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Flames Need Markstrom To Rediscover Vezina Finalist Form

More starts for Dan Vladar may be the plan but the Calgary Flames need Jacob Markstrom for any long-term success this season.



No disrespect to Dan Vladar but the Calgary Flames need their Vezina guy back. 

Vladar has been incredible, and it’s clearly time to give him more starts. 

That began as the team’s lengthy road trip was coming to a close. The Flames backup made his third start in four games with the nod against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. 

However, if the Calgary Flames are going to make a deep run in the playoffs – or even make the post-season — Markstrom is going to have to be a big reason why. 

Considering how many one-goal games the Flames have been involved in already, and what a struggle it has been for the offence on most nights, goaltending is critical. 

Despite Markstrom’s struggles with early goals this season, and some mental gaffes around his net, he’s a proven commodity. 

Vladar should be given a chance to show he can play more — jumping into a 1b role where head coach Darryl Sutter rides the hot glove in spurts. But what happens when the workload becomes too much for the young backstop?

The nuances in the goaltending position are beyond most of us, but there is a reason that top players separate themselves at the top level. Details, focus, and fitness among them. It’s the only role where the player is out there an entire game, and all those elements that make an elite goalie are interdependent. Fatigue influences mental focus, and can mess with the technical details, too. Likewise, a dip in focus can distract you from the details and ultimately affect confidence. 

In Markstrom’s case, it’s not totally clear what’s causing the issues, but decision making and hesitation has been part of the problem. That was the case during Thursday’s gift to Sean Monahan and company 13 seconds into the 2-1 loss. 

His confidence seems to have taken a massive hit from the second-round loss to the Edmonton Oilers in last spring’s playoffs. He’s on record saying that’s not the case but he hasn’t looked the same since. On a personal level, he’s on the brink of celebrating the arrival of his first son this season. Could that massive life event also be playing a role?

Regardless of what the cause is, the results led him to his most blunt and emotional public comments of the season, telling reporters he “just sucks at hockey right now” after the loss to the Habs, further fueling concern among a fanbase that’s been clamoring for more Vladar. 

More Vladar might be part of the solution, but Vladar as the starter isn’t. 

Markstrom’s Calgary Flames teammates know that, and came to their No. 1 goaltender’s defence on Friday. 

So did the coach. 

“Well, I don’t think he sucks at hockey,” Sutter said. “He has high expectations of himself. That’s a good thing. It’s better to have high expectations than be a 50-50 guy.”

Spoiler alert: none of the Flames would agree with Markstrom’s self-depreciating words. 

“Well, it’s a crazy comment,” said Blake Coleman. “He’s more than earned everyone’s respect in our room and he’s been the backbone of our room for a long time. 

“He’s a competitor. He wants to be the best and he wants to be at his best every game. It’s a good sign when guys take responsibility on themselves and don’t make excuses and look for other people to get the job done. 

“I have a breakaway, we have a couple of three-on-ones, things like that. You put those in it’s a completely different story today. We’re not having any conversations about our goaltending.”

Rasmus Andersson wasn’t happy it was even a topic, looking forward to moving on to another topic after a few questions about Markstrom. 

“We have all the confidence in the world in Marky, there’s no doubt about that. He proves time and time again how good he is,” Andersson said, pointing to the lack of goal support from the skaters in front of Markstrom. “You can’t’ win a lot of games when you score one goal. 

“In my opinion he’s a top two, top three goalie in the league. He’s an unbelievable guy and an unbelievable player. Let’s talk about something else.”

As far as a plan goes, Sutter isn’t telling. But rest assured he has one. It’s probably focused on … more rest. 

“That’s not for public discussion. You don’t talk about that publicly very much, or you shouldn’t I don’t think that’s the right way of going about it,” Sutter said when asked what he plans to do.

“Marky had two full days with no ice, and I think three full practices between games. I’d say that’s time off.”

He mentioned working with the goalie coach on details and video, but also said you need the time to do it right. 

That might mean a lot more Vladar. At least while he’s looking as good as he has lately. 

“That’s why you have two goalies, just supporting each other and being positive,” Vladar said.

“Whatever happens, he’s still a great goalie and a great guy and he cares. I think that’s why he said that. 

“It’s not an easy thing to do but I think he’s on the right track to get those results soon.”

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