Toffoli, Markstrom, Demko & More

After an incredible series against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, the Vancouver Canucks fizzled during their first game against the Vegas Golden Knights and lost 5-0. All the positives from the previous series didn’t carry over into Game 1. The team needs to regroup before Tuesday’s Game 2.

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In this post, I’ll review some of the news about that game and look forward to Game 2.

Item One: Travis Green States the Obvious, the Canucks Played Bad

The best thing about Sunday’s game is that it’s over. The Canucks were beat to the puck all night long and Vegas was the better team. The Golden Knights threw 39 shots at an overwhelmed Jacob Markstrom, who let five through. One would have been enough.

Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There was no sugar-coating the loss by head coach Travis Green, “We just need to play better — we didn’t play very well tonight.”

Green went on to itemize the damage: “We have to be better with the puck, that would be a start. I thought in general in the first period, we missed some pucks that we would normally have, where we would normally transition and get up the ice. We either skated over pucks or bobbled it and they ended up playing in our zone and that happened quite a bit tonight.”

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His assessment of the Golden Knights? “They’ve got a quick team … maybe their speed caught some of our players by surprise a little bit where they turned over some pucks. We have to play a lot better if we’re going to win this series,” (from “Canucks Post Game: Silent stars, Hughes targeted, power outage, Roussel’s rage,” The Province, 24/08/20).

Item Two: When Are the Two Tylers Returning?

As of Monday, there was no update on when Tyler Toffoli or Tyler Myers will return. Toffoli has missed 10 games after suffering a “lower-body” injury. I haven’t found out if there’s a timetable for his return and any news seems confusing. He’s missed.

Tyler Toffoli Vancouver Canucks
Tyler Toffoli, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The news about Myers is clearer, but it isn’t promising. Last week, Myers seemed ready to play when the second-round series began. Now, it seems it might be another week before he returns from a reported “slightly separated shoulder.”

As Matthew Sekeres of TSN 1040 reported, Myers is a possibility for Game 3 or 4. Like Toffoli, there is no definite timetable for Myers’ return. However, it’s good news that he’s making progress.

Item Three: Jacob Markstrom Couldn’t Complete His Postseason-Leading 11th Start

Before Sunday’s game, Jacob Markstrom was tied with the Calgary Flames’ Cam Talbot and the Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price for the most games played by a goaltender in the 2020 Playoffs. Now that the Flames and Canadiens have left the bubble, Markstrom is alone atop the leaders.

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Markstrom began Sunday’s game with a 7-3 postseason record that included a 2.44 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. His record after the Vegas beatdown was 7-4 with a goals-against-average of 2.70 and a .922 save percentage. Even after that anomaly, when he surrendered five goals on 34 shots, the 30-year-old Swede will be the Canucks’ starter in Game 2 – unless he’s injured.

In truth, Markstrom got little help from his teammates and was replaced by youngster Thatcher Demko in the third period. After the euphoria of winning a first-round playoff series, it’s easy for Canucks fans to miss the team’s defensive issues. Markstrom has had to be strong all postseason just as he was during the regular season. When he’s not, Game 1 is what can happen.

Jacob Markstrom Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

In the postseason, Markstrom has faced almost 35 shots per game. Against the Golden Knights, he’s facing a strong offensive team that’s averaged 3.89 goals per game during the postseason. If the team is going to win, Markstrom is likely going to have to be Markstrom, meaning “he’s gotta stand on his head” for the Canucks to have a chance to win this series.

Fortunately, Markstrom has shown that ability all season long. During the postseason, he’s been nothing but great and is likely the single reason his team made the second round. He was just overwhelmed and his teammates were outplayed by a bigger, more playoff-experienced team.

Item Four: Thatcher Demko Gets His First Taste of Playoff Hockey

Although it was in a mop-up role, it must have been exciting for Thatcher Demko to get some ice time. He stopped all five shots the Golden Knights threw at him in his Game 1 relief appearance.

Demko played 8:26 after Markstrom was mercifully pulled from the game. It was his first appearance in the playoffs and, although the youngster has the makings of a solid goalie, it’s unlikely he will start in the playoffs. He’s only played 38 NHL games, including his playoff debut, during his career.

Item Five: Antoine Roussel Was Sniffing Around Trouble All Game

Antoine Roussel obviously figured he had a job to do against the Golden Knights. Vegas tough guy Ryan Reaves is a load, but it seemed Roussel felt the need to challenge Reeves. Good luck with that plan.

Antoine Roussel Vancouver Canucks
Antoine Roussel, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Roussel was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty during Game 1 after he gave Reaves a hug on the ice. Although it didn’t seem that problematic, the officials were trying to settle things down between the teams. As I noted earlier, good luck with that plan.

When Roussel emerged from the penalty box, Reaves and other members of the Golden Knights tapped their sticks to mock Roussel and during the game, Reaves was clucking like a chicken at Roussel. Reaves was not penalized.

What’s Next for the Canucks?

This series should be interesting. The sort of game-within-a-game battle between Roussel and Reaves might boil over. Roussel’s a tough guy, but Reaves might be the toughest guy in the NHL.

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The Canucks are behind the eight-ball. When a team wins Game 1, they go on to win their best-of-seven series 68.7 percent of the time (historically 485-220). This postseason, teams that have won Game 1, have a 7-1 series record.

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