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Devils Goaltending with Jacob Markstrom Add Best Since…?

The Devils goaltending tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Jake Allen is the best crease presence New Jersey has had since… Martin Brodeur? Cory Schneider?

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Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) watches the Dallas Stars on offense during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Dallas. // Photo Courtesy of Boston Hockey Now (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe)

Jacob Markstrom couldn’t sleep on Tuesday night. The Swedish goaltender’s agent, Patrick Morris, explained to him a deal with the New Jersey Devils was close, giving Markstrom excited nerves the night before the Devils trade with the Calgary Flames was made official. Now that the veteran netminder is officially New Jersey bound, adding Markstrom with Jake Allen already in the fold gives the Devils goaltending their best crease presence in a long, long time.

“I got a call late [Tuesday] saying [a trade] was getting close,” Markstrom explained to the media just hours after the Devils trade was made official. “I’ve kind of been staying out of it. Right before we were going to bed, me and my family, I got the call that it was getting close. Then it was not a little tough to sleep. But [Wednesday] morning, we got some paperwork done, it got finalized not too long ago when everybody woke up over in North America. I was just home running some errands and buying some stuff for Swedish midsummer that’s coming up here.”

The Devils’ acquisition was a long time coming. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald identified Markstrom as his guy back in February when the 34-year-old netminder originally waived his no-move clause before the deal fell apart at the finish line. Fitzgerald, however, remained determined to bring Markstrom to New Jersey.

Markstrom will join Jake Allen — who he admits he doesn’t know on a personal level — but already had good things to say about his new Devils goaltending partner.

“I don’t know [Allen] on a personal level, but, I had players that I’ve played with and they’ve played with him. You always ask about [how] the goalie is,” Markstrom started. “Obviously, we were in the same draft. And I think we were picked No.31 and No.32 if I’m not mistaken. He was going to St. Louis, and I went to Florida. But, it’s exciting. I got a text from him already.

“I think throughout my career, it’s important that both [goalies] always push each other, enjoy to each other, and battle with each other. That’s how you build, and you become a better goalie for that. That’s on and off the ice and it makes the team better to work together. I think Jake is a great goalie, I can’t wait to work with him and try to win as many games as possible.”

Actually, Markstrom was selected 31st overall in the 2008 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers, while Allen was taken 34th by the St. Louis Blues, but you get the point. It’s no question that the tandem of Markstrom and Allen is the best Devils goaltending presence New Jersey has had in a long time.

In the last 10 years, the Devils have plowed through 20 goaltenders since Martin Brodeur’s last game in New Jersey.

Most recently, the Devils ended the 2023-24 season with Allen and Kaapo Kahkonen, a surefire upgrade over what the Devils had before the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline in Vitek Vanecek, Nico Daws, and Akira Schmid.

However, Fitzgerald felt it necessary to acquire Allen and Kahkonen after the trio of Vanecek, Daws, and Schmid failed to provide adequate goaltending, posting a combined .893 SV% this season.

The Devils’ eras can be broken up by who they deployed in net. Martin Brodeur is obviously the bar. He provided elite goaltending and helped New Jersey claim three Stanley Cups as a perennial playoff team. Cory Schneider also provided the Devils elite goaltending, however, played behind a mostly bottom-dwelling Devils team who unfortunately wasted his prime. Otherwise, the Devils’ goaltending luck outside of Brodeur and Schneider has been tough.

With Markstrom in the fold and Allen either working with him in either a 1A/1B tandem, or as his backup, the Devils’ goaltending is the strongest it’s been — if not since the Brodeur era — at least since Schneider’s time in New Jersey.

The 2022-23 season aside, Markstrom has provided above average goaltending dating back to the 2015-16 season, posting a .904 SV% or better, and 2.78 GAA or lesser in eight of nine seasons, putting together multiple Vezina Trophy caliber campaigns in the process. Pairing that with Allen who has posted a career .907 SV% and 2.76 GAA, the Devils are working with two of the best goaltenders they have, perhaps ever, although, Markstrom does recognize the challenge ahead of him and Allen to finally stabilize a position that’s been unstable for years.

“This is a big challenge,” Markstrom said. “It’s a big team with high expectations and as a goaltender, there’s pressure, and I’ve been on teams where there was pressure on goaltending in the Canadian market. I know what’s expected and me, as a person to, and people who know me that I just want to win hockey games. And when we don’t win I’m my hardest critic, so I’m just super happy and stoked about going there.”

The pressure isn’t on Markstrom and Allen alone, however. It’s also on Fitzgerald to make the necessary upgrades in front of the Devils’ goaltending  so New Jersey can replicate the Brodeur era of hockey, as opposed to the Schneider era of doom and gloom.

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