VANCOUVER – When he made a superhuman 49 parades on Wednesday, it looked like Jacob Markstrom was playing with the strength of 20 men. In a way, it was him. At least twenty.
The Vancouver Canucks goalkeeper has had the greatest season of his NHL career while going through one of the worst times of his personal life after losing his father Anders to cancer in Sweden in November.
Markstrom's 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on the night the Canucks Daniel and Henrik Sedins' numbers withdrew increased his savings to 0.918. Kevin Woodley, correspondent for NHL.com, who runs a goalkeeper website in Vancouver, tweeted on Thursday that proprietary data indicates that Markstrom is the league's runaway leader with a plus of 22.1 – the difference between the allowed ones Goals and the number of pucks he scored should have beaten him due to the micro-analyzed shot quality. For the context, Boston Bruins starter Tuukka Rask is second with plus-15.2, based on data from the private company Clear Sight Analytics.
These are 22 additional goals that were scored in 41 games for Markstrom. This was a massive factor in Canuck's rise to the Pacific division. No wonder that there is increasing talk on the west coast that the 30-year-old should take part in the Vezina Trophy discussion this season.
The most compelling part of Markstrom's story – he has seven victories this season on 40 or more shots – is that he turned into an elite NHL starter while he was 59 years old about his father's death mourned.
"If you're going through tough times, you need support," Markstrom told reporters Friday when the Canucks rested against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena late in the emotional week before Sunday's game. "You need friends, family, you need teammates, coaches who somehow guide you … so you are going the right way. You feel like you have support. This team did a great job. It was tough, yes. And it is still difficult. But … you just have to keep going and keep pushing. "
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The strength and support of these 20 players in the Canucks locker room and many others outside the cloakroom is why Markstrom said his launches are an opportunity to honor those who help him.
"Relief, I don't know if that's the right word," said Markstrom of the mental simplicity of the game. "It's more honor, I feel like. They all want to make them proud. Not just teammates, but also family members who are with us and not that. You think about it all the time. You can't do that."
"We all have each other's backs and are family here," said teammate J.T. Said Miller. “The only thing I can do as a teammate is to be there and support him and be there for him and play hard for him. He gives us so much as a goalkeeper that it's easy to play for such a guy. He is very respected in our locker room and a great guy. No wonder we play for him and he obviously plays for us. "
Only five years ago, Markstrom, who was acquired from the Roberto Luongo store in 2014 after failing to meet expectations as an over hyped prospect in Florida, sailed on his way to another season in the American Hockey League through NHL waivers
But Jim Benning, General Manager of Vancouver, kept him from Eddie Lack, whose trade outraged much of Canuck Nation, and the team's hiring of goalkeeper coach Ian Clark in 2015 before Markstrom's turbocharger upgrade last season.
Under Clark, Markstrom rebuilt and narrowed his stance, allowing him to move more efficiently and give the 6-foot-6 netminder more "range" to make difficult parades. The better movement helps Markstrom keep track of the puck and stay one step ahead of the game.
"I feel like I take steps every day," said Markstrom. "We don't look back at what we did, we always look forward to it and try to add things to make me a better goalkeeper." It's so rewarding to have it every day.
"I don't look back. I haven't played a playoff game yet and we haven't won anything as a team. For me personally, I feel like I've developed my game and get better every day, but it still remains many steps to take. I don't look back and I'm happy. When I look back it's not a good sign. "
Looking ahead, Benning and Markstrom's agent Pat Morris are still trying to find some traction in contract negotiations. The team and the goalkeeper both want Markstrom to stay in Vancouver, but it's a complex landscape and it can be a challenge for the Canucks to pay the Swede close enough to the market value to make him stay. He is entitled to unlimited free action on July 1.
"I love it here and I definitely want to stay here," said Markstrom. "But I don't think too much about it. I have this contract this year and then we will find out the rest. Every time I wear this jersey it is an honor and I love being here in front of the Rogers Arena to be domestic fans.
“I think the fans deserve to have a playoff team here. They were very patient and loyal throughout the remodeling. At the moment we have given ourselves a good chance and brought ourselves to a good place, but we have to keep pushing. "
With his piece, Markstrom becomes more valuable from week to week. There is also the presumption of the Vezina trophy.
"It is obviously nice to hear your name in these discussions," he said. "But if you believe everything you read, you will be misinformed. Not by you. You always tell the truth."
We will bookmark the last quote.