Flames Need to Start Dan Vladar Versus Blackhawks

Though the Calgary Flames were able to pick up a win on Sunday night over the Anaheim Ducks, it didn’t come easy. After heading into the first intermission down 2-0, Darryl Sutter made the decision to pull Jacob Markstrom in favor of Dan Vladar, who went on to record the victory. While the move appeared to be the right one, it has created only more questions as to who will start in Tuesday night’s outing versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

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There is no question at this point as to who Sutter feels more comfortable with in between the pipes, as Markstrom has started nearly every game as of late. Because of that, however, he appears to be fatiguing, which is why Vladar needs to be in the starter’s crease against the Blackhawks.

Markstrom Needs Rest

Sutter has been known to ride his starting goaltenders hard in the past, and this season has been no different. While he won’t match his 63 appearances from a season ago, he isn’t very far off with 55 thus far. Despite the slightly lesser workload, however, he appears to be fatiguing as of late, having allowed 24 goals over his past seven starts.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

What makes things more difficult for the Flames when it comes to giving Markstrom some rest is that, as disappointing as he has been this season, Vladar hasn’t been much better. His 2.83 goals-against average (GAA) and .895 save percentage (SV%) are only slightly better than Markstrom’s 2.90 GAA and .890 SV% and have come against easier opponents.

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Based simply off of their overall talent level, logical wisdom says that Markstrom needs to continue to be the guy down the stretch. However, with a game against the Winnipeg Jets just a day after their contest against the Blackhawks, the Flames need to give Vladar the first start. He is capable of picking up a win versus one of the league’s worst teams, and Markstrom needs to be well-rested for what will be the biggest game of the season on Wednesday.

With the Nashville Predators losing on Monday to the Dallas Stars, the race for the final wild card position in the Western Conference seems to be between the Flames and Jets. At the time of writing this, the Jets hold a two-point lead over the Flames, while also having several more wins which would give them the upper hand if the two were tied at the end of the regular season.

If the Flames are able to win tonight, they would be tied with the Jets, who are not in action on Tuesday. Another win on Wednesday would put them two points ahead in the wild card race, and despite having played in one more game by that time, would seemingly give them the upper hand in their quest for a playoff berth.

Flames Have Much Easier Schedule Than Jets

After their two upcoming games against the Blackhawks and Jets, the Flames have just three games remaining on their schedule in the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks. While the Preds won’t be the easiest of matchups, they are a team that the Flames are very capable of beating. Meanwhile, the Jets will have four games after taking on the Flames, the first two coming against the Predators and Sharks and the final two against the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche.

Dan Vladar Calgary Flames
Dan Vladar, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

From a strength of schedule perspective, the Flames have the easier path to a playoff berth. That said, a loss on Wednesday to the Jets could perhaps be the final nail in the coffin for their 2022-23 season, which is why it is so important to start Vladar and have Markstrom rested and ready to go. If the Swedish netminder is at his best on Wednesday, the Flames may very well end up in the postseason after all.