Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Controversy! All stars, goalies, and more

Welcome back to The Sunday Census. Throughout the week, The Win Column will be posing topical and intriguing polls on Twitter (@wincolumnblog) to gauge the fan-base’s stance on pressing issues. Want to make sure your opinion is taken into effect? Vote in the polls, start a debate, and propose alternative suggestions on the polls!

The NHL has now released the fan picks for the last men in, and unfortunately Johnny Gaudreau was not included in the winners. Still, we posed the question to Flames fans this week asking which Flames player most deserved to join Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano at the ASG this month.

The overwhelming majority of voters, 66%, chose Elias Lindholm as the most deserving candidate. And, it’s really hard to argue against that choice. Lindholm has been the team’s most complete player on both ends of the ice, has been dynamite on both sides of special teams, leads the team in scoring, and has emerged as a legitimate top center for the club. He’s the guy Geoff Ward would “clone 20 times” and rightly so; he’s awesome.

Still, the other candidates on the list deserve more credit than they got in this poll, especially David Rittich.

Yes, the team has not lived up to expectations this season. However, they wake up today in first place in the Pacific Division and poised to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. If it wasn’t for the excellent play from Rittich at the start of the year, probably through the first 35 games or so, the Flames would be nowhere near the top of the division right now.

He was truly excellent early on, kept them alive in games they had no business winning, and was the team’s MVP. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rittich was an all star at some point in his career. He’s a great personality and a great goalie.

The other options on the list also deserve more credit. Sean Monahan has taken his game to a new level this year. The point totals aren’t as high this season, but his overall game has drastically improved and he’s a player coaches can trust in all three zones. He still has one of the most lethal shots on the team, and has scored some big goals for the club this year. Rasmus Andersson may be just 23 years old, but he’s already starting to earn his new contract. He’s started to play more top pairing minutes, has really stepped up on both sides of special teams, and is an absolute character.

Who wouldn’t want this guy at the ASG?

Still, with the injury to Logan Couture, Gaudreau still has a high chance of being selected to the all star game. It would be a great choice too; there are few players who are as electric as Gaudreau in 3-on-3, plus he’s won the puck control competition in both ASGs he’s attended. He’s fun and it would be nice to see him make it as well.

Who would have though there would be a goaltending controversy in Calgary? Rittich, who absolutely carried the Flames in the first part of the season, has fallen off just a tad lately and Talbot has more than stepped up to the plate.

Talbot was trusted to start in the ever important Battle of Alberta last night and stood tall, backstopping the team to a solid 4-3 win over the Oilers. His play lately begs the question: who should start more games going forward?

Talbot has started the Flames last three games, and has won all three. This is encouraging from a goaltender who started the year 1-5. He currently boasts a .922 save percentage and has bumped his record up to 7-7. Not bad for a goalie around whom there was a lot of controversy when he was signed.

Rittich’s last three games have not gone well. He allowed four in the victory over Minnesota, but was in net for a 5-3 loss to Chicago and was pulled after four goals in a 5-2 loss to Vancouver. That being said, he still sports a .911 save percentage and has won 18 games for a very streaky Flames team.

The first quarter of the season, Rittich got the lions share of starts, and was the starting goalie on the first half of every back to back game that the Flames played. And in that role he performed admirably. He was the difference maker for the Flames when they were on their long losing streak. While he was in net often, it did not give the team a chance to really watch Talbot. Now that they have that chance, and Talbot is performing really well, it gives the team a lot of hope for a potential playoff push. As has been seen among teams that have gone deep in the playoffs, having two strong goalies can make a world of difference.

The Flames will probably revert back to a more even split going forward, if nothing else than to give Rittich a chance to regain his form. That being said, having Talbot as your 1B or 2nd goalie option is great news for this team.

Want to be a part of the conversation next time around? Follow us on Twitter @wincolumnblog and be sure to keep a look out for our polls throughout the week.

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