goaltending

It Will Be Interesting To See: Canucks And Goalies

Canucks training camp started on Thursday and apparently it was already decided that Ryan Miller is the #1 goaltender this season for Vancouver because it says here, here and here. The last one was kind of overkill but you get the point. Jim Benning has declared the 36 year old veteran will lead the Canucks on the ice and defend the pipes as its top tender. In the next edition of IWBITS, I dive into the goalie issue and declare it will be interesting to see how this season pans out…heck how the first month goes.

When Ryan Miller signed with the Canucks back in 2014 it was tough to say if he was a consolation prize or if he really would help the Canucks while everything else was sorted out. There was the Eddie Lack saga, the Jacob Markstrom run and with Thatcher Demko signing his pro deal the clock will indeed be ticking until the heir apparent (Demko) takes the throne.

The funny thing is, Miller has actually been the least of the team’s worries since he signed. Sure, he’s had injury issues but what veteran goalie hasn’t? His actual stats aren’t very becoming but when you’re injured, splitting starts every second game and being relied on as the backbone of a team that scores less than the USA World Cup hockey team, you get a bit of a pass.

Millers GAA was a voluptuous 2.70 last year good for 34th overall, his SA% was 28th at .916 and because the offense and well the defense as well wasn’t all that effective, Miller finished 15th overall in saves with 1634. He was a workhorse and there were 31 games he didn’t even play.

It’s not a bad thing that Jacob Markstrom is the backup, in Vancouver you always seem to get your chance. We all LOVED Roberto Luongo and then Cory Schneider went and did his winning thing so then we were torn. We had Eddie Lack backing up Miller and we all thought THAT was the answer when he turned it on, but alas.

I say let’s enjoy Ryan Miller’s swan song, he’s pretty much done everything that has been asked of him and many of the games last season that were won with him between the pipes, were HIS wins. He definitely stole a few and our frustration was being pointed in many, many other directions.

How this all plays out this season will be interesting because Miller could easily get banged up and Markstrom would take the reigns. So being that Demko isn’t getting called up right away, Richard Bachman is basically the glorified door opener unless things get really dicey. The Nucks signed BTO this past offseason and he’ll be go figure, the door opener for Demko down in Utica.

All of this puts Jacob Markstrom in a position to prove his worth either as the tandem mate of Demko when Miller leaves after the season or trade bait if Thatcher is the Auston Matthews/Connor McDavid equivalent in net. We used to get bent out of shape when things got iffy in net, but now there’s a clear answer and losing our favourite son Roberto Luongo will hopefully be a fond memory and only that.

Don’t expect the Canucks to surprise anyone this year challenge for a top playoff spot, they aren’t built that way yet. What they do have is a team of veterans and guys willing to learn from them. This team is on the verge of very good things and goaltending is included, unless of course Jim Benning decides to trade away Demko (but I just don’t want to think he’s that bat ish crazy).

It will once again be a roller coaster season and if Willie/Jim/Trevor know what’s best for this team, we’ll see a healthy dose of Miller/Markstrom every 2nd or 3rd game. It keeps it “interesting”, it keeps each goalie fresh and maybe they can pinpoint matchups, hey strategy!

Watching the fall last year was tough and seeing the result of a 5th pick instead of the 3rd still stings but knowing there’s a elite prospect between the pipes getting ready for his takeover is exciting. With Twitter handing us info by the second, Demko’s progression will be all too documented and if things go as well as everyone thinks, it will be tough not hand him the keys to the car.

On the off chance something amazing DOES happen on the big club, the Canucks may push their relevance back into the NHL I don’t see that happening but there’s a lot I’m wrong on.

The Canucks are tied for 1st overall right now…it will be interesting to see for how long.

Check me out on twitter: @always90four

cover photo: thecanuckway.com

 

Canucks Leaky Tire Goaltending About To Be Fixed

By now you’ve figured out I love comparisons! Most of them fall by the wayside and a handful of people get them but are half impressed to say the least. However, with the recent contract extension of Jacob Markstrom it’s safe to say I have a gooder here. Ever since the dual departures, nay, triple departures of Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, the Canucks have been searching for a fix to their goaltending problem. Some may say it’s been a slowly leaking tire.

I too am experiencing a leaky tire situation and until its ultimately fixed/replaced, it will nag away on the message center of my vehicle. I can go to the gas station and fill it up back to normal pressure, I can buy the spray in repair kit but unless its truly fixed, the problem will remain. When Vancouver re-signed Markstrom to a new 3 year deal, they took their leaky tire and replaced it with a name brand snow tire that can handle the challenges of winter.

Ryan Miller has one more season left on his own 3 year deal and as the team came down the stretch both he and Markstrom split the duties almost 50/50. It was evident the Canucks played well for both tenders and with a cheaper, younger option in place until soon to be superstar Thatcher Demko completes his training in Utica, Markstrom can start the 2016/17 season with aspirations of being the #1.

Knowing that the Canucks will soon have a high performance all weather tire in Demko makes the next few seasons quite bearable. It should be known that Ryan Miller on many nights last year was a big reason the Canucks even hung around; I guess we could blame him for not dropping another two standings spots.

A far from stellar statistical year for Marky, sporting a 2.73 GAA and .915 SA%, his starts increased confidence in the Canucks fan base knowing we had a solution on the back end. It may only be July but once training camp begins, Miller, Markstrom and Demko will all have played and grown with the developing defensive corps sprouting on the blue line.

Alex Edler is now the wise teacher with Dan Hamhuis’ departure, so guiding Ben Hutton, Erik Gudbranson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Luca Sbisa and 2016 first round pick Olli Juolevi may be a challenge for the goaltending standing tall. It’s expected M&M (see how I did that?) will have to shoulder a fair amount of defensive blunders but thankfully without Matt Bartkowski, they’ll just be Sbizzas.

When Schneider and Luongo were sent to far away lands there wasn’t much air left in the goaltending tires and just when we all thought Eddie Lack had repaired the problem, the Nucks sent him away too!

We all saw this roulette wheel of goaltenders before Luongo came to town and we knew until it was ultimately solved the fixes were all temporary. The vehicle is almost fixed in Vancouver, we’re so close to having those high performance treads installed. Jacob Markstrom gives the Canucks time to let Demko mature at the pro level with more games than a college season delivers and the pro game will help him adjust and prepare for his eventual succession.

Maybe it’s the Swedish connection that keeps us calm? The Sedins made us believe too; I guess there’s something to be said for the Tre Kronor? Jim Benning did a smart thing, yes Pet Bugs, a smart thing by signing Markstrom and if the tandem of Marky and Demks can be better than Lu and Schneids, we’re in for some good times once more.

And that’s just the back end.

Once a goalie graveyard, Vancouver is again becoming the place to be for the masked man. The tires are taken care of and I can’t wait for that new engine to be ready. The Canucks will be ready for Race Wars sooner than we think.

Kelowna Rockets’ Michael Herringer Is Last Action Hero

Rarely do we talk about a goaltending controversy with the Kelowna Rockets. As one goalie moves on, the heir apparent steps in. There has never been a shortage of talent at that position and for the next few seasons that trend should not change. Michael Herringer has won the “backup” spot behind Jackson Whistle but the way Herringer plays the backup spot may turn into a 1A scenario.

When Herringer broke into the league last year he did so with flair, or to be honest, a lack therof. With three goalies occupying the net it came down to circumstance before Herringer was given a starting opportunity. Jackson Whistle went down in November 2014 and that was all Michael needed to get his name out there.

(note: Herringer played 2 games for the Victoria Royals before being traded to Kelowna)

His stone cold demeanor when he’s manning the nets is something to behold. It’s one thing to be a calm and cool goalie but when you play the angles so well that saves are just a formality, you’re special. Michael Herringer reminds me of the hero that walks away from an explosion in slo-mo like it’s no big deal.

That’s essentially what you get when he’s in net.

He posted a 3-0  shutout in his first start against Vancouver and yet another win in his next outing. Herringer would finish with an 11-2 record, 2 shutouts and a SA% of .913. Pretty impressive for the 18 year old at the time.

When things got dicey down the stretch and even in the playoffs last year, body placement, a bit of luck and a worry free attitude kept Herringer focused and ready. Its a shame we never see any of our goalies make it big in the NHL.
I believe if there are any hiccups with Jackson Whistle this year, new coach Brad Ralph will not hesitate to try his hand with the confident tendy.

It’s a new season in Kelowna and after coming up one goal short in the Memorial Cup Final, the Rockets will be out to avenge their loss. One thing’s for sure: Goaltending will not be an issue, yet again as Herringer and Whistle aim to show you why night in and night out.

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Playoffs Loom Large; Eddie Lack is NOT Roberto Luongo

As Ryan Miller went down after Jannik Hansen collided into him, there was a silent fist pump by many that felt Eddie Lack was ready to take the lead in net. I still believe he is the more consistent choice to go with down the stretch and into the playoffs, but as good as Lack has been he hasn’t had a break. He’s the #1 right now but I’m not sure he is built to be literally an every game player; he’s not Roberto Luongo.

I should probably clarify and maybe I’m contradicting myself here so I’ll just get it out; Eddie Lack is a solid starting goaltender and his ability to stand in for Ryan Miller since the injury has been hero like. He has basically played every game since, aside from Jacob Markstrom’s coffee cup appearances. He is on a collision course to burn out though. Here’s where I compare him to Luongo.

Roberto played 18 of the final 26 games of the regular season in 2010/11 and he also had a stellar partner in Cory Schneider. Luongo won 11 of those 18 games and even though he had a heavy work load, he was fresh when he needed to be and had a reliable replacement. We all know how that spring went and it’s not a surprise why Vancouver’s goaltending was as amazing as it was even against Boston.

Eddie doesn’t have the same team in front of him that Roberto had and he also doesn’t have a goalie equally as talented as Cory Schneider, at least not yet. We’ve seen goalies burn out from playing too many consecutive games (Kiprusoff, Luongo in 07) and its a recipe for disaster. 

Lack has played 17 of the last 18 games since Miller went down, winning 10. He was yanked twice and you can tell he has been fatigued. His resiliant play has redeemed his shaky early starts though. A few starts on games against the bum teams (Sabres, Oilers, Arizona, Etc.) may have made things a bit easier.

The Canucks are on the brink of a berth in this year’s post season and Lack will no doubt be the man they turn to. Even when Ryan Miller is 100% healthy he won’t be even close to playoff ready and aside from a series swing where a goalie change is needed, he won’t see the ice as a participant. Will Lack be able to stay fresh? Possibly.

With 5 games left, Eddie will probably play 4 of them, potentially less if they clinch early or clinch and have a guaranteed opponent. That being said, it won’t get any easier after that. Games played every second night will be gruesome dogfights and he will be relied upon more than ever and giving up the usual 2-0 deficit won’t fly.

Luongo had his faults as well and wasn’t perfect the entire playoffs, he had some off nights. But what Luongo had learned in previous years was how to win and lose on the big stage. It took some time but he came into his own and was almost unbeatable when it mattered. Again, he had rest and was fresh almost every night.

Willie D has been very loyal to Lack and what he has done for the Canucks, but could it be a big mistake if they crash and burn in the first round? Tough to say but one thing is for sure; without Lack, that wouldn’t even be an option.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo credit – vansunsportsblogs.com