There are going to be growing pains that come with the development of any young goaltender and Jacob Markstrom is no different. The 23 year old net minder has shown flashes of brilliance befitting his massive hype but he has also shown his age and inexperience with some shaky play. In his last three games Markstrom has begun to really find his groove displaying much more of the good than the bad. It seems like Markstrom is beginning to settle into his role as an NHL starter and as he has gotten more and more comfortable the results have begun to show.
Markstrom’s brief NHL season (10 games) can be broken down into three parts. Part one includes the two starts Markstrom made from Feb 22-24 when he was briefly called up from the AHL. The intent of this call up seemed to be to serve as a warning to the Panthers’ two struggling veteran keepers, and to reward Markstrom for his strong play in the minors. Markstrom played well in his two starts, both Panther losses, but was sent back to the minors shortly thereafter. In the two games, Markstrom stopped 65 of 71 shots for a .915 S% and a 3.05 GAA.
Part two spanned from March 5-12 where Markstrom made 5 starts following the injury to Jose Theodore. After Theo went down the Panthers made a conscious decision that they were going to ride Markstrom for the rest of the season for better or for worse and in doing so they would get an idea of what they really have in their top goaltending prospect. This period differs from part one because these games were the first that Markstrom played in as the Panthers “starting goalkeeper”. He knew he was going to get a lot of ice time and he knew he was going to get a chance to prove what kind of a player he is. Coming up from the AHL and making two spot starts is completely different from being a starting NHL goalie and dealing with the day to day grind that comes from that role.
In the five games Markstrom played in during this span, we saw him struggle a bit as he adjusted to his new role. Judging from the amount of early goals he gave up early, it seemed like Markstrom was having trouble getting into the games. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was lack of focus but what ever it was, the Panthers realized that it might take some time for Markstrom to adapt to his new role. During these games, Markstrom accumulated a record of 1-3-1, he had a .875 S% and a 3.41 GAA.
After Markstrom allowed three goals on thirteen shots in a losing effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 12th, the Panthers gave him some time off electing to start Scott Clemmensen in the next two games. The time off must have done Markstrom some good as when he made his next start on March 19th he looked like a completely different keeper. It appears that Markstrom’s last three games have been the beginning of part three, where Markstrom has gotten over the initial shock of playing in the NHL and can now focus on going about his business of keeping the puck out of the net. During these games Markstrom has stopped 111 of 114 shots for a save percentage of .974. His goals against average during that span is 1.00.
While Markstrom will not be able to keep those numbers up, it is clear that he is adjusting to the NHL game. Markstrom has tons of talent and now that he has gotten more comfortable with the NHL game, he will be able to relax and let that talent take over. Hopefully Markstrom will continue his strong play in net the rest of the season. If he can do that then the Panthers will have their goaltending situation locked down for years to come which would be a huge positive to take away from a season that has had a dearth of positives.