It’s no secret around the NHL and the community that the Panthers are better than years past. They’ve got scoring, effort, and consistency. As an added plus, we’ve been getting solid goaltending from both our netminders, Jose Theodore and Jacob Markstrom. At this point of the year, I have nothing bad to say about Dineen just yet. However, I noticed something in the schedule recently that was interesting to me.
One could argue that the 21-year-old Markstrom has been slotted against bigger, tougher, more offensively-minded teams. With only a couple of NHL games under his belt and only a couple of preseason stints, Markstrom wouldn’t seem like the ideal player in high pressure situations. That role might be better applied to Theodore, a league veteran who played big games every night in Montreal.
But that’s not how Dineen is doing it. Look at the teams they each have started against:
@ Washington Capitals
@ Montreal Canadiens
@ Ottawa Senators
vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Compare that murderers’ row of opponents with his counterpart.
@ New York Islanders
@ Pittsburgh Penguins
vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
@ Tampa Bay Lightning
vs. Buffalo Sabres
vs. New York Islanders
@ Buffalo Sabres
vs. Winnipeg Jets
There certainly is a big difference. Markstrom has played against teams with explosive offenses this year, as well as in hostile territories like the Bell Centre, Verizon Center, and Scotiabank Place. You would think that Dineen would want to keep Markstrom out of those environments: those buildings are loud and the team who play there do not let up.
Theodore’s schedule is no cakewalk, but it is a little skewed. Those Penguins that he played against were without both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Otherwise, Theodore hasn’t played a lot of those tough matchups. His worst might have been against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.
My point is this: wouldn’t you assume that Markstrom would be starting against the Jets and Islanders of the world before going straight after the toughest teams in the league in his first career starts? The answer is yes, so I’m fascinated why Dineen has the situation in reverse. If Theodore is indeed the starting goalie in Sunrise, then why is he playing the big games? No idea, but maybe this a harbinger of things to come for the Panthers.
Considering how well Markstrom has played in these high-intensity games, I might guess that he has wrestled the full-time starting job away from Theodore. Now we have a goalie situation closer to the DeBoer years: Jose is 1A, Jacob is 1B. Not a problem, I say. It was always a plus when you confidently pick the hot goalie over the cooler one.
However, if Markstrom can continue to illicit trust from the head coach Dineen, he might just be the team’s full time #1 goalie by the end of the year. For now, we’ll just have to see.
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