When Jacob Markstrom was signed to a huge six-year contract by the Calgary Flames just before the 2020–21 season, the hope was for Markstrom to finally provide stability and quality in the crease—something the organization desperately lacked since 2013.
His first season with the team in 2020–21 did not live up to the hype, but Markstrom has completely redeemed himself this season. He currently sits in fifth in the league for GAA at 2.17, fifth in SV% at .925, and first in shutouts with eight. He’s a bonafide candidate to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender, and will almost surely be a finalist once the season ends at the end of April.
Markstrom has arguably been the Flames’ best player so far this season, and is proving his worth night in and night out. Using the wonderful data on HockeyViz.com, let’s take a closer look at how Markstrom is making saves this season, where he’s been beatable, and what to expect from him as the season goes on.
Markstrom’s saves by shot type
Plain and simple, it has been hard to beat Markstrom this season. On every single shot type, he has stopped more pucks than expected and has been excellent from high danger locations. The chart below shows Markstrom’s saving results this season.
Wrist shots and snap shots
On wrist shots and snap shots, Markstrom has saved 8.4 goals above expected and has faced 1197 of these shots at all situations this season. You can see on the chart above that he is excellent at stopping shots from high danger zones right around the front of the net and up through the slot.
However, he has a tendency to get beaten on wrist/snap shots that come from his blocker side around the faceoff dot. This spot is usually defended by the right side defender, which for the Flames would be Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, and Erik Gudbranson.
On slapshots, Markstrom has saved 2.2 goals above expected on 200 total slapshots. The areas where Markstrom normally gets beaten are in the mid-slot right between the dots, the high slot near the blueline, and on his glove side from the faceoff dot up. These areas are not strong trends though, just around 2% more likely to result in a goal off a slapshot than other areas. On slapshots, Markstrom has been quite steady from all areas of the ice.
Jumping to backhands, Markstrom has been tremendous this season, with 4.3 goals above expected on 112 backhands. They have all come from right around the net in high-danger areas as expected, and Markstrom has been a significantly above average goalie on these shots from all areas. It’s very hard to beat Markstrom on a backhand this season.
Tips and deflections
Wrapping up the shot types are tips and deflections, which has really been the only way scorers have beaten Markstrom this season. He’s saved 0.5 goals above expected and has faced 124 tips/deflections so far. On this particular shot type, there is a very strong skew. When the redirection comes from the blocker side, Markstrom is actually very good at making the save. Compared to average, he’s significantly above average at stopping redirections from this area.
However, when the deflection comes from the glove side around the bottom part of the faceoff circle, Markstrom has a really hard time making those tough stops. That section of the ice is usually defended by any one of the defencemen depending on the offensive setup, so it’s hard to identify the prime suspect on defence here without looking more closely at each goal.
That being said, this is an area of improvement for the defencemen; if they can do a better job taking away the stick sticks of the opponent’s net-front forward when they’re on the right side of the zone, that would take away the number one shot that Markstrom has been beatable on this season.
Markstrom is still elite, despite his flaws
No player is perfect, and Markstrom is no exception. Despite his tendency to get beaten on deflections from the glove side and wrist/snap shots on the blocker side, Markstrom has been an incredible goalie for the Flames so far this season.
As the calendar intensifies and the stakes get higher and higher, expect Markstrom’s load to be managed a bit more purposefully by the coaching staff, some how starting with him resting against the Colorado Avalanche of all teams.
Markstrom’s the most important player on the team and he’ll need to be at his absolute best come playoff time.
Ahead of tonight’s contest, the bookies have predicted the Flames as the favourite, with Betway Sports pricing the Calgary Flames at -135 and the Edmonton Oilers at +230 to win the game in regulation, with an overtime decision being priced at +360.