There’s only one thing we can guarantee when it comes the Calgary Flames’ starting goaltender as the NHL playoffs get underway. You can bet Jacob Markstrom got a good night’s sleep on the eve of Game 1 against the Dallas Stars.
“Oh, I fall asleep pretty quick,” Markstrom said on Monday when asked what goes through his head at night. “When my head is on the pillow, I’ll be out pretty quick. I don’t try to overthink stuff. I’ll have a great sleep.”
The sleep will be even better on Tuesday if the Flames beat the Stars in the opener. It’s the first meaningful playoff game being played in front of fans at the Saddledome since a disappointing loss in Game 5 to the Colorado Avalanche in 2019.
Markstrom wasn’t a member of the Calgary Flames at the time. And while Mike Smith’s goaltending wasn’t the deciding factor in the series against the Avs in 2019, Smith’s struggles in his Edmonton Oilers’ Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday shows the importance of goaltending in the playoffs.
Markstrom will have to be a difference-maker for the Flames to follow up their remarkable regular season with a deep playoff run.
“Markstrom’s an elite goaltender. It starts there,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said on Monday when asked about the differences between the Calgary Flames team that lost to the Stars in the pandemic bubble in 2020 and the one they face now.
“A key piece for any team is their goaltender and picking up Markstrom two years ago was a huge move.”
A legitimate Vezina Trophy candidate, Markstrom led the NHL in shutouts (9) this season. He finished top three in goals-against average (2.22) and save percentage (9.22) as well.
In the most important category of all, Markstrom tied for fourth with Avalanche backstop Darcy Kuemper with 37 wins.
If all goes according to plan, he’ll add 16 of them this spring.
“This is a great time of year, and this is when you still want to be playing,” Markstrom said Monday.
“You have to stop the puck and be better than the other goalie out there. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be a battle. In the playoffs, everything gets ramped up a little bit with shots and traffic and people in front of the net and all that. You just have to keep playing your game and stay calm and then stop as many pucks as you can.”
Calm doesn’t seem to be a problem for Markstrom. He’s as unflappable as the last truly great player to occupy the Calgary Flames crease in Miikka Kiprusoff.
Markstrom’s nine shutouts were one shy of Kiprusoff’s franchise record in 2005.
“(Marksrom’s) been playing unreal for us all season and we expect the same (Tuesday) as he has been doing since he came here,” said Flames centre Elias Lindholm. “He’s been awesome. He’s a good guy, a good player, and a good teammate. It’s just fun to have a goalie like that behind you.”