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How should the Calgary Flames divide up goaltending duties on their six game homestand?
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
Folks, we’re about two weeks out from the National Hockey League’s annual All-Star break, and the Calgary Flames have six home games remaining between themselves and a week off to rest and heal up. (Well, except for Elias Lindholm, who’ll be headed to Toronto for the All-Star festivities.)
With six games remaining before the break, it’s not a bad time to ponder how the Flames should split up the games between their two goaltenders, Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar.
Vladar is a rock-solid netminder, albeit one that’s having a bit of a down year. He has a 6-5-2 record with a 3.42 goals against average and .883 save percentage. He’s played twice in Calgary’s last 10 games, both during the Flames’ four-game road trip, picking up a win in Nashville and a loss against Chicago.
The Chicago game was pretty representative of his season so far. He was pretty good, but not quite good enough to bail out the team in front of him. (The loss to the Blackhawks was arguably as listless we’ve seen the Flames play since their early games in October.)
Markstrom, meanwhile, has been really, really good. He has a 13-11-2 record with a 2.59 goals against average, .912 save percentage and one shutout. Markstrom’s missed some games here and there due to injury and illness – these circumstances led to the Flames using Dustin Wolf and even emergency backup Dustin Nickel – but somehow he’s still 15th in the NHL in minutes played.
He’s been excellent for the Flames, and so they’ve been leaning on him because he keeps playing well and winning.
So how should the Flames split up the next six outings? With zero back-to-back sets involved and Markstrom playing well, the knee-jerk reaction may just be to keep riding Markstrom until he loses or takes a step back performance-wise. But the Vladar’s last game was on Jan. 7 and they won’t be back after the All-Star break until Feb. 6 – it doesn’t make sense to have him go a month between games.
So, we’re working under the premises that Vladar gets at least one of the six games.
Jan. 16: Arizona
Coming off a superb performance in a road win on Thursday against the Coyotes, we’d go back to Markstrom for this game. Looking at each goaltender’s past performances (via Hockey-Reference), Markstrom has a clear edge over Vladar (.928 save percentage, compared to Vladar’s .853).
Jan. 18: Toronto
Vladar started in Toronto back in November because Markstrom was unavailable. With both goalies healthy, we’d lean Markstrom here. Neither goalie has amazing metrics against the Leafs – Markstrom has a .904 save percentage compared to Vladar’s .897) – but Vladar has never won against the Leafs in three starts, while Markstrom has won five times in 14 attempts.
Jan. 20: Edmonton
This is another coin-toss. Vladar has played once against the Oilers, while Markstrom has played them 31 times. Their numbers against the Oilers are very similar, though Vladar has a much smaller sample size. Considering the importance of a game against the Flames’ top rival, we’d go back to Markstrom here.
Jan. 23: St. Louis
Two factors make us lean towards Vladar here. First, Markstrom will have played three important games in a week. Combined with the off-days between games, giving him this night off would give him a bit of time for recuperation and a reset. Plus, Vladar played really well against the Blues in his lone career match-up, so this seems like a good game to target for him.
Jan. 25: Columbus
We’d go back to Markstrom here. He likes to be busy and it would be prudent not to let him rest for too long if he’s feeling amped up to play before the break. Markstrom also has stronger career numbers than Vladar against Columbus – a .942 save percentage compared to Vladar’s .889.
Jan. 27: Chicago
In the words of the late, great Andre Braugher, going back to Vladar in the finale before the break would give the Czech netminder a chance at vindication. Vladar wasn’t the rest the Flames lost in Chicago earlier this month, but he probably wants a second chance at beating the Blackhawks.
(Plus, look at the post-break schedule: road games against Boston, New Jersey, the NY Islanders and NY Rangers. There’s a good chance Markstrom will be leaned on heavily against tough opponents, so give Vladar a bit of extra work before the break.)
How would you split up the six upcoming starts? Let us know in the comments!
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