The NHL season officially begins today at 5:30 p.m. EST with the Nashville Predators versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. So, before that takes place, let’s go over our expectations for the last few Flames players: the goalies. For the third season in a row, the Flames are running it back with the same tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar. Last season was pretty much a disaster for the goalies—Markstrom completely fell off and Vladar didn’t take any steps forward statistically.
Jacob Markstrom went from a Vezina-calibre goalie in 2021–22 to a way below-average starter in 2022–23. In 59 games played, he posted 23 wins, a goals against average (GAA) of 2.92, a save percentage (SV%) of .892 and one shutout. All of these stats faced hard drops compared to the prior season.
According to Evolving-Hockey.com, based on the quality of shots Markstrom faced, he was expected to allow 168.29 goals. He allowed 166 which gave him a surprisingly positive goals saved above expected (GSAx) of +2.29. This placed him 29th out of 50 for goalies who played 25 games or more league-wide.
With a shaky preseason, I feel it’s based to be cautious with our expectations. Markstrom should be better than last season, but he likely won’t return to Vezina-calibre form. I expect Markstrom to post 22–30 wins, 2.70–2.80 GAA, .903–.910 SV%, and 2–6 GSAx.
Last season, Dan Vladar was a hard goalie to rate. At times he looked like a true starting goalie, while other times he played like a shaky backup. His stats don’t paint him a positive case. Vladar picked up 14 wins in the 27 games he played while also collecting a GAA of 2.83, a SV% of .895 and zero shutouts.
Using Evolving-Hockey again, Vladar was expected to allow 65.47 goals and he actually allowed 72 goals. This meant Vladar posted a GSAx of -6.53. He placed 44th of 50 in goalies who played 25 games or more across the league.
Despite the stats, Vladar definitely developed his game this past season. Because of this, he should have better stats by the end of this upcoming season. It’s difficult to predict how the Flames will utilize him this season so an amount of wins is hard to place an expectation for, but I feel 13–20 wins is fair. I expect to see an improvement in every other stat. 2.70–2.80 GAA, .900–.908 SV%, and -2 to 2 GSAx.
It would be an absolute failure by the Flames if Dustin Wolf doesn’t get a solid amount of time in the NHL this season. He’s shown time and time again that he is too good for the AHL level, winning multiple awards to showcase it. Because of this, I have to include Wolf in Flames goalie expectations.
How many games he gets will depend on if the Flames move Vladar. If they don’t, I think we can expect Wolf to play anywhere from 8–20 games while putting up good numbers. If Vladar is moved, Wolf will slot into the backup role. As a backup, I would expect Wolf to get 15–20 wins, posting 2.55–2.70 GAA, .905–.915 SV% and 2–5 GSAx.
With Jacob Markstrom coming off a big down year and Dan Vladar not having the greatest year statistically, my expectations are tempered. The Flames would expect to see improvement from both but shouldn’t expect any of them to take the league by storm. The best chance a Flames goalie has at turning heads this season would be if Dustin Wolf gets time as the backup, having higher expectations than the other two.
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