fantasy value, but this trade certainly helped him.

Barclay Goodrow: Sharks to Lightning – Goodrow was the most surprising player to fetch a first-round pick. He has eight goals, 24 points, and 80 penalty minutes in 62 games this season while averaging a career-high 16:23 minutes. I don’t see him playing as big of a role with the Lightning as he did with San Jose, which is probably going to hurt his already limited offensive production. He’s currently minus-eight though and the move to San Jose should help him there. Overall, I see this trade as a wash or a slight negative for Goodrow from a fantasy perspective.

Robin Lehner: Blackhawks to Golden Knights – Lehner has a 16-10-5 record, 3.01 GAA, and .918 save percentage in 33 contests this season, but that’s with a pretty bad team in front of him. The move to Vegas should be a significant boost for him – when he plays. Which begs the question: How often will he play in Vegas? Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t having a particularly good season so there’s a good opportunity here for Lehner to grab the starting gig and run with it. If you’re hurting for goaltending help, then Lehner isn’t a bad one to take a chance on. He’s far from a safe bet to start regularly, but there is a chance of him having a really strong finish to the campaign thanks to this trade.

Andreas Athanasiou: Red Wings to Oilers – Athanasiou is having a rough season with 10 goals and 24 points in 46 games, but the move to Edmonton could be a huge boost for him. The speedy winger could be a great fit for Connor McDavid and if that proves to be the case, then he’ll do much better offensively. At the very least his plus/minus, which sits at a hideous minus-45, should be far better in Edmonton. Athanasiou is among those who benefited the most from the trade deadline and I’d take a chance on picking him up if he’s available in your league.

Patrick Marleau: Sharks to Pittsburgh Penguins – Marleau doesn’t have much fantasy value to begin with at this point, but this trade doesn’t do him any favors in that regard. He has 10 goals and 20 points in 58 games while averaging 15:36 minutes. With Pittsburgh he’s likely going to play a reduced role as part of a crowded bottom-six. It wouldn’t be surprising if Marleau ends up playing primarily on the fourth line.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Senators to Islanders – I’m fairly pessimistic when it comes to Pageau. He was probably playing over his head to begin with – as evidenced by his career-high 17.8 shooting percentage – and this trade stacks the odds against him further. Keep in mind with Ottawa he was leaned on heavily, averaging 19:18 minutes per game, but he won’t get that level of responsibility with the Islanders. On the plus side, he has far more to work with in New York than he did with Ottawa, but I still think this trade will result in him taking a moderate hit from a fantasy perspective.

Ilya Kovalchuk: Canadiens to Capitals – This one is perhaps the biggest roll of the dice just because of how inconsistent Kovalchuk has been. He had an incredible six goals and 12 points in his first 15 games with Montreal and followed it up with just an assist in his next seven contests. He was similarly inconsistent with the Kings before that. The move to the Capitals will put Kovalchuk on a contender and unite him with Alex Ovechkin, which should be a boost to his spirits, but Kovalchuk will be asked to be more of a role player with the Capitals than he was with Montreal, which gave him an average of 18:54 minutes. I’d lean towards saying that this trade will diminish Kovalchuk’s fantasy value, but I certainly think his situation will be worth monitoring over the next couple games.

Ondrej Kase: Ducks to Bruins – I think there’s potential here for Kase to do better with Boston than he did in Anaheim. Kase practiced alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk in his first practice with Boston, which is a significant upgrade over his recent Ducks linemates of Sam Steel and Max Jones. Kase had seven goals and 23 points in 49 games with the Ducks and he has the potential to finish the campaign on a high note after this trade.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

The Buzzer: Rough night for rougher teams

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Three Stars

1. Assorted Buffalo Sabres

Look, when you beat a team 7-1, you’re probably going to have at least a few standouts, and your top Sabres star probably boils down to taste.

Johan Larsson is a good player to start with. His three assists happened during Buffalo’s five-goal opening period, one that really made the Devils’ dire situation extra-glaringly-clear. Jack Eichel did what he does, which is score a lot, extending his point streak to 10 games with one goal and two assists.

To be fair to the Devils, they at least tried to make the score more respectable. They fired 45 shots on goal, including 39 during the second and third period, to try to get in the game. Linus Ullmark wasn’t interested in helping New Jersey save face, however, as he stopped all but one of those 45 SOG.

2. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues

Could we be seeing a mini-renaissance for a goalie who’s been left in the dust by Jordan Binnington?

Allen was arguably the first star of Monday night, making 38 saves for his first shutout of 2019-20, including 17 in the third period to cement that goose egg.

While it’s a small sample size, Allen has been heating up after two rocky appearances in October. Allen generated a strong .934 save percentage during five appearances in November, and began December with this shutout. Again, it’s not exactly a lengthy run of elite puck-stopping, yet if Allen can maintain a decent level of play, the Blues can at least keep Binnington reasonably rested as they try to defend that first-ever Stanley Cup title.

Semyon Varlamov is a decent option as another goalie as he made 30 out of 31 stops as the Islanders got back on the winning track against the very-much-not-winning Red Wings.

3. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks

It’s unclear if Lindholm will find the game that made him an under-the-radar elite defensive presence from 2015-16 to 2017-18, only to drop off significantly in 2018-19. But he at least enjoyed a nice game on Monday.

Lindholm collected three assists against the Kings, ending a seven-game pointless streak. The last time he collected a point? Why, that was … another three-assist night, in that case against the Avalanche on Oct. 26. Lindholm now has 12 points (all assists) in 20 games in 2019-20.

Stephenson is Vegas-bound

The Washington Capitals traded Chandler Stephenson to the Vegas Golden Knights (and George McPhee) for a fifth-round pick in 2021.

Tough to say that Stephenson is a huge loss, judging by both his modest scoring numbers, workmanlike other stats, and his RAPM chart at Evolving Hockey. But he might at least give Vegas a decent option to soak up penalty kill minutes and other unglamorous roles.

Highlight of the Night

Kings forward Nikolai Prokhorkin sliced through the Ducks defense like a hot fork knife through butter.

Lowlight

Ouch, Louis Domingue.

Factoids

  • Jake Allen joins Brian Elliott (25) and Jaroslav Halak (20) as the only three Blues goalies with 20 career shutouts, according to NHL PR. Binnington is at six in his regular season career, in case you were wondering.
  • NHL PR points out that Jack Eichel (four assists on March 21, 2018) is the only Sabres player with more assists in a single period than the three Larsson collected in the opening frame on Monday.
  • The Devils have lost their last two games by a combined score of 11-1. The Sabres scored three goals before New Jersey even registered its first shot on goal in Monday’s 7-1 drubbing.
  • The Red Wings have now lost 10 games in a row, and have allowed the most goals in the league with 118. No one else has reached 100 goals allowed yet this season (Montreal’s second-worst with 95).
  • As rough as the Rangers’ underlying numbers have been, they were putting together some decent stretches. Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights ended a five-game point streak where the Rangers went 4-0-1.

Scores

BUF 7 – NJD 1
VGK 4 – NYR 1
NYI 4 – DET 1
STL 4 – CHI 0
ANA 4 – LAK 2

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.

Devils place struggling Cory Schneider on waivers

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One of the main reasons why the New Jersey Devils are off to a 7-8-4 start and have failed to meet high expectations so far has been lackluster goaltending. On Monday, general manager Ray Shero didn’t make a trade, but instead chose to waive Cory Schneider, who has not won in nine starts dating back to last season.

Called up from AHL Binghamton to man the nets with Mackenzie Blackwood was Louis Domingue, who was acquired earlier this month after a strong season with the Lightning in 2018-19.

This season, the 33-year-old Schneider is winless in six starts with an .864 even strength save percentage. Once he clears waivers on Tuesday at noon, he’ll be reassigned to Binghamton in hopes of getting his game back. Schneider, who owns a no-trade clause, is signed through the 2021-22 season and carries a $6 million salary cap hit.

“The way the schedule comes now, we didn’t see him getting into a lot of games in the next few weeks,” said Devils head coach John Hynes. “If you’re not going to have an opportunity to play, it’s hard to get the game reps you need.”

Schneider has not been himself the last two seasons as he’s battled hip injuries. In 32 appearances since last season, he has only six wins and a .897 ESSV%, third-worst among goaltenders who have played at least 30 games over that stretch.

After being traded from the Canucks to the Devils at the 2013 NHL Draft, Schneider filled a hole as Martin Brodeur’s career wound down. In his first five seasons in New Jersey Schneider sported a .925 ESSV% and helped them end a five-season playoff drought in 2017-18.

Allowing Schneider to play games in the AHL will take the spotlight off him a little bit on the NHL level as he tries to get back to the level he played at earlier on in his Devils tenure.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.