The AHL All-Star Game, Jacob Markstrom’s future and more…
The NHL all star game was this weekend, and it features some of the best the NHL has to offer, including great performances by recent prospects Filip Forsberg and Aaron Ekblad. Despite the usual protests, I personally thought it did what it set out to do, provide some fun for the fans and the stars both while showcasing the league.
That game has gotten more than its fair share of coverage though, so I would rather talk about the other all-star game going on this weekend.It really showed a different side of Watt from his usual M.O. , and I thought Graham dunking was a great statement against the league, though Sherman’s on conflict of interest was a bit more meaningful.
Well ther was also that other other all-star game which went on in Utica, so I guess I could talk about it too. There, the AHL all-stars broke their league’s scoring record in a 26 goal, 99 shot affair. Even more so than the NHL game, you could tell that most of the players were trying less than the average beer-leaguer. That being said, I may have spotted a forecheck or two in the third period as the East did their best to rally from a four goal deficit.
They outshot the West 23 (!) to 12 in the third period, but Richard Bachman had an unreal period despite giving up four goals. He made save after spectacular save on odd man rushes, breakaways and second chances galore. At 27 years of age, this is as good as Bachman is going to get and I’m not convinced he is much worse than Scrivens or Fasth, but he isn’t likely to be much better either. I don’t see him getting a chance in Edmonton (or anywhere), barring a miracle performance on top of long-term injuries to both Fasth and Scrivens.
The other memorable goaltending performance was by Jacob Markstrom, who saved 18 of 20 shots and was named co-MVP. We all know the story, the pedigree, the size (6’6) and the disappointment. What you might not know is that he is only 24 and has made a massive leap in performance this season by any metric. His previous two AHL season has GAA’s of 2.56 and 2.65 with SV%’s of 91.8 and 92.0; this year he has a 1.92 GAA and 93.4 SV%. If you like wins, he has won the same amount of games this year as last year with 11 fewer starts. If you like shutouts, he has beaten his career high in 15 fewer games. If you want to pin it on the strength of the Comets, well Utica’s other goalie, Joacim Eriksson, is letting in a half goal more per game with a decent 0.914 SV%.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it could be time to get back on the Markstrom train. Goaltenders performances are so variable that we still don’t know Markstrom’s true talent. This could all be noise, but a massive leap from his past performances combines with previous expectations make me optimistic.
If Vancouver has any confidence in Eriksson, trading Eddie Lack is a distinct possibility. Lack has enough pedigree and potential that he could be attractive to teams in need of goaltending help. He won’t get as much as Schneider did, but the 27-year-old’s value is unlikely to get much higher stuck behind Miller in Vancouver.
If you told a Canucks fan in 2011 (after their cup run, when Markstrom was still the top prospect in the NHL and Miller had been dominant at the Olympics) that the Canucks’ 2015-16 goaltending tandem could be Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom, you would have been sent back to where you belong.
I would make a feeler offer on both goalies before the NHL trade deadline speculation ramps up, as a trade would help both.
The co-MVP with Markstrom, and the MVP without a home-field advantage, was Charles Hudon. Leading all AHL rookies (and his team) in scoring, Hudon even stood out among the AHL all-stars. He scored the two nicest individual efforts, with a Forsberg tuck-in on one goal and Patrick Kane-like moves on another breakaway. He finished with three goals and an assist, and that was somehow enough to tie for the lead in scoring for the ga