The Vancouver Canucks are currently first in the Pacific and that is no small feat, considering the teams that make up the Pacific Division. The man the team has to credit for their success is Ryan Miller. Miller has been posting some of his best numbers since the 09-10 season in Buffalo. The success of the Canucks 2015-16 season rests squarely on the shoulders of the starter.
This is a scary prospect for some in the Canucks’ fan base, as Miller was out played by backup Eddie Lack during the 2014-15 season and was coming off a less than exemplary performance in St. Louis the season before. Jacob Markstrom has yet to truly prove that he belongs at the NHL level, but his play in the 2014-15 AHL season suggests he is ready.
Markstrom was placed on the injured reserve before the 2015-16 season even had a chance to start, placing the starting goalie workload squarely on Ryan Miller’s shoulders. Last season, there were comments about how Miller was complaining about fatigue at times and then Miller was injured in a collision with Jannik Hansen last February.
Fast forward to a month into this season and the Canucks are 6-2-4 in the first 12 games of the 2015-16 regular season that has been full of excitement and unknowns. The Canucks have decided to go all in for a youth movement, by starting with 3 NHL rookies on their opening roster. These rookies have all played decently well and as a result, have taken the spotlight away from someone who is playing equally as well.
Ryan Miller has kept the Canucks above .500 and has given the team a chance to win every game. Miller’s excellent play comes at a time when goaltending is one of the weakest positions in terms of depth for the Canucks.
Miller has started all 11 of 12 games and has posted a .927 save percentage and 2.06 goals against average. While it is too early to predict if these numbers will stay, they are a welcome sight for the Canucks. Confidence in Miller has allowed head coach Willie Desjardins to feel confident in playing his inexperienced rookies. The Canucks, while at times struggling to put forth a full 60 minute game, have started to see development in their rookies and are finding their rhythm as a team because of Miller’s dependability.
One thing that has been a concern is the workload of Ryan Miller with Jacob Markstrom being out with an injury. Richard Bachman, the current back up, has 42 NHL games under his belt, but barely played during the pre-season and only started in one actual game this season. To try to counter fatigue, the Canucks have implemented a three goalie system at practice to help find as much rest for Miller when possible.
The news around Canucks’ goaltending is not so grim. Jacob Markstrom is expected to head to Utica for conditioning this weekend and this is excellent news.
Coach says Higgins is "close," Markstrom will go to Utica for conditioning and Miller had a maintenance day. #Canucks
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) November 3, 2015
Markstrom is expected to be the next heir to the crease after Miller, but is still in need of development before he is ready to be a full time starter. He does have management’s blessing and is expected to be able to provide quality goaltending for the Canucks. Which means he can help shoulder some of Miller’s workload.
Just as important as Miller is to the success of the team, the health and ability of Jacob Markstrom is almost equally as important. Having quality starts from both goalies will be essential while the rest of the Canucks find their rhythm. For Ryan Miller to continue his stellar play to the start of the 2015-16 season, he will need to be rested. Jacob Markstrom will be essential for Miller finding rest and for keeping the quality of play the same.
Having Miller producing steady numbers makes the Canucks going all in with the youth movement a lot easier, there is more room for mistakes. However, if and when the Canucks can figure their kinks out, they will be a team that surprises many people. Any hopes of a good season will start and stop with the play of Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom.