That harsh memory way back in the spring… it lingers.
Just one look into the steely-eyed glare of the Flames’ No.-1 puck-stopper and it’s clear what’s fueling him now.
“Quick,” you said Jacob Markstrom when asked if last year’s trip to the second round helped feed that ravenous craving. “Not at all. No satisfaction.
“Only a sour taste.
“The way we played throughout the regular season, we expected more from ourselves and each other. But what I see here, today, is a group that wants it. We want to get back and be better than we were last season. It started on Day 1. Day 2, the same.
“Now we know what it takes to win one round. But we don’t know what it takes to win two rounds. We’ve got to get back, be stronger, be better, and play more consistent. That’s what it’s going to take.”
Markstrom, who announced on Instagram recently that he and partner, Amanda Östervall, will become parents later this year, knows that opportunities like that don’t come around often. It’s why, at age 32 – and with the season opener still three weeks away – he’s officially locked in.
You see, some players like to portray two versions of themselves – an in-season and off-season flavor.
The off-season variety typically keeps things light. They can stray from the humdrum and cover topics in the media that offer a glimpse into their personal lives. But come September, when the cameras are rolling and the games are again played under the bright lights of the Scotiabank Saddledome, the switch flips and they enter a state of perpetual focus.
Markstrom is just that.
Polite, pleasant, and wonderfully insightful – but so insatiably focused, it reminds you of the kind of competitor he is.
And when he saw the handiwork of Flames GM Brad Treliving over the summer, re-shaping the roster and bringing some of the best the game has to offer on board, he couldn’t help but jump back into game mode, even earlier than usual .
“That’s the thing,” Markstrom explained. “Obviously what happened in the first part of the summer, that happened.
“But there’s always a second part.
“It’s a different group now. We have some key pieces that are new to the organization, but have a lot to offer. Ultimately, we need everybody on the same page and going in the same direction. Right now, it looks good – both on paper with the personnel we have, the character they bring, and we’ve seen in the practices so far.
“I know everyone’s excited about what we have.
“Now, it’s up to us to show it.”
Markstrom has a history with one of the new recruits, having played two seasons with Jonathan Huberdeau when he was a member of the Florida Panthers nearly a decade ago.
He was understandably thrilled when “Huby” arrived, along with stud defenseman MacKenzie Weegarback in July.
Huberdeau not only adds a 115-point dimension to the Flames forward corps, he’s renowned as a leader and is already making an impression on those just getting to know him.
Markstrom isn’t surprised.
“He’s a great guy,” the goalie said with a smile. “It’s one of those additions that you know is going to be a great fit. Not only for us and the Flames, but for him, personally, as well.
“He has a presence and that poise with the Puck that you can’t teach. Plus … his decision-making. It’s not often he makes the wrong choice. That’s going to be great, and also in the locker-room, too. He’s an easy-going, light, happy guy that gives a lot of energy. That’s going to be huge for us.”
Markstrom, who is coming off a career year – posting a 37-15-9 record, along with a .922 save percentage and a microscopic 2.22 goals-against average en route to being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy – is equally excited about Weegar.
While he never got the chance to play with him in Florida, he’s heard good things.
And considering a run for the Jennings Trophy is one of the Flames’ team goals, further bolstering the blueline should only aid in their pursuit of keeping the goals against down.
“Obviously, it takes some time to get used to the new players, but I think the system we have this year is the same, and the core of our team is the same, too,” Markstrom said. “I’m expecting us to have good communication and find that Chemistry right away.
“It’s always important for the goalies and the D to work well together – when it’s going well between the two, you get a feel of where the shots are going to come from, where your defensemen are going to be, and who they’re going to be covering.
“It’s nice that we have Ras (Andersson), (Noah) Hanifin, Tanny (Chris Tanev) and (Nikita) Zadorov, who signed for a few more years. It’s big to have a core like that, because the consistency from year to year makes just as much difference as bringing in such a high-profile guy like MacKenzie.
“It all has to work together.
“And that’s what we’re working on in camp.”