Calgary Flames

David Rittich should start Game Three against the Dallas Stars

The Calgary Flames have been very good at riding the hot hand. Coming back from the extended absence, Cam Talbot proved through training camp and the play-in round that he was the right guy to start, but after allowing a number of soft goals against in the second game, it is time for the Flames to see what they have in David Rittich as a playoff performer.

Known for his huge saves in the regular season, Rittich has never played in the postseason, with Mike Smith getting the start in net last season. Although Smith was the right call at the time, and arguably the Flames best player, if the Flames are to depend on Rittich as their guy going forward, they will need to know if he can carry them deep into the post-season.

With Talbot looking for a new contract at the end of the season, the Flames will need to see what their crease will look like into the 2020-21 season. But this runs deeper than just determining if Rittich can be “the guy”.

Rittich is the right call to match the Stars’ style of play. Unlike Winnipeg who had the second fewest number of high-danger chances for, and the lowest HDCF% in the NHL, Dallas sits eighth in the league in the former, and fifth in the latter (all stats from Natural Stat Trick). They generate among the highest number of high-danger chances in the league.

On top of that, they had one of the lowest high-danger shooting percentages in the league, meaning that they are either getting unlucky in this category or are getting stopped by quality goaltending in close. If the Flames are to stop the Stars this series, they need to get excellent saves from their goalie in close.

In terms of medium-danger, Dallas is middle of the pack in terms of chances. But in terms of goals, Dallas is right at the bottom. They scored the fewest number of medium-danger goals in the NHL, and also allowed the fewest number of medium-danger goals in the regular season. This is not the area in which Dallas shines.

Which Goalie Should Start?

Quality Starts

Looking at the Flames goaltending, there is a reason Rittich has earned the nickname Big Save Dave. He excels at stopping high-danger chances, and has a flair about him when he does. He sits 20th in the league in this category among goalies who have played over 700 minutes. For reference, Talbot sits 39th.

If the Flames are to have a chance in this series against a Stars team with a high-flying offense, they need a goaltender who can bail them out in high-danger chances.

Unlike Winnipeg, Dallas does not take chances from the medium-danger zones like the high slot or the dots. They have the fewest number of chances in this zone to go along with the lowest MDCF% in the playoffs. This is where Talbot has shone throughout the regular season, but given Dallas’ propensity for scoring from high-danger chances, the Flames need to ensure that they have a goaltender who can handle those types of chances.

Enter Big Save Dave, the Flames high-danger king. The goaltender that the Flames need in order to shut down the top Stars’ players. With the Flames allowing two high-danger goals in the last game, it is time for David Rittich to take his place in the Flames net.

Photo Credit: Larry MacDougal/ CP

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