After a shaky first season with the Calgary Flames, Jacob Markstrom is proving to be the elite goaltender they were looking for in Year 2. If the season were to end today, the 31-year-old would very likely be a Vezina Trophy candidate, as he currently owns a 1.83 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .937 save percentage (SV%) and five shutouts.
Thanks in large part to Markstrom’s great play, the Flames have gotten off to a terrific 15-5-5 start this season, which not only has them first place in the Pacific Division, but tied with the Minnesota Wild for first in the Western Conference. As a result, many teams are beginning to take notice of both Markstrom’s play and the team’s overall success.
Markstrom Lock for Team Sweden
While it remains unknown whether or not NHL players will attend the Winter Olympics in 2022, it is a guarantee that if they do Markstrom will be part of the squad. Given his great start to the 2021-22 season, it seemed likely he would be the team’s starting netminder, though he would have some serious competition in Robin Lehner of the Vegas Golden Knights.
That will no longer be the case, as Lehner, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2018, announced he will not be attending the Olympics to focus on his mental health. He made the announcement on his personal Twitter account, and gave high praise to Markstrom in the process.
“Great performance tonight from our team,” Lehner’s tweet read. “Have to address I will not go to the Olympics. I’m very disappointed and it [is a] tough decision for me as it’s [a] once in [a] life time opportunity. Reality is that what [has] been said about how it’s going to be is not ideal for my mental health.
“Took [a] long time to make [a] decision with my psychiatrist and family. My well being [has to] come first and being locked down and not knowing what happens if you test positive is [too] much of a risk for me. Sweden will have a great team and Markstrom is a beast. Hope people understand.”
In recent years, Lehner has raised his stock dramatically and is now regarded as one of the better goalies in the entire game. He is also known for his loud personality, as he is not afraid to say what he thinks. He proved that this summer when he suggested that he was underpaid compared to other goalies in the league, and used none other than Markstrom as well as Sergei Bobrovsky’s contracts to try and help prove his point.
Many took it as a shot at both Markstrom and Sergei Bobrovsky at the time, but Lehner appears to have simply been suggesting that he deserved to get paid more than his current $5 million salary. Based on his latest comment on Twitter, it appears he has all the respect in the world for his fellow countryman in Markstrom.
Markstrom Back to Elite Status
After his rough 2020-21 season, there were many suggesting that the Flames may have been regretting the lucrative six-year, $6 million contract they chose to give Markstrom. He himself acknowledged in the offseason that he would be better going forward, and has certainly lived up to that. Amongst goalies who have started 10 or more games, his GAA ranks trails only Jack Campbell, while his SV% is tied for second with Ilya Shesterkin, and once again trails just Campbell.
During his last season with the Vancouver Canucks, Markstrom started to gain recognition as an upper class NHL goaltender, and it resulted in him being paid as such. Thankfully, for both himself and the team, he has reverted back to that same goalie, and as a result he has become the backbone for what could be a team to watch for in the Flames once the playoffs roll around.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.