Flames remain in thick of playoff hunt thanks to goalie Jacob Markstrom

One quarter of the way through the regular season, Markstrom is the main reason why the inconsistent Flames remain in the thick of the NHL North Division playoff hunt.

Calgary GM invested $36 million US in netminder in free agency

Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) makes a save on Mark Scheifele (55) in Winnipeg on Feb. 1. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press)

When NHL free agency opened last fall, Brad Treliving invested a tidy $36 million US in former Vancouver Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom.

At the time, the Calgary Flames general manager received his share of criticism for spending that much dough — with a six-year term, no less — on a 31-year-old netminder likely on the back end of his career.

One quarter of the way through the regular season, Markstrom is the main reason why the inconsistent Flames (7-6-1) remain in the thick of the NHL North Division playoff hunt.

Brad Treliving, the son of Dragon's Den star Jim Treliving, seems to know when to splurge on a luxury item.

WATCH | Week 4 roundup of the NHL's North Division:

Week 4 roundup of the NHL's North Division


2 months ago
Rob Pizzo catches you up on the week that was in the all-Canadian division in the NHL. 2:54

"When Markie is out there, it's contagious throughout the team," says Calgary centre Sean Monahan. "A big save goes a long way. The bench gets up. The team kind of changes when you have a guy like that back there playing for you."

The Flames have arguably not had "a guy like that" in net since Finnish sensation Miikka Kiprusoff retired in 2013.

"He's won a lot of hockey games for us already, but we've got to help him out," Flames forward Dillon Dube says of Markstrom. "It is definitely nice to have him there, though, knowing that you can have a chance to win every single night.

A second-round (31st overall) pick of the Florida Panthers in 2008, the late-blooming Markstrom oozes quiet confidence in the blue paint. At 6-foot-6, 206 pounds, he swoops from side-to-side with ease and repeatedly repels high-grade chances from close range.

His stats line is evidence of his nightly heroics with a goals-against-average of 2.33 and a .925 save percentage.

"He's always keeping us in it," says Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane. "In every game, he makes big, timely saves when needed.

"It gives the whole team confidence that if we make a bad play or a turnover, he's always back there to be our last line of defence."

WATCH | Rob Pizzo on the NHL's biggest pests through the years:

9 biggest NHL pests of all-time...in 90 seconds


2 months ago
Matthew Tkachuk has spent the season driving players crazy, but he is far from the first to do it. Rob Pizzo looks at 9 other players who got under their opponents skin. 2:03

Markstrom produced more big saves than the highlight reel could possibly show on Saturday, stopping 43-of-45 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Canucks.

"Vancouver is a desperate team, and they threw a lot of pucks at the net and there's a lot of volume," Markstrom says. "But, you know, at the end of the day it's my job to stop the puck.

"It's frustrating for me to feel like I'm playing a really good game and then five minutes left not come up with one more save to at least take it to overtime and get a point and give the team a chance."

It's easy to see why Markstrom's teammates like him. The veteran is quick to heap praise on others, and he accepts responsibility for losses even when he has no business doing so.

"He's a good man to have around a team," says Flames head coach Geoff Ward. "He's got the mental makeup of a starting goaltender. He's pretty unflappable."

Markstrom's back-up David Rittich, an all-star in 2020, is attempting to rebuild his confidence, losing both of his starts this season. So if the No. 1 guy misses time due to injury, Calgary could be in trouble.

As long as Markstrom is healthy, the Flames are legitimate contenders for a playoff spot — even in the talent-laden North Division.

"He's proven to be durable over his career, so you know he can log a lot of minutes," Ward says. "He's earned the trust of our team very, very quickly because of his work ethic, because he's such a professional and because he gives our guys a chance to win."

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?