Who's Better: Markstrom or Clemmensen?

Markstrom and Clemmensen have been dueling for #1. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Now that Jose Theodore is injured, the number one goaltender position is up for grabs for the next couple of weeks, at least.  The good thing for the Panthers is that our depth chart is perfectly capabale of handling this bump in the season’s road.  Scott Clemmensen, the resident back-up, has a solid record in relief of Theodore this year, and Jacob Markstrom, the freakishly athletic youngster, has shown flashes of brilliance both with the Panthers and the San Antonio Rampage.

But the only problem is that these two goalies have only shown brief images of their starting potential.  In the last two games against the Rangers and Devils, great saves were made, but suspect saves were given up.  Since this stretch of the season is so crucial for the Panthers, coach Kevin Dineen can’t fool around with the goalies.

Who should be getting the nod first over the other guy, Markstrom or Clemmensen?

Clemmensen’s start against the New York Rangers displayed many of the weaknesses and strengths of his game that define him.  In the first period he made a great diving glove save past an empty on Mike Rupp to keep the Rangers scoreless.  His tremendous effort, along with a little help by Shawn Matthias to delay Rupp for a second, kept the game scoreless.  Then only minutes later, Anton Stralman threw a weak wrist shot from the boards on the left side towards the net.  God only knows if Clemmensen didn’t see the puck, or just plain missed the save, but the seemingly harmless shot slid in past Clemmensen.

Those types of games have managed to define Clemmensen’s tenure with the Panthers.  He stands on his head one minute to keep the stonewall the other team, then turns right around and lets in a softy.  His sometimes erratic play has done little to endear himself to Panther fans.  Personally I have yet to quit on Clemmensen, but at the same time if another team comes knocking on Dale Tallon‘s door for a trade, I wouldn’t miss him too much.

The other goaltender vying for a consistent NHL role is Jacob Markstrom.  Dubbed “the Alien” by his teammates, Markstrom has incredible quickness and finesse for his size.  His 6’6″ frame stops all pucks up high, and his long legs cover almost the entire net when he goes into the butterfly.  When he puts all the pieces together, he will be an incredible goaltender.

The only issue is that he hasn’t quite done that yet.  Markstrom exhibits the exact same bug as Clemmensen.  He’ll go on a torrent of saves, sliding across the crease, hugging posts, and going spread eagle:  anything to stop the puck.  My favorite game of his was early in the season against Montreal, where he made every save late in the game to preserve a one goal win for the Panthers.  And this was back when everybody thought Montreal was good.

Then against the Devils, he showed those same flashes of brilliance, but coupled with a suspect goal.  Adam Henrique‘s and Ilya Kovalchuk‘s goals could not be blamed on the goaltender; they were unstoppable.  Patrik Elias‘ goal looked a little suspicious to me.  It looked like Markstrom short-armed a glove save because he felt another Devil coming in on his left side.  Markstrom flat-out whiffed on the glove save, and the Devils took their second lead of the game.  It was unfortunate, but Markstrom has to do a better job of ignoring those distractions and just making the save.

If I had to choose between one of them, I might have to lean more towards Clemmensen.  If my starting goalie was injured, I would err towards the side of caution and start the veteran over the slightly less proven Markstrom.  But Markstrom is not far behind, and one great start on his part could change my mind…

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