Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter made a bold move for the Battle of Alberta.
What happens tonight on the scoresheet probably determines whether it was the right one or not.
Whether he’s protecting his top netminder from the Oilers anomaly, or true to his notion of getting the other guy more games, Sutter threw Dan Vladar into the starting slot for Game 2 of the new NHL season on Saturday.
Some have suggested coming in that Jacob Markstrom’s noted struggles against the Edmonton Oilers offered this early Hockey Night in Canada tete-a-tete as an opportunity to see if Vladar has the same issues.
Others — myself included — have said that sitting Markstrom may be worse for his confidence than the risk of him getting lit up again.
In a matter of hours, we’ll find out.
From the coach’s perspective, it’s all about more action for Vladar.
“There’s 26 weeks in our season and we want to make sure that Vladar gets a game a week,” Sutter told reporters in Edmonton Saturday morning. “It’s just the way this month works. When Marky was under the weather last game, we thought about playing (Vladar) against Colorado and then Marky here. But he chose Game 1, so this is Game 2.”
Both opponents are top notch, but Markstrom’s career numbers against Connor McDavid and Co. are not very good.
The Flames goaltender addressed that on Friday but likely already knew he wouldn’t be starting against his nemesis. That probably explains the relatively unusual sharpness to his answers around the team’s troubles with the Oilers.
You wonder what’s better for his mental makeup — avoiding a potential increase in sample size suffering, or not showing the faith he can redeem himself.
Markstrom made 22 saves in a 5-3 win over the Avs in the season-opener at the Saddledome.
Vladar made 19 starts for the Calgary Flames last season. He won 13 games with a 2.75 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
The two mix well together and have become fast friends since Vladar joined the Flames last season.
“We have a great relationship. He’s pushing me, I’m pushing him and I know how it is to come up and not play a ton of hockey,” Markstrom said during the preseason. “But whenever he got in, it was impressive. He didn’t miss a beat. He puts in a lot of extra work.”
The hard work has paid off. At least it did in the preseason, where Vladar was arguably the sharpest member of the Flames.
“Before every game, we usually talk somewhat about opponents, and he’s got questions and I’ve got questions and we talk about situations. That’s how I want it to be, and I think it should be, because that’s what gonna benefit the team.”
We’ll see if Sutter’s move benefits the team tonight.