1) If Jacob Markstrom is getting worn down by a heavier than usual -- and ideal -- workload in the absence of back-up Thatcher Demko, he certainly didn't show it on Saturday night. Markstrom made a season-high 44 saves including 19 in a one-sided second period which saw Calgary hold a 17-2 edge at one point and a 20-5 advantage over the full 20 minutes. Markstrom made a potential game-saver off Flames scoring leader Johnny Gaudreau with just under five minutes to play in the third period and the game tied 3-3. Gaudreau moved in from the slot and let a wrist shot go that was headed to the top corner, but Markstrom calmly flashed his glove out and made one of his better stops of the night. He also successfully stared down Johnny Hockey on a breakaway with time winding down in the first period and the game tied 2-2. On top of the 44 saves he made over three periods and overtime, Markstrom stopped all three Flames shootout attempts, too. Interestingly enough, he didn't have to face Gaudreau -- the league's fifth leading scorer -- in the skills competition as Calgary coach Bill Peters opened himself to some second guessing going with Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan and five-goal scorer James Neal who has just one goal since the start of January.
2) It seemed the Hockey Gods smiled on the Canucks on Saturday night. After outplaying Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago for long stretches of recent one-goal losses, the Canucks were not the better team on the night, but they had the better goaltending and ended up with the result they wanted regardless how it looked. The Canucks struggled for much of the first two periods to cleanly exit their own zone and finished the night with 16 giveaways. They were fortunate Markstrom was there playing the role of a giant eraser to nullify so many of the team's mistakes. With San Jose in on Monday and the Canucks in the Bay Area next Saturday, they will see another top tier team twice in the next week and they have to know they likely won't get away with the sloppy miscues they did against the Flames.
3) It looks like the All-Star break did Brock Boeser some good. In five games since having a week off, Boeser has scored three times and his goal on Saturday against Calgary -- just like his goal last Saturday in Denver -- looked like Boeser from his rookie season. He's finding himself with the puck on his stick and with time and space to pick his target. That's when he's at his best. Late in the second period Saturday with the teams at four skaters aside, Elias Pettersson entered the Calgary zone on left wing, circled the net, drew a couple of Calgary defenders to him and then slid the puck across the slot to Boeser in the left circle. With his head up, he patiently picked out his spot and ripped a wrist shot past Flames netminder David Rittich. Boeser is now up to 19 goals on the season and seems to be energized for the home stretch with 26 games to go. He didn't get a chance to play in meaningful games in his rookie season, but he looks to be fully embracing the opportunity now. Starting with a hattrick in St. Louis on December 9th, Boeser has 13 goals in his last 25 games. He had a season-high 15 shot attempts on Saturday with seven hitting the target.
4) It seems it has taken Troy Stecher more than a season and a half to earn the trust of the coaching staff. But with Alex Edler out indefinitely with a concussion, the Canucks are looking for somebody to step up and fill the lead role on the blueline. On Thursday, it was Ben Hutton logging 31:18. On Saturday, it was Stecher's turn to step into the spotlight. He played a season-high 26:16, quarterbacked the first power play unit and saw shifts in overtime -- including a 4-on-3 power play for the final 1:23. Stecher was pleased with the result on the night, but didn't like much about the first two periods. Following the game, Travis Green wasn't prepared to heap too much praise on his team's overall defense after giving up 47 shots, but he did concede that Stecher and Hutton have elevated their games recently. Coming into the night, Stecher's season average for ice time was 17:34, however in his past three games he has logged 25:45 (his previous season high) in Washington on Tuesday, 22:49 in Chicago on Thursday and now more than 26 minutes against the Flames. That's a lot of hockey in a condensed period of time with travel and Stecher has certainly held his own over the past week.
5) It seems awfully premature to think about playoff match-ups for the Vancouver Canucks, but *IF* they get in and *IF* they draw the Calgary Flames in the opening round, the Canucks have given the Flames something to think about winning three of the first four meetings between the teams. After splitting a home and home series in the opening week, the Canucks have eked out wins in overtime (3-2 in Calgary on December 29th) and a shootout (on Saturday). Now, if the Canucks and Flames played Saturday's game seven times, I'd most definitely put my money on the Flames winning four of them. They were the better team for much of the night and the vast amount of time the home team spent in its own zone would certainly be a concern to the Canucks. While they're separated by 17 points in the standings, the Canucks have found a way to keep the Flames top scorers in check for the most part while Elias Pettersson has torn the Flames to shreds with eight points in four meetings. If any team in the league should be starting to get a read on the Canucks rookie, it would seemingly be a Calgary team that has faced him four times now. But Pettersson had two assists Saturday and now has 4+4=8 of his 25+25=50 on the season against the Flames. Elias Lindholm had one of the Calgary goals on Saturday set up by Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. That trio has 6+7=13 in the four games against the Canucks. The teams will meet -- at least -- one more time this season on March 23rd at Rogers Arena.