Jacob Markstrom deserves huge ovation after opening 2023-24 performance
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
Last season was a tough time for a lot of players on the Calgary Flames roster. However, the under-performance, bad luck, and everything else negative that hit the team appeared to affect the men in the blue paint more than anything.
In a vacuum, the tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar is strong. Heck, in 2021-22, Markstrom was a Vezina Trophy contender! But last year, it was anything but strong, especially in the first half of the season. Some of it wasn’t their fault, of course. Goaltending is a very strange position, and lots of things can go wrong, but frankly, there were plenty of things that both could have controlled that they didn’t do well. Markstrom is being paid too much money to have another season like 2022-23, and he knew it at the end of last season. In his presser after the season, he said:
“It’s a big summer for me, and I’m up for the challenge to get back to where I want to be. I still feel like I have a ways to go, and I can still improve from last year and obviously improve from this year. I feel like it’s right there, and I just got to put in the work and come back and get ready.”
He knew what he had to do over the off-season to make this upcoming season easier for himself and get back into the groove.
With last season in the past and a clean slate, a new head coach, a new general manager, and some new faces in the roster (as well as one challenging for a spot in the goaltending rotation), Markstrom started the year off very well. The Flames played the Winnipeg Jets in the first game of the season, and if it weren’t for the Swedish netminder, the result would have been VERY different.
Let’s start with the basic numbers. He allowed only three goals in total (which, again, was a miracle given the barrage of shots he faced, especially in the first period) on 37 shots, which resulted in a .918 save percentage on the night. Not a bad way to start the season. But what’s more impressive is the kind of shots the Jets were getting accumulated into 5.94 (!!!) expected goals against, according to Evolving-Hockey. So he ended the game with a 2.9 goals saved above expected (GSAx) total. Not bad!
For reference, here is the shot chart from the contest:
Not much to see here other than shots in front of the net, shots in front of the net, and more shots in front of the net. And the best part about all of that is they were all saved except for the yellow one in the right faceoff dot and one in the slot off the deflection from Alex Iafallo that Markstrom wouldn’t have been able to save anyway.
The fact that the Flames came out with the win after that game is due to some heroic play by their goaltender, which they saw very little of last season. He stole the game for the team and, in turn, should be awarded with some sort of nice dinner out of appreciation. Of course, it’s only game number one, and plenty of things can happen over the course of 82 games. But Markstrom allowed one questionable goal and continued to lock the game down. He looked calmer in the crease, and that’s a very good sign. Let’s hope for more of these performances from him as the season moves along.
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