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Four important questions entering the second half of the season

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Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Steinberg
10 months ago
If we were going by their original schedule, the Flames would have passed the halfway mark of the 2021-22 season ages ago. But, thanks to an 18-day COVID shutdown and numerous home games postponed due to attendance restrictions, Calgary is only just approaching their midway point. As they do, there are some interesting storylines to watch play out between now and the end of April.

Will Jacob Markstrom set a new franchise record?

With his 15-save shutout in Saturday’s 1-0 overtime win over Vancouver, Markstrom entered elite company. His seventh shutout of the season tied him with Miikka Kiprusoff for the second-best single-season total in franchise history. Markstrom is now three away from tying Kiprusoff’s franchise record for shutouts…with 42 games remaining.
GoaltenderSeasonShutouts
Miikka Kiprusoff2005-0610
Miikka Kiprusoff2006-077
Jacob Markstrom2021-227
Miikka Kiprusoff2010-116
Markstrom’s chase is very much worthy of watching the rest of the way. Until the Flames have clinched a playoff spot, you can bet he’s going to get the vast majority of starts in the second half. We also know Calgary plays a brand of hockey that doesn’t allow much at all; their nine team shutouts overall speak loudly to that.

How many more starts will Dan Vladar make?

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This question got a little harder to answer over the past week. Calgary had a stretch of four games in six nights, including a back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday, and started Markstrom each and every time. From the outside, it was quite surprising to not see Vladar get into one of those four, even knowing he wasn’t quite as sharp in his last two starts.
I believe the Flames need to be careful not to overwork Markstrom in the second half of the season. We’re talking about a player who has missed time due to wear-and-tear in each of the last two seasons. Markstrom is also a goalie who tends to be slightly less effective when fatigued, going back to his days in Vancouver.
I understand Calgary needs to get to the playoffs. But it’s also in the team’s best interest to have Markstrom fresh and healthy if/when their postseason starts. It’s an interesting balance to strike. Vladar has shown he’s a capable backup and, with nine back-to-back sets still to come, there will definitely be opportunities for him to play.

What will they do at the trade deadline?

We’re less than two months from the 2022 deadline and the Flames have already been linked to a couple big targets. Frank Seravalli has named Calgary as an interested party for J.T. Miller’s services, if the Canucks opt to trade him with a year still remaining on his deal. The Flames have also been named by Elliotte Friedman as a suitor for pending UFA defenceman Ben Chiarot in Montreal.
We’ll have plenty of time to discuss Calgary’s deadline approach in the coming weeks, but I’m one who believes this is the year to make a big splash or two. Making big moves in season has not been in Brad Treliving’s playbook during his tenure as general manager, as he’s tended to make his biggest acquisitions during the summer. But with some very team-friendly contracts coming off the books at the end of the year, this might be the team’s best chance to go on a run.
Some people believe Calgary’s largest need is a scoring forward that can instantly take a spot in the top six. Others believe the Flames need to acquire another impact defenceman to solidify that group. Regardless, I’m fascinated to see what Treliving is able to get done ahead of the Mar. 21 deadline.

Will any extensions get signed in season?

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Johnny Gaudreau is in the midst of a career season and is a pending unrestricted free agent. Also having career years are Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Oliver Kylington, and they’re all pending restricted free agents. We know a busy, potentially stressful, summer is in the offing for Treliving. But will he be able to knock anything off his plate before the off-season begins?
I’m not holding my breath. While it’s my understanding the Flames and Gaudreau’s camp are still in contact, and while I remain quite optimistic about an agreement being reached, I’m not expecting anything to happen while the season is still going. Gaudreau’s performance this year has only ramped up his value and bargaining power, and his camp understands that.
As for the pending RFAs, waiting until the end of the season is a good leverage play in all three circumstances. While there’s no imminent threat of these players walking for nothing, all three will likely be in better bargaining positions come the off-season.

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