Up in Flames: Offseason Look at Goaltending
Looking at the Calgary Flames offseason circumstances, we’re starting with the easy one.
Despite an extremely disappointing second-round exit against the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames are set at the goaltending position.
Starter – Jacob Markstrom
Jacob Markstrom’s worst stretch of the entire season came in the five games he played against the Oilers. He was the second best netminder in the previous round, with only rookie phenom Jake Oettinger outshining him in the head-to-head battle.
But then he was (technically) outdueled by a 40-year-old Mike Smith in the first playoff Battle of Alberta in more than 30 years.
Allowing 24 goals in those five games, Markstrom finished the forgettable series with a 5.12 goals-against average and abysmal .852 save percentage.
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane and Zack Hyman Dominated the scoresheet and made Markstrom look anything like a Vezina Trophy finalist.
Yet that’s exactly what Markstrom is after a stellar regular season. A career-high 37 victories, 2.22 GAA, .922 save percentage and a league-leading nine shutouts put him into the top three in Vezina voting for the first time.
Entire team a disappointment against Oilers
“He had a hell of a year. He’s one of our captains, one of our leaders,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said moments after McDavid scored the series-winning goal in overtime. “The team won 55 games and how many did he win? Most of them.”
To be fair, the entire team was a disappointment against the Oilers and Markstrom had little chance on many of the goals that escaped him. Inked for another four seasons, the 32-year-old Swede isn’t going anywhere, and fans should have faith he’ll return to form next year.
“I would go to war with that goaltender any day of the week,” said Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving in his end-of-year address.
Markstrom will be ready, even if he has no answers for the way things ended.
“I don’t have an explanation. Obviously, if I had it, I would have changed it after Game 1,” Markstrom said as his offseason began. “I think I need some more time to kind of sit on it and go back and re-watch it and study it. But whatever happened, it’s happened, and you have to move on, and you have to learn from it.
“I think it’s a sour taste and people are going to be hungry to come back next year.”
Backup – Dan Vladar
Plucking rookie goalie Dan Vladar out of a crowded Boston Bruins crease last summer, the Calgary Flames knew they were getting a talented young player.
He just needed some NHL seasoning. And pairing him with Markstrom made for the right mix. The dynamic duo was right there in contention for the William Jennings Trophy. The 24-year-old Vladar had a modest 2.75 GAA and .905 save percentage, but also earned a pair of shutouts in 19 starts.
Most importantly, Vladar earned an impressive 13-6-2 record. That accounted for more than a quarter of the team’s 111 points on the season.
And for a cap-friendly salary of $750,000 next season, Vladar offers a lot of bang for the buck.
Don’t expect the netminder tandem to change next season, in spite of some of the excitement over prospect Dustin Wolf.