Markstrom and Lindholm in award-winning conversations as Flames reach halfway point

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After spending several summers competing against each other, Jacob Markstrom is the first to admit that Elias Lindholm has proven his Swedish supremacy in just about every sport.

“He’s a really good golfer, tennis player, and just about anything he tries in hand-eye coordination or ball sports,” Markstrom said of his intimate pal. “He beats me pretty much everywhere…except at ping-pong. I have it there.

Smiling when told about the awards he has received, Lindholm doesn’t hesitate to offer an explanation for his table tennis problems.

“I have a table tennis table in my basement but there’s not enough room,” the Flames center said from his cramped quarters in Gavle, Sweden. “I can’t move there. I like being far behind the table, but I can’t play my game there. I blame him for that.

Neither player has needed an apology since returning to Calgary, where the duo reached the halfway mark in contention for league-important material: Markstrom as Vezina candidate and Lindholm as threat Selke as top forward league defence.

Fresh off an all-star break that sees the Flames enter the second half with seven straight home games, the two men who were so instrumental in the team’s first-half success have been asked about each other’s superb starts.

Neither of them hesitated to inflate the other’s tires.

“I think they should really watch (Lindholm) for the Selke,” said Markstrom, whose buddy is fourth in the NHL with plus-29 while anchoring the most productive line in the loop.

“I see him every day on the same team and he competes against the best players from other teams. Against Florida, he faces (Aleksander) Barkov, and players like that, who are in the conversation (Selke) every year.

“When you look at the plus-minus and stuff like that, he’s always, game after game, playing against them and he’s always ahead of them, with better numbers.”

Barkov was Selke’s winner last year, beating a field that included perennial favorites Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone and Ryan O’Reilly.

Needing solid offensive numbers to even have a chance of being considered by Selke, Lindholm finished 10th in voting two seasons ago.

As impressive as his 15 goals and 37 points in 42 games are, it was his defensive work that allowed Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk to score at a pace that puts them among the league leaders.

“This year he’s playing with Johnny and Chuckie, who’ve also been great putting up a ton of points lately,” Markstrom said. “I feel like those two work really well, and they can play their game extremely well, and he’s the kind of guy that keeps everything together. Especially defensively, he does a lot of hard work that stays quiet. .

When it was pointed out that no Swedish player had ever won the Selke, Markstrom was happy to discuss the rich history of top Swedes.

“We have a lot of good attacking players. The (Sedin) twins have won the scoring title two years in a row and then there’s (Peter) Forsberg and (Markus) Naslund and those guys, just to name a few,” he said. he declares.

“Then there’s (Henrik) Zetterberg in Detroit for many years who was really offensive and defensive, and I think Lindy is up there and needs to be talked about a bit more.

“I think reporters who vote on the Selke should watch more Flames games.”

What they would see is a former winger who has proven conclusively this season that he is a two-way center in this league.

“I’m very proud of the defense,” said Lindholm, drafted fifth overall in 2013 by Carolina.

“I think it was Rod Brind’Amour who said to me, ‘If you do it well defensively, everything else will come to you.’ You don’t have to chase it. It’s something I’ve always kept in mind. That’s kind of what my thoughts are over there. I try to get it right and obviously playing with Chucky and Johnny, the offense comes on its own. These two are amazing to play with.

The same goes for Markstrom, who was just as dominant as Brad Treliving hoped when he lured him to Calgary on a six-year, $36 million deal two summers ago.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Lindholm said of a goaltender who ranks third among NHL starters with a 2.20 goals-against-average, not to mention seven shutouts. which not only allows him to break Miikka Kiprusoff’s team record (10), but makes him threaten Tony Esposito’s modern 15-year mark.

“(He’s) been amazing for us so far and won us a lot of games. We should also talk about him more often. There are a lot of good goalkeepers out there, but Marky is definitely among the best and not getting the credit he deserves, that’s for sure.

Markstrom said shutouts aren’t a stat he watches.

“No, it’s more about keeping the goals-against-average as low as possible and getting wins,” said the man with a 17-10-5 record and .923 save percentage.

“Me personally, that’s what I watch the most. You want to be in the net and help the team win as many times as possible, and in the end that’s what matters.

“You don’t get any bonus points for a shutout or good save percentage.”

Or to beat your buddy at table tennis.

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