Calgary Flames 2021-22 Player Report Cards: Jacob Markstrom

The Calgary Flames made a big splash a couple of years ago when they signed Jacob Markstrom to a free agent contract worth a whopping $36 million over six seasons. At the time, I welcomed the move as the long-awaited solution to a decade of goaltending ineptitude. This is an organization that hadn’t iced a true number one netminder since Mikka Kiprusoff suited up between the pipes, and I believed that “Marky” was his heir apparent. It certainly didn’t start out that way.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Markstrom’s 2020-21 season was an uneven campaign that saw the 6-foot-6 Swede start strong, suffer through a real rough patch after a major on-ice collision and concussion, then finish up with some very solid play. It wasn’t the steady-eddy performance Flames fans were hoping for, but I guess he was saving that for his second year playing with the flaming C on his chest.

Markstrom’s 2021-22 Season Was One of the Best in Franchise History

One of the knocks against Markstrom in recent years was his ability to stay healthy for an entire season. His career-high games played was only 60, which he posted twice while playing for the Vancouver Canucks. Outside of a minor injury that kept him out of a back-to-back midway through the year, he remained healthy all season, suiting up for a career-high 63 games.

Related: Flames Have the Best Goaltending Duo in the NHL

Markstrom had a blazing start to the 2021-22 season that immediately put him in the Vezina Trophy conversation. The 32-year-old posted four shutouts in his first 12 games. To put that into context, he only had four career shutouts in ten seasons before signing with Calgary. This season, we finally saw what all of the fuss was about, as the Flames enjoyed having a number one who could steal games and keep his team in contests when they were outplayed.

Markstrom finished a sensational season with an impressive 37-15-9 record, posting career highs in wins, shutouts, goals-against average (GAA), and save percentage (SV%). His nine shutouts led the NHL and were the second-most in a season in franchise history, falling one goose egg shy of Kiprusoff’s 10 back in 2005-06. Marky’s regular-season performance made him a slam-dunk finalist for the Vezina Trophy, and it validated the team’s decision to go after him in October 2020.

Markstrom’s Second Round Playoff Performance Sours an Outstanding Regular Season

After the Flames finished tops in the Pacific Division, they were the undisputed favorites in their first-round series against the Dallas Stars. However, a funny thing happened during the seven-game slog against the wild-card team from Texas – Calgary’s big guns stopped scoring, and it was up to their goaltender to bail them out. Outside of the otherworldly play of the Stars’ Jake Oettinger, Markstrom posted the best netminding stats of the first round, and it looked like he was primed to backstop his team to a long playoff run.

Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom makes a save on Roope Hintz of the Dallas Stars (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom makes a save on Roope Hintz of the Dallas Stars (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Fresh off an opening round when Markstrom posted a sparkling .943 SV% that broke the franchise record for the highest save percentage in a single playoff series, the second round proved to be the 32-year-old netminder’s undoing. The Edmonton Oilers’ top guns pumped 15 goals past him during the first three games of the Western Conference semifinals, and the Flames’ number one never really recovered.

While the defensive play in front of him wasn’t as tight as it was in the Dallas series, Markstrom failed to come up with timely saves that could have turned the momentum in Games 2, 3, and 5 – which were all tied up in the third period. I have written about the Flames’ coaching staff possibly overplaying their starter in the regular season, and I think that could have played a factor in Markstrom’s drop-off in play as the playoffs progressed.

Markstrom’s Final Grade for the 2021-22 Season

I debated whether I should grade Markstrom only on his regular-season performance or include the Flames’ 12 postseason games as well. Because the NHL awards only look at a player’s regular season, I figured that’s the way I should do it as well.

That being said, I can’t think of any reason not to give Markstrom full marks for a 2021-22 campaign that exceeded all of my expectations after a decidedly mediocre start to his tenure in Cowtown. My only hope is that the Flames take a hard look at the 6-foot-6 Swede’s regular-season load management and decide if they need to keep their prime puck stopper a little fresher for another potentially lengthy playoff run in 2022-23.


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