The Calgary Flames finally exorcised their opening night demons on Thursday night by beating the Colorado Avalanche in the first game of the season.
They look to continue that trend of ridding themselves of more demons on Saturday night when they face the team that eliminated them last season: the Edmonton Oilers.
There is no doubt that the Flames are hoping to enact some justice on the Oilers for last season’s defeat. The Flames had multiple leads, plenty of opportunities to win games, but simply got beat by the better team and better player in Connor McDavid.
That being said, a huge hole in the Flames’ armour during that playoff series was the performance of Jacob Markstrom. One of the team’s MVPs all season—and especially during their first round match-up against the Dallas Stars—was just not himself against the Oilers.
Rumours swirled of a potential injury sustained in a wild Game 1, but Markstrom remained steadfast in his denial of that excuse.
He just simply has a harder time against the Oilers.
Blame it on McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, blame it on the Oilers exacting revenge over Markstrom not signing a contract with them back in 2020, or blame it on sheer luck (or the lack thereof).
Markstrom just isn’t the same against the Oilers, and the Flames need that to change:
Since joining the Flames in 2020, Markstrom has played the Oilers a total of thirteen times in the regular season and five playoff contests. His numbers are less than ideal:
|Rest of League||0.923||2.15|
In his thirteen games against the Oilers he posted a 0.880 SV% and a GAA of 3.67, which is significantly worse when compared to the rest of the NHL over that same time period. He holds a record of 6–7–0, and one shutout, over those thirteen games; easily one of his worst performances against teams in the NHL.
Things get even worst in the 2022 playoffs, despite a smaller sample size:
To have such a gap between the Dallas series, in which he was the team’s best player, and the Edmonton series makes you think there is just awry going on there.
Edmonton generates a wealth of high-danger chances—thanks to McDavid and Draisaitl—and during last year’s playoffs Markstrom held a 0.705 HDSV%. For every ten HDCA, Markstrom is letting in three goals. That just doesn’t work. Of course you could attribute some of that to the lack of Chris Tanev during that series, since the Flames allowed almost the same number of HDCA during five games as they did during seven against the Stars.
The difference? Markstrom held a 0.915 HDSV% during that series.
Something is in the water against the Oilers.
The Solution to Markstrom’s woes
One easier solution would be to play Dan Vladar against the Oilers moving forward, but that is highly unlikely and also a huge disrespect to your number one goaltender in Markstrom.
It’s clear that the Oilers have Markstrom’s number and it’s probably going to need some more game time for him to figure it out. With just three games against the Oilers this regular season, it’s not much time to do so.
If the Flames want to go on a deep playoff run, they will most likely have to go through Edmonton. Their long-term success rides extremely highly on the shoulders of Markstrom being able to finally figure out those annoying Oilers.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire