For Vancouver, it’s now Eddie Lack or bust.
The Canucks learned on Wednesday that injured starting goalie Ryan Miller will not be available before the start of the playoffs. Miller, who suffered a knee sprain in a goalmouth collision with teammate Jannik Hansen on Feb. 22, was initially expected to be sidelined from four to six weeks.
While Miller’s absence hurts the team’s playoff chances, it’s not a death blow. The Canucks sit second in the Pacific Division, three points clear of fourth-place Calgary and have won four of their past five games—in large part due to the strong play of Lack.
The 27-year-old is 7-3-1 since stepping into the breach, with a sizzling .934 save percentage. He’s allowed a single goal in three of his past four starts, perhaps his finest stretch of the season.
And he’s done this while working without a net, so to speak. It’s clear Vancouver’s coaching staff has no faith in third-stringer Jacob Markstrom, so it’s up to Lack to carry the mail the rest of the way. That might be a concern for those who remember watching Lack struggle with a heavy workload down the stretch last season when he was forced to replace Roberto Luongo after the trade deadline, but he seems better prepared to handle the task this time around. He worked extensively on his conditioning during the off-season, and has consistently fine-tuned his technical game this year.
Lack looks ready, but he still has a lot to prove during the team’s final 13 games. Fortunately, Vancouver’s schedule looks favorable, with six of its opponents currently in lottery position.
But no matter what happens with the Canucks, this won’t be the last fans see of Miller this season. The veteran is featured prominently along with his wife, actress Noureen de Wulf, in the new reality series Hockey Wives which debuts tonight on the W Network in Canada.