For the fourth time in five games, the Capitals are expected to see an opponent’s backup goaltender. But this is a whole different thing Tuesday night with the Florida Panthers’ Jacob Markstrom, who is set to make his first career NHL start.
And while the Caps’ knowledge of Markstrom is limited, he’s one of the top prospects in the world and provides a unique challenge. He’s 6-foot-6 and 196 pounds and has what analyst Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild called “goalie swagger.”
“He really feeds off making big saves,” Goldman said. “He’s not an over-aggressive goaltender with his positioning. He’ll play deep in his net and use his size.”
Markstrom has 40 minutes of NHL action under his belt and was not great. He entered a Jan. 23 game against the Devils in relief of Scott Clemmensen and allowed two goals on 14 shots.
Goldman said Markstrom doesn’t have great rebound control and that “he’s going to look a little scrambly out there,” against the Caps. That’s because Markstrom struggled with the speed of the NHL game against New Jersey, and Washington provides an even more high-powered offense.
“I wouldn’t expect him to have a great game,” Goldman said. “The faster that the caps kind of challenge him, approaching with speed, the tougher it’s going to be for Markstrom to control his movements.”
For his size, Markstrom has good lateral movement, according to Goldman. There’s also a good set of natural instincts there.
Marcus Johansson played with him during the 2009 and 2010 world junior championships and told WTOP’s Ben Raby: “I think he’s a very good goalie and from what I remember, he’s very well-rounded. A really hard competitor and he stood on his head in some of those games for us.”
Nicklas Backstrom grew up in the same town as Markstrom and didn’t want to divulge too much about how to beat him.
“I think it’s mostly like all the other goalies – traffic,” Backstrom said. “Maybe try to put it high.”
Goldman has some more astute, in-depth advice for how the Caps can have success against Markstrom.
“One way the Caps can really be effective against him will be by throwing shots at the net from all sorts of severe angles,” he said. “If they fire pucks into his pads and force rebounds, it will cause him to scramble, which will put him in frantic and uncomfortable situations.”
As if starting your first NHL game against the Caps at Verizon Center isn’t uncomfortable enough.