With a record of 30-13-5 and being 7-1-2 in the last 10 games you would think all is well for the Calgary Flames. The top line looks great, Johnny Gaudreau is an MVP candidate, Mark Giordano is a Norris candidate and Bill Peters is a Jack Adams candidate. On the other hand, Mike Smith and David Rittich aren’t anywhere close to winning the Vezina. The old quote goes something like “I don’t care who has the better team, if your goalie plays better than mine, you’ll probably win. It’s the National Goaltending League most nights”
You might recall last year Mike Smith came in and won games for the Flames, David Rittich proved he was an adequate backup but faltered when Smith went down with injury and there went the Flames playoff hopes. This year Smith started terribly and Rittich took over the net. He first played on October 11th and didn’t allow more than 3 goals in a game until November 28th which was an overtime loss to Dallas. Then went another 6 appearances until he allowed 4 goals which was once again an extra time loss to Tampa Bay. Christmas break came and went and Rittich stopped 35/36 against Winnipeg and stole the Flames the game. In the 7 games after that he has allowed 23 goals on 214 shots which is a save percentage of .893 and it probably got the worst when Buffalo had 3 shots in the last 25 minutes of the game on January 16th and Rittich didn’t make a save allowing 2 goals on 2 shots in the 3rd period then 1 on 1 in Overtime after Eichel hit the post also. Meanwhile in Mike Smith’s last 5 games he has allowed 16 goals on 122 shots…. A save percentage of .852.
This has been a problem for years in Calgary, whether it was Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio, Brian Elliot or Chad Johnson… none have been good enough. There were stretches where Elliot was great and then Johnson played well. Same with Smith and Rittich. But at the same time, I cannot remember the last time a team won the Stanley Cup rotating goalies. So what do the Flames do? They are the 2nd ranked team in the entire NHL. While Rittich is still young, the Flames do have Tyler Parsons and Jon Gillies waiting in the wings as the Goalies of the future but for this year what are the options? I’d say there aren’t any others. Sergei Bobrovsky maybe but his playoff numbers are awful and good luck getting him to enjoy Calgary. Jimmy Howard is having a career year, but nobody is giving up a 1st round pick for him and then down the road in Edmonton Cam Talbot is apparently available but no thanks. The only option for the Flames is to hope that Smith or Rittich catches fire at the right time and this great season isn’t put to waste.
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