Abbotsford Canucks midweek review: How Spencer Martin got his groove back (sort of)
Photo credit:© Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
After ten consecutive losses in 10 straight starts, the Canucks organization saw fit to get Spencer Martin’s groove back via the most functional aspect of the organization, its AHL team!
After a dreadful run of games in late January that saw Abbotsford go 1-5-1-1, the Farm team rallied with five straight wins to kickstart their road-heavy February schedule. Through their first five games in February, the Farm outscored their opponents 20-6, recording one shutout while outshooting them 145-132 across all situations and 116-87 at 5v5.
Unfortunately, Spencer Martin made his AHL return at the worst possible time. His journey toward newfound confidence between the pipes began with a midweek doubleheader against the leading team in the AHL, the Calgary Wranglers.
The season head-to-head coming into Tuesday night’s matchup was lopsided. Through their first seven meetings, the Abbotsford Canucks had defeated their geographic rival only once, a 5-2 win back on January 2nd. In their six losses to the Wranglers, the Farm had been outscored 24-13 while outshot 202-192 across all situations and 151-140 at 5v5.
Heading into Tuesday night, the Farm sat second in the AHL with the fewest shots allowed per game! Through 47 games played, the Canucks had conceded 35 or more shots just six times, three of which had come at the hands of the Calgary Wranglers.
Though Martin’s journey to getting his groove back started as rough as it could — allowing two goals through the first ten minutes of the game — he finished his AHL return with a .921 save percentage, stopping 35 of 38 shots.
As they’ve done often this season, the Wranglers leaned on their dynamic rush offence to take advantage of the Canucks suspect decision-making to hammer Martin with repeat odd-man chances.
Despite the early struggles, Martin rallied to give his teammates a fighting chance late in the game, turning away an outrageous number of two-on-none breakaways.
After 60 minutes, the Abbotsford Canucks had lost 4-1 while conceding 35 or more shots for the seventh time this season, the fourth time at the hands of Calgary.
Fortunately, despite the lopsided Tuesday result and a shaky start to Wednesday night, Martin’s sophomore AHL return went very well!
The vibes weren’t all that great to start the rematch. After catching a dump-in behind his net, Martin held the puck for too long, nearly resulting in an empty-net tap-in goal for Calgary within the opening two minutes. From there, the nerves began to quiet down, and Martin began to look way more like the 19-AHL-win Spencer Martin of last season.
A lot of credit for Martin’s sophomore success on Wednesday night was owed to the drastically improved play of his teammates. Through the first two periods, the Canucks dominated the run of play, controlling the puck inside the offensive zone and keeping the Wranglers from ever establishing a meaningful cycle inside the d-zone. After 40 minutes, the Farm outshot the Wranglers 25-20 across all situations, holding the Wranglers to just 13 shots on Martin at 5v5.
The lone goal Martin allowed through the first two periods came from Emilio Pettersen cutting through the slot, ripping a soft wrist shot behind a screen of multiple bodies over Martin’s glove side.
Pettersen’s goal was one of those that a goaltender “wants back.” Granted, all goals are ones they want back, so please ignore this meaningless cliche. That said, Martin can’t be criticized too heavily on Pettersen’s goal due to the layered screen before the shot’s release. Tough one for any goalie to spot.
The Canucks clamped down hard through the second and third periods, blocking shots and clearing lanes to provide Martin with ample sight on shooting lanes.
On the Wranglers’ most dangerous chances, Martin stayed cool as a cucumber. The Canucks didn’t concede many high-danger chances through the final 20 minutes, but when they did filter through, Martin showed the same poise that landed him the first one-way NHL deal of his career.
With five minutes left in the game, Tristen Nielsen capitalized on a brutal d-zone giveaway to score his second of the game—second at 5v5—to give Abbotsford a two-goal lead.
The go-ahead goal sparked a late surge from the Wranglers and some very “AHL hockey” events.
First, Emilio Pettersen scored his second goal of the night to put the Wranglers back within a goal!
Then, before you could even say “comeback attempt,” Jack Rathbone ripped a missile from the blueline high over Dustin Wolf’s glove side to regain the two-goal lead for Abbotsford!
Then, seconds after Rathbone’s go-ahead tally, Tristen Nielsen cruised into the offensive zone looking for an empty-netter, and the hat-trick, only to find himself offside. Emilio Pettersen then responded with a crosscheck to the face of Nielsen, drawing a match penalty and a game misconduct.
The AHL zaniness effectively killed the Wrangler’s comeback attempt leading to Spencer Martin’s first victory since December 27th. Despite giving up a goal on his second shot faced in the AHL and back-to-back starts, Martin finished his first two games back in Abbotsford holding a .929 save percentage — stopping 65 of 70 shots — and a 2.56 goals-against-average.
While we’re certainly not suggesting that Martin has “got his groove back” already. We are suggesting that Martin’s performances on back-to-back nights were an encouraging step in the right direction.
Is Martin a .950 NHL netminder? Doubtful.
Is Martin an .871 netminder, ranking as one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL this season? Doubtful.
Martin is capable of more at the NHL level. Behind this Canucks defence, he’s gone from being one of the league’s best to one of the league’s worst in less than eleven months. In Abbotsford, Martin has some runway to rebuild his game to be somewhere between a 0.950 and 0.871-calibre goaltender. Consistency is the goal; baby steps are the way.
This week saw some significant baby steps for one of the good ones in the league. Martin’s Canucks journey isn’t over yet.
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