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He’s Back! Markstrom’s Rebound A Boon For Flames

Looking like his old self, Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom faces the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.



There’s no doubt the first quarter of the season was somewhat of a struggle for Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom. 

For whatever reason, he just didn’t have that same presence in the blue paint. At least not consistently. He made some big saves, but also uncharacteristic blunders. His decision making wasn’t as quick, puck tracking was questionable at times, and overall focus and timing just a fraction off. 

In a game that heavily favours the forwards, the reigning Vezina runner-up needs every advantage he can get. 

But he sure looked like the dominant goalie he’s expected to be during the recent road trip. And he gets the start for the third time in four games with the Vancouver Canucks in Calgary on Wednesday night.

With backup Dan Vladar taking over the bulk of the work for the better part of the last couple of weeks, Markstrom was able to practice hard but also let his brain rest. 

The intensity of mentally focusing on every minute of every game is an experience few can easily imagine. Other skaters spend more time on the bench than on the ice. The way the Flames play can make that focus even more challenging — with long periods without shots against. 

Fatigue on the mental side is just as important as the physical. 

It sure looks like the rest he took in while Vladar started six of eight has paid off for Markstrom. His starts in Columbus and Montreal were much more reminiscent of his incredible season of a year ago. Unfortunately, they were both losses. But he allowed just three goals against in regulation and an overtime session, and sported a combined save percentage of .953. 

In Monday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Canadiens, he was at .975 after stopping 37 of 38 over 65 minutes of play before the one-on-one showdown. 

That included seven stops during a four-on-three Habs powerplay in the OT that was essentially a shooting gallery for four minutes with Tyler Toffoli in the penalty box for a high stick that drew blood.

Markstrom’s individual performance was the highlight of a disappointing three-game road trip that featured Vladar’s shakiest recent performance in an overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. 

“I didn’t like the second goal. Didn’t like the fourth goal,” Sutter said softly after that loss. 

He started Markstrom for the second in three games after that. Only a pair of breakaway goals beat the veteran Swede in Columbus. 

Meanwhile, he’s not gotten much in the way of goal support from his teammates. Markstrom has given up eight goals against (excluding the shootout) in four straight losses, but the Flames have managed to score just three times in front of him. 

“You guys know what I think about our goalies,” Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter said Monday. “The same guys that ask me questions about how good he is are also the ones that say, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ There’s nothing wrong with him.”

Markstrom might agree now — even though he declared a couple of weeks ago that he “just sucks at hockey.”

That heat of the moment response to the media triggered a lot of questions about confidence. It would seem likely he gained more after his last couple of starts. 

“No, not really,” he said after the Montreal game when asked if he felt any different. “A loss is a loss. So I’ve gotta be better. I’ve gotta be better than the other goalie and I’ve gotta allow fewer goals than the other goalie. 

“That’s my job, and that’s what it’s about.”

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