Yes, the Capitals probably should have beaten the Florida Panthers 5-0 or 6-0 on Tuesday. The reason they didn’t was a 21-year-old goaltender making his first career NHL start.
Jacob Markstrom got the loss but made 29 saves and showed a little taste of why he’s one of the top goalie prospects around.
“He had a solid game for us – gave us a chance to win,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “Not the way you want your debut to go but certainly happy that he got his first NHL game and he worked as hard as he could. He didn’t get a heck of a lot of support.”
That’s an understatement and a half from Dineen, who saw a tired team get outworked and outclassed by the Caps. But Markstrom was an impressive bright spot for Florida.
And while Dineen (officially) kept his starting goaltender decision between Markstrom and Jose Theodore secret until game time, the young Swede knew a day ahead of time and had a chance to let the anticipation build up.
“I don’t think nerves. It’s just you’re so excited to finally get the first start,” Markstrom said Tuesday night. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It was a lot of fun to know you could start today.”
The Caps scored only two goals on him (Jason Chimera’s was an empty-netter). One came on the power play, courtesy of Marcus Johansson, who played two seasons with Markstrom on Sweden’s world junior team.
Asked about then knowing all of Markstrom’s secrets, Johansson laughed.
“He’s a good goalie overall. I don’t think he’s got many weaknesses,” Johansson said. “He’s a great competitor and he never quits on the puck. I got nothing bad to say about that guy.”
After his performance against the Caps, few people do.