Michael DiPietro got a rough taste of the NHL early into his debut game. Due to tightness in his lower body, Jacob Markström sat on the bench to start the Vancouver Canucks game against the San Jose Sharks, leaving rookie goaltender Michael DiPietro to start against one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
Baring a miracle, this game was never going to be pretty. DiPietro is only 19-years-old and has spent the season playing for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. It doesn’t matter how good you are in the OHL, it is tough for a 19-year-old OHL goaltender to be thrown into the starting spot against one of the best teams in the league and look like a veteran. Things like that do not happen very often.
It was not exactly that DiPietro played poorly in his first start, it was more that the Canucks were outmatched against the Sharks from the beginning. Obviously, with a young goaltender in his first NHL game, there is bound to be some nerves, but it didn’t help that the Sharks offence was walking all over the Canucks defence. The speed and level of intensity from San Jose was far superior to that of Vancouver which gave the Sharks high danger scoring chances early on to seal the game from the beginning.
On San Jose’s very first shot of the game, the young goaltender had no help from the defenders spread out in front of him. It was a series of misplays that led to a prime opportunity for Timo Meier to bang in his twentieth goal of the season. The play started with a bad line change and then once the puck was behind the net, both Canucks defenders swatted at the puck helplessly and were not able to get control of it.
The defence kicked the puck loose, allowing the turnover for Couture to dish the puck to Meier. The Canucks defenders should not have let the turnover occur the way it did and as a result, there was nothing DiPietro could do to stop Meier’s shot from that close to the net.
Even if DiPietro did not start in net, things were not looking good for for the young netminder and the Canucks. No matter how good Vancouver has been this season, tonight was destined to be a tough matchup either way. The Sharks have a blazing, red hot offence and the Canucks defence is not exactly a fair matchup to go up against.
With Timo Meier’s goal tonight, they are the only team in the NHL to feature five players who have scored 20+ goals so far this season. With a defence consisting primarily of Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher and Chris Tanev, they are not exactly the right guys to have to play against the scoring threat of San Jose while at the same time, protecting a teenage goaltender as well. They are the kind of defence that needs improving and needs a goaltender that can keep them in the game when need be and DiPietro just simply was not ready to be Vancouver’s saviour tonight.
Although on Tuesday morning, the headlines may be dominating the news feeds on how DiPietro had a bad game, people need to stop jumping to conclusions about what this game means for his career. Tonight was just one game and one that will not define his career.
Regardless of his .708 save percentage, DiPietro showed some promise in his NHL debut. He made some solid saves, especially in the third period when he helped kill off two Sharks penalties and when he make a great stop on a dangerous shorthanded play by San Jose.
DiPietro was not supposed to start tonight against the team that is third in goals in the entire NHL. With Vancouver set to play the Ducks as well as the Kings later on this week, either of those matchups would have been better options for the Windsor, Ontario native to make his debut, but due to injuries, Mikey was the only man who was available to start on Monday.