Jacob Markstrom was strong down the stretch but needs to be better

Photo credit:Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 year ago
There were plenty of things that went wrong in 2022-23 for the Calgary Flames, and so many different things contributed to the team missing the postseason. However, the biggest factor was the goaltending, or lack thereof. Jacob Markstrom was at the root of this problem for the majority of the season.
Markstrom is smack in the middle of a six-year, $36 million contract ($6 million AAV), and despite finishing last season second only behind New York Rangers star Russian netminder Igor Shesterkin in the Vezina Trophy voting, he wasn’t able to carry that through to 2022-23.
Markstrom started 59 games over the course of the regular season and finished with 2.92 goals against average, a .892 save percentage, and 1.5 goals saved above expected (GSAx) according to Evolving-Hockey, which ranked 19th among 30 qualified goaltenders. He finished with a .448 quality start percentage, which was the lowest of his career since he started 23 games for the Florida Panthers in 2012-13 and registered a .391 quality start percentage (the only other mark below .500 in his career). Not great for the seventh highest-paid goaltender in the NHL!
It was a tale of two different parts of the season for Markstrom. Through his first 40 starts (aka the majority of the season), he had a .887 save percentage, which is not good. However, through his final 19 games, and when the Flames needed him to perform well to make a playoff push, he managed a .902 save percentage, which still isn’t excellent, but it’s much improved. He only had one shutout in 2022-23, and it came during that final stretch.
Markstrom didn’t shy away from the blame at the season’s end, and it was evident he knew that he was partially to blame for where the team ended up this season.
However, as a goaltender, you have to have a short memory, so even though there were things to build from towards the end of the year, it’s important that Markstrom move forward, and he addressed that as well.
Those 19 games at the end of the year were a vote of confidence from head coach Darryl Sutter. He said that if the Flames were going to make the playoffs, it would be because Markstrom put them there, and I’d like to believe that his performance in the final 20 games of the season was a more accurate depiction of the goaltender we’ll see for the foreseeable future.
There were lots of issues with the Flames this season, and hopefully, this is just a bump in the road for the 33-year-old. We got to see what Dustin Wolf can bring to the Calgary crease, so if this kind of performance keeps up, the Flames would be paying lots of money for a backup goaltender.
Markstrom doesn’t shy away from adversity, and he’s a goaltender that wants to be trusted and relied upon in the big moments. I doubt a sub-.900 save percentage is something that is going to last, but unfortunately, it’s one of the main reasons the Flames aren’t playing post-season hockey.
Letter Grade: D+

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