That was legitimately one of the greatest goaltending performances in Canucks history.
Jacob Markstrom was a rock in net, but was unfortunately also an island, as the rest of the team couldn’t muster much against the relentless Carolina Hurricanes attack. As a result, Markstrom had to win this game almost single-handedly.
Honestly, with the way he was playing, I can almost believe that Markstrom would have won that game single-handedly, in more ways than one. They could have tied one hand behind his back and he still would have shut out the Hurricanes and, if they temporarily removed the restriction on goaltenders skating past centre, he probably could have gone end-to-end to score the game-winner in overtime.
That was a signature performance for Markstrom, a 43-save shutout in just his second start since he took a leave of absence to attend his father’s memorial in Sweden, with his mother in the stands watching her son.
Just one Canucks goaltender has made more saves in a shutout victory than the 43 Markstrom made in this game: Kirk McLean, who had an incredible 45-save shutout against the Montreal Canadiens back in 1991.
“We were beat by one man: Kirk McLean,” said Canadiens head coach Pat Burns that night and Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour could have echoed that sentiment after this game. The Hurricanes were beat by one man: Jacob Markstrom.
And I watched one game: this one.
- Markstrom was dialed in like he was trying to win a radio contest, staring down Grade-A chance after Grade-A chance, and stopping some of the hottest shooters in the NHL. Sebastian Aho had five goals in his last two games; Markstrom halted his hot streak. Andrei Svechnikov has been on a tear this season, with 34 points in 31 games heading into Thursday’s game, where Markstrom turned it into 34 points in 32 games. He was incredible.
- It’s only the fourth shutout of Markstrom’s career, after finally getting his first career shutout during the 2017-18 season after 128 NHL games without one. It’s remarkable he doesn’t have more considering how consistent he’s been over the last couple seasons. It took 43 saves to get his first shutout of the season.
- Here’s the wild part: it shouldn’t have been a shutout at all. Markstrom absolutely deserved it with his phenomenal performance, but the Hurricanes should have taken a 1-0 lead midway through the second period. On a delayed penalty, Ryan Dzingel’s stick snapped in half on a one-timer, sending the puck careening towards the back post. It deflected off Antoine Roussel and Jordie Benn, but there was no change of possession, and Aho put the puck in. Fortunately (and inexplicably), the whistle had already blown the play dead to call the penalty.
- The Canucks, meanwhile, mustered just 26 shots on goal. They were particularly buried in the second period, when the Hurricanes hemmed in the Canucks and out-shot them 22-to-7. If not for Markstrom’s brilliance, this could have been a laugher.
- The fourth line particularly struggled: shot attempts were 10-0 for the Hurricanes when Zack MacEwen, Jay Beagle, and Tim Schaller were on the ice together, which is about as ugly a differential as you can get. It’s awfully hard to deploy Beagle’s line as a match-up or shutdown line when they get trounced that badly.
- There was more to like about the line of Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat, and Josh Leivo, who created some of the Canucks’ better chances, particularly early. Leivo set up Horvat with a nifty saucer pass early in the first, but as has been decreed by the hockey gods this season, Horvat couldn’t score on home ice. He has 8 goals and 18 points in 17 road games, but no goals and just 7 points in 14 home games. It’s weird. Spooky, even.
- Let’s look at a trio of Markstrom glove saves, one from each period. His glove was like a Pokemon trainer: gotta catch ‘em all. Well, almost all. His most impressive save of the evening came in the third period, when he flashed out the glove on Aho, stretching out to deflect a point blank shot into the corner.
- The other two saves came on Julien Gauthier and Hamilton. Markstrom bailed out Tyler Myers on the first one, but the most impressive part of the save was that Gauthier has yet to score an NHL goal, and players always seem to score their first NHL goal against the Canucks. Markstrom didn’t just deny Gauthier, but he defied the hockey gods with that save.
- The Hamilton save is also quite impressive, as the Hurricanes’ defenceman was wide open and drilled the one-timer back against the grain, but Markstrom kept his glove up as he stretched across, snagging the shot perfectly.
- Even the Carolina Hurricanes' Twitter account couldn't quite contain their frustration with Markstrom's dominant performance.
Can Jacob Markstrom just chill for a second?— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 13, 2019
- There were a couple oddball moments in Markstrom’s night as well. There was the time he charged out to prevent a shorthanded breakaway, then had to scramble back to try to make a jumping catch. Another time late in the second period, the puck got stuck in Markstrom’s jersey and it took a full minute to find it, with Schaller finally fishing it out. It was the most helpful Schaller was to Markstrom all game.
The beautiful game pic.twitter.com/yxJoRuLEJx— Harman Dayal (@harmandayal2) December 13, 2019
- Petr Mrazek was a lot less busy at the other end of the ice, but still made some great saves, robbing Pettersson and Boeser on great chances midway through the second period, then dragging a pad to steal a breakaway goal from Jake Virtanen on a finesse five-hole deke in the third period.
- It took a monumental effort by Boeser and an incredible finish by Pettersson to finally solve Mrazek. Boeser got a scoring chance of his own, then beat Aho to the rebound to keep the play alive. Then he out-battled Jaccob Slavin in front of the net, causing Slavin to lose his stick, then slung the puck through Teuvo Teravainen’s legs to Pettersson in front. The pass hit Slavin’s loose stick, but Pettersson adjusted, then sent a ludicrous backhand off the post and in.
- Pettersson just loves hitting posts. Fortunately, sometimes the puck bounces the right way off the post.
- While this didn’t feel like a must-win game heading into Thursday, it felt more and more like a must-win game as it went on. It felt like the Canucks had to win that game for Markstrom, given how he was standing on his head to keep the Hurricanes off the scoreboard. Scoring one goal was literally the least the team could do, but sometimes the least is all it takes.