Markstrom finding his game as Flames fight for playoff spot
In the midst of a playoff push that has seen a renaissance over the past four days, the Calgary Flames are rallying around their goaltender.
After struggling through the first three quarters of the season, Jacob Markstrom propelled his team to two victories that have vaulted the Flames (29-23-13, 71 points; third in wild-card race) back into the postseason mix in the Western Conference.
Markstrom, a Vezina finalist last season, is coming off his first shutout of the season, stopping all 40 shots in Minnesota as the Flames eked out a 1-0 shootout victory over the Wild thanks to an overturned overtime goal. Markstrom’s teammates mobbed him after the win.
“The win was huge,” Markstrom said on Thursday, immediately crediting forwards Nazem Kadri and Tyler Toffoli for their shootout goals.
The Swede brushed off the post-game mob he endured.
“I don’t know,” he said, wryly. “I think guys were sick and tired of going to [Tyler] Toffoli after the Dallas game. They wanted a new guy to go to.”
Markstrom, of course, was referencing Toffoli’s last-second, game-winning breakaway goal the previous night in Dallas. The goalie was also on his game against the Stars, stopping numerous high-danger chances and managing the game by knocking down dump-ins and controlling the pace of play by limiting defensive zone faceoffs.
“He’s been our best player for five or so games now,” Dillon Dube said of Markstrom. “That shootout game, he looked loose, he looked calm. He was great. It’s huge for us to see that and huge for him. We’re all excited for him and now we’ve got to rally around him, and we know he’s going to keep bringing his game.”
It’s a far cry from previous stretches of the season when the goalie had a tendency to allow a goal on the first shot of the game. There were times when goals would squeak through, despite him being in a good position, and the occasional lapse in judgment in playing the puck.
Markstrom publicly proclaimed he “sucked at hockey” in December. He acknowledged his struggles on Thursday, saying that he has to be better. Now, the Markstrom that Calgary fans have been clamouring for appears to have arrived.
“It just takes time, for any type of player,” Kadri said. “When you’re not on your game, you feel responsible. You feel like you’re letting everybody down. But it’s nice to see us score a few goals to give him some help also. He’s been lights-out.”
Since coming to Calgary as a free agent in 2020, his teammates have never once questioned his work ethic or competitiveness. Markstrom has been credited with helping change the culture of the team, and is an important veteran leader.
“He’s always working hard,” forward Elias Lindholm said.
“Stand-up guy,” defenceman MacKenzie Weegar assessed.
Lindholm is one of Markstrom’s best friends and was a big reason the goaltender ultimately signed in Calgary. He had a theory as to why Markstrom looks more at ease.
“He had a kid, so maybe that,” he said.
Markstrom’s partner, Amanda, recently gave birth to the couple’s first son.
“It makes me miss home more when I’m on the road, for sure,” Markstrom said. “Everything’s taken care of back home, so I’m in good hands.”
The math is not in Calgary’s favour, and they are more likely than not to miss the postseason.
They are chasing the Winnipeg Jets, who are four points ahead and sit in that coveted wild-card spot. Nashville is coming on strong as well, despite having traded key pieces in Mattias Ekholm and Tanner Jeannot.
Still, there is reason for hope and belief at the Saddledome. Markstrom appears to have found his game, and the Flames have one of the easiest schedules the rest of the way. They play the Bad-for-Bedard-contending Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, and San Jose Sharks a combined seven times in their final 17 games, as well as a crucial contest against the Jets.
Still, Markstrom is not looking too far ahead.
“We had a big road trip, but we need to keep going, and we need to stay focused on the task ahead,” Markstrom said. “You can’t celebrate anything because we haven’t done anything.”
Teammates, however, are celebrating the goalie’s recent run.
“All year long, his mindset hasn’t changed,” Weegar said. “He knows what type of goalie he is. I’m glad we’re getting to see the real Marky.”
Switzerland win LGT World Women’s Curling Championship 2023
Defending champions Switzerland beat Norway by 6-3 in Sunday afternoon’s gold medal final at the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship 2023.
This was a fourth successive world title for skip Silvana Tirinzoni, fourth player Alina Paetz and second Carole Howald. For Paetz and Howald it is a sixth world women’s championship title.
After blanking the first end, Switzerland’s fourth player Alina Paetz opened the scoring with a single point in the second end when she played a raise take-out.
The Swiss still led by 1-0 in the fourth end when Norway’s fourth player Kristin Skaslien had a complete miss on an attempt to blank the end and gave up a steal of one point to double Switzerland’s lead to 2-0.
In the fifth end, Skaslien made amends with a draw to put two points on the board for Norway, that levelled the score at 2-2.
After another blank end in the sixth, Switzerland took the lead again in the seventh end when Paetz brought her last stone draw inside three Norwegian stones to score one (3-2).
Norway levelled again at 3-3, in the eighth end when Skaslien played a hit to promote one of her own stones into scoring position.
In the ninth end, Switzerland’s Paetz played her final draw precisely onto the button and inside three Norwegian stones, to score one and nudge her team into a 4-3 lead.
In the tenth end, Norway’s Skaslien had a draw to tie the game and force an extra end, but her shot came up short to hand Switzerland a steal of two points and a 6-3 win.
The gold medal winning Swiss team are: skip and third player Silvana Tirinzoni, fourth Alina Paetz, second Carole Howald and lead Briar Schwaller-Huerlimann, supported by their coach Pierre Charette.
The silver medal winning Norwegian team are: skip Marianne Roervik, fourth Kristin Skaslien, second Mille Haslev Nordbye, lead Martine Roenning and alternate Maia Ramsfjell, supported by their coach Rune Steen Hansen.
Gold medal game result
Engage with the World Curling Federation about the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship 2023 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Weibo and be searching the hashtags #WWCC2023 #curling
Despite 17 birdies, Rory McIlroy needs two trips to ‘friendly’ No. 18
Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele were deadlocked in their quarterfinal match Saturday afternoon at Austin Country Club when both players yanked their tee balls at the par-4 finishing hole.
The closest ball had found the left rough, just 74 yards from the hole but with a large tree blocking a straightforward wedge shot.
McIlroy was pretty sure that ball was his.
“I was walking up there expecting it to be a TaylorMade ball and I saw a Callaway on it, and I was as surprised as anyone, because mine was further left than Xander’s off the tee,” McIlroy said. “Look, you need a little bit of fortune in these things, and that was a bit of luck for me today.”
McIlroy’s tee ball had trundle farther down the hill, about 30 yards away. Schauffele, meanwhile, was forced to punch his second shot under and to the left of the tree. He missed the birdie chip, leaving McIlroy, who had pitched to 12 feet, a chance to win a match on No. 18 for the second time in one day.
And McIlroy buried it to advance to the semifinals of the final WGC-Dell Match Play.
“It’s sort of been friendly to me all week,” McIlroy said of the last hole, which he’s now played in 4 under in three trips this week. He eagled after driving the green with a 375-yard shot in Thursday’s group-stage win over Denny McCarthy.
“Yeah, hopefully if I can play a little bit better, I don’t need to play 18 tomorrow. But we shall see.”
McIlroy was certainly joking. His closing birdie against Schauffele marked his 17th of the day. He carded nine of those in a 2-up victory over Lucas Herbert in the Round of 16.
“Both ends of the bag are working pretty well,” McIlroy said, “and the stuff in the middle is not too bad, either.”
McIlroy has seemed to get everyone’s best shot so far, and that figures to continue in his semifinal bout opposite Cameron Young on Sunday morning.
Young played 32 holes in 12 under on Saturday.
Hab posts video showing frustration with punishment for Bruin – CTV News Montreal
Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman took to social media Friday to vent his frustration with a decision by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
“So I’ve gotten a two-game suspension for cross-checking a guy in the back of the helmet. A full-blown intentional cross-check to the face? One game. Hmm,” a bloody-chinned Hoffman says in a video shared online.
Hoffman is referring to the one-game suspension given to Boston Bruins winger A.J. Greer, who cross-checked Hoffman in the face during the first period of the Bruins-Canadiens game Thursday night.
The incident occurred after the players slashed each other’s sticks leading up to a faceoff.
Greer was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct. Hoffman was able to complete the game sporting a bloodied face and a mask covering the injured area.
In addition to the suspension, Greer will forfeit US$4,121.62 in salary.
The Canadiens lost the game 4-2.
With files from The Canadian Press.
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