With one game left Wednesday night before the Calgary Flames disperse for their all-star game weekend plans, one massive question remains.
No, not whether the team will accomplish their goal of being in a playoff position before the break.
Who is the starting goalie?
A lot of chatter about the netminding decisions has come from the fan masses of late. Part of that is because Jacob Markstrom started in back-to-back games last week in Columbus and St. Louis and the second half of that one was a disaster.
That wasn’t on the goalie, but that’s how reactionary analysis goes.
With tonight’s game also a back-to-back scenario, many believe we could see backup Dan Vladar get his first start since Jan. 7.
But don’t count on it. The Calgary Flames goal of a playoff spot isn’t one head coach Darryl Sutter takes lightly. He’ll start whichever netminder he believes will give them a chance to win. Remember his bristly response after the loss against the Blues when asked about his decision to go with Markstrom?
“(Markstrom) hasn’t had much work. We didn’t play for a month, we get four days off in a few days,” Sutter said at the time. “So, pretty easy. The other guy (Vladar) hasn’t won for a month. Pretty easy. Trying to win hockey games.
“It wasn’t even a hard decision. It was one we made a long time ago.”
This decision might be slightly more impromptu, if only because Vladar came on in relief on Tuesday night in Dallas and earned the win in a 4-3 comeback victory after entering with a two-goal deficit.
But that was more about how the team was playing in front of the goaltenders, as associate coach Kirk Muller said after the victory.
Goalie swap in Dallas a message to the Flames skaters
“Sometimes, you gotta give the guys a little bit of a message,” Muller said. “Had nothing to do with (Markstrom). We play back-to-back. It was just like, ‘Hey, we got a new guy coming in, so you better play hard for him.’ It was a good call.”
It isn’t an easy position to be in for Vladar, but he only had to make a handful of saves as his team dominated possession and fired 18 shots at the opposition over the final 20 minutes. But credit to him, he earned his first victory since Dec. 3 and the effort was appreciated by his fellow Calgary Flames players.
“We’re not goalies so we don’t really know how hard that is, but it can’t be easy,” Matthew Tkachuk said on Wednesday morning. “Not expecting to play and then coming in with only a period to play. He wasn’t peppered too much but made the saves when he had to. He looked very calm in there. If that was me, I’d be pretty nervous.
“It’s tough to do but he did a great job.”
We’ll find out shortly if he gets another chance with the pre-break finale against the Arizona Coyotes.