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Photo Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game: Rittich tames Panthers, Flames keep streaking

On Thursday night in Tampa Bay, Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith was a huge difference-maker for his team. He made timely saves and gave his team a chance to win, despite his club getting out-chanced. On Friday night, backup goaltender David Rittich responded to Smith’s performance with a resounding “I can do that, too!” Rittich was good and the Flames got a few timely goals, just like the night before, en route to a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.

The Rundown

The first period was scoreless, but largely even. Both teams had chances to score, often really good ones, but the netminders were sharp on either side. Shots were 12-11 for the Panthers, but scoring chances were 12-9 Flames.

The offensive dam burst in the second period. Florida got on the board first just 27 seconds in on a carry-over power play. Troy Brouwer had the puck but couldn’t quite clear it, leading to a rapid-fire sequence of passes and a shot from Evgenii Dadanov that beat Rittich to make it 1-0. That lead lasted just 33 seconds, as the Flames responded back almost immediately. A nice passing sequence from Mark Giordano to Dougie Hamilton set up Sean Monahan nicely for a one-timer that beat James Reimer to make it 1-1.

Some nice back-checking by Matthew Tkachuk made it 2-1. The Panthers attempted to clear the puck, but Tkachuk jumped all over some errant passing and fed the puck to the point for Travis Hamonic. Reimer stopped Hamonic’s shot, but Tkachuk poked in the rebound to give the Flames a lead. Johnny Gaudreau gave the Flames some insurance on a power play late in the period. He was given some time and space on the left side of the zone. Rather than get fancy, Gaudreau merely leaned into a slap shot that beat Reimer to make it 3-1.

Shots were 19-9 Panthers and scoring chances 11-6 Panthers.

Some sloppy defensive work led to a second Dadonov goal to cut the lead to 3-2 midway through the third. The defense halted Sasha Barkov’s advance into the slot, but the puck squirted out to an uncovered Dadonov who buried it past Rittich. But that’s as close as they got, and Mikael Backlund added an empty-netter to make it a 4-2 final score. Shots were 12-9 Panthers and scoring chances 9-5 Panthers.

Why The Flames Won

Once again, the Flames were out-played at even strength. But their special teams game was even and their goaltending was simply much better than the Panthers’. It was a coin-toss game because of their goaltending, and at crunch time Florida simply couldn’t bury enough of their opportunities.

Red Warrior

It cannot be anybody but Rittich. He was superb.

The Turning Point

Gaudreau’s slapper goal on the power play made it 3-1 and gave the Flames some breathing room heading into the third period.

The Numbers

(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Stone 57.1 83.3 0.225
Ferland 54.2 33.3 0.540
Kulak 52.0 83.3 0.225
Gaudreau 50.0 33.3 0.925
Monahan 50.0 33.3 1.835
Brouwer 45.2 25.0 0.095
Tkachuk 44.8 22.2 1.525
Hamonic 44.8 22.2 0.800
Backlund 42.4 22.2 1.895
Brodie 39.4 22.2 -0.400
Mangiapane 37.5 60.0 -0.250
Stajan 37.5 50.0 -0.165
Giordano 36.4 26.3 0.425
Lazar 36.0 60.0 -0.125
Hamilton 34.0 26.2 0.350
Jankowski 31.8 37.5 -0.440
Bennett 31.8 37.5 -0.325
Hathaway 31.6 37.5 -0.150
Rittich 2.450
Stone

This and That

Glenn Gawdin had three points in Swift Current’s 4-0 win over Prince Albert. Matthew Phillips had two assists in Victoria’s 6-5 win over Kamloops. Tyler Parsons had a rough time in his AHL debut, allowing seven goals in a 7-2 Stockton loss to the Texas Stars.

The Drive to 95 (Points)

The Flames now have 52 points with 38 games remaining. They need 43 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 21-16-1 record to hit the 95 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.

Up Next

The Flames (24-16-4) are off to Raleigh, where they’ll play the Carolina Hurricanes in an afternoon game on Sunday before heading off on their five-day CBA-mandated break.

  • Calgarycandle

    My eye test said despite being outshot 43-29 this game was more balanced than against Tampa.

    Each game a different Flame seems to step up as hero–a very smart goal by Tzachuk and then incredible perseverance to protect the puck and get it across to Backlund.

    Rittich looks more and more like the real thing–that’s several extremely solid performances in a row with a whole bunch of 10-bell saves thrown in tonight.

    Great to see Calgary score a PP goal with Gaudreau as Stamkos junior firing it from the dot.

    The coaches catch ire for the PP and (used to be) PK, but the Flames are now 43-0-2 when leading after 2. That stat does not belong entirely to GG and his staff, but if they are blamed should they also get credit???

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    This may not be a popular post but I am not sold on Bennett being one of the answers. I really like the way he plays but if you look at his last 7 goals, which includes 1 in the playoffs and 6 this year. At least 4 of those goals have been of the ugly variety. His goal in the playoffs glanced off his skate, he scored 2 similiar goals this year and capped it off with a fortunate bounce for his 6th goal against Tampa.

    The burning question to me is, did Bennett get 18 goals in his first year because of the Backlund bump and similarly did he turn his season around on the back of Janko. I realize that he has rattled som of some posts but I just don’t see consistent offense.

    • Trevy

      I have to admit, as much as I really do like Bennett and his reckless style and toughness, I expected a little more being a 4th overall pick. Now we can all say that he’s still very young or he hasn’t had the best line mates in the past, but a player of his pedigree should be able to elevate players around him. You watch a player like Tkachuk and he has this intelligence about him and always seems to make the smart plays. If Treliving wants to make a big move to bring in another top 6 forward, then Bennett may be a piece to get them that

    • McRib

      “I just don’t see consistent offense.”

      Except last month where he led all Flames skaters in Points (and I believe he was fourth in the entire league in Points for the month of December). We’re honestly doing this again!?!?! Come on.

  • Flaymin Frank

    If Calgary’s last goal was the only one you saw all year long, its the only one you needed to see in terms of what type of player Chucky is.

    BTW – I have seen the future of or netminding and his name is Vin Diesel. Cool & confident. The heir apparent IMHO.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      He was in beast mode. For those posters who think Backlund is expendable he had 3 points and with a more prominent role on the PP he will be a 60 pt player.

      • Flint

        I think what some people see, myself included, and we could all be wrong is that Backlund doesn’t compliment Gaudreau. It remains to be seen if we can win playoff hockey with those two. We need a player who can take over a game when the game is really mucky. I think there is a reputation out there that you play Gaudreau really tough and he is neutralized. Which, fine, they are the top line and with Ferland that will be tougher, but thesecond line comes out and Backlund isn’t going to take that line by the throat and bring it. He’s consistent. He’s very valuable but he isn’t the 1st/2nd tweener center we need. He’s more a 2nd/3rd tweener. I think it’s early to put that responsibility on Tkachuk to really drive that line when going gets tough.

        • Flint

          I realize I wrote that slightly unclear. It’s obvious that Backlund doesn’t play on Gaudreau’s line, but for the opposition coach I don’t think our lines make it complicated in who you match up against and we have no ability to mix them up. You can play Kane and Toews together, you can play them apart. Getzlaf and Perry etc. We don’t have that luxury, or we’ve never explored it. You play Gaudreau/Monahan super hard and shut them down…. muck it out against the rest. Our second threat is avg to weak… getting better, but…

          I’m solely talking playoff hockey btw (which admittedly the new rules may last the first round…so..)

          • Flint

            I’m talking to myself here…ha! I’ll be watching with earnest in this 10 day stretch coming up.
            WPG, EDM, LA, VEG. (and BUF). That group of heavy teams + Vegas will really show where we’re at. Say what you want about the Oil… they’re never going to play us easy.

          • Kevin R

            Backlund is in that elite 3rd line centre that is a luxury for teams to have. If he signs for a reasonable term & cap, I would love to see him here for 4 or 5 more years. Janko is going to be that 2nd line centre to take over a game when the first line is getting shut down. But be patient, he’s still a rookie & climbing up the learning curve real quick. This team is very young & I don’t think we need to make any moves to get a #2C. He’s already here. With Bennett, I see something special being cultivated. Not sure Hathaway is the long term answer & deep down I would love to see Tkachuk moved to the Janko Bennett line.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I am thrilled for Rittich. He fought his way from a back up in the AHL to solidifying a back up role in the NHL. What has impressed me the most is his ability to bring his A game while only playing on the once every couple of weeks. Many goalkeepers have tried to fill this type of back up role with little success.

    On the flip side, I feel for Parsons who went from a porous ECHL team to what is becoming a depleted AHL team.

    • Score When I like Nieuwendyk

      Just as the “man flu” is a real thing, so too is the “Backlund Bump” is a real thing. Just ask Troy Brouwer, who is finally looking like a hockey player. Other witnesses might include: David Jones, Mike Camallari, Jiri Hudler, Lance Bouma and Joe Colbourne. Not re-signing Backlund could lead to a dimunition in Tkatchuk’s play as well as Frolic!

      • Orrwasbest

        You must have been watching a different Troy Brower then I was. Gave away the first goal when attempting a deek inside his own blueline and constantly coughing up the puck or making bad passes.

  • McRib

    There is absolutely no way Florida had anywhere closed to 43 Shots tonight, whoever was running the shot counter tonight was crazy. Florida was credited for 19 Shots alone in the second period and I honestly highly doubt they even had 9-10 Shots.

  • Flint

    Loving Rittich’s game btw. From everything I have seen he is a solid keeper. In fact, he could be a diamond in the rough find by Tre and crew. Above all his game is really controlled and consistent (I realize…small sample) but by the eye test thus far, he seems like a guy who you know what you’re going to get night in and night out. Bounces go both ways but I feel like Rittich is prepared and will consistenly give you that chance to win. He’s been very impressive. I feel for Lack, because he didn’t get a second chance (which maybe he didn’t deserve) but this clearly was the correct choice, and likely Lack never should have been here from the start. But that’s history.

  • freethe flames

    How long has it been since we scored an empty net goal when nursing a one goal lead? Finally and look how hard Tkachuk had to work to set it up. Here is a question? With the game on the line why would you not have an extra center on the ice with Backs instead of Brouwer? Say; Janko.

  • freethe flames

    So Frolik has now been injured for 2 weeks by the time they get back from their 5 days off it will be almost 3 weeks. I suspect he might be back on the ice by then; then likely at least a week of seeing how he does with the new equipment he will need to wear. Also hoping that by the time the break is over that the Jagr issue is resolved.

  • Grayone

    Hey Stockton’s Finest: I suspect we would all appreciate your comments solely on David Rittich! Is this the player you saw consistently in Stockton? Better perhaps with a dose of Smithian influence? It was quite the performance last night and it is no surprise that the boyz enjoy his presence! His consistent performances tag him to be a keeper going forward! I mentioned it previously but why not REALLY give Smithy a rest and go with DRitt in Raleigh?

    And how about Tkachuk on the 4th goal? A D9 Cat going down the right wing to save the day … unstoppable! Backlund must have been so pleased when he saw that perfect feed coming to him … big props to Tkachuk! Could we possibly get Brady …. ?

    • Stockton's Finest

      I give you the real David Rittich. You’re welcome. His game is exactly what it was here in Stockton. Quick back to his feet, plays with a touch of nastiness, moves the pick well. I am sure that Smith has influenced his game as well, but what you are witnessing is the same passion and fire I saw all last year and the beginning of this year.
      I always thought he reminded me of a less experienced Vasilevskiy. He will occasionally let in a soft goal, but he controls the puck well, minimizes rebounds, and gives the team a chance to win.

  • Skylardog

    With that win we finally hit the 500 mark in games decided in regulation at 16-16. Showing how tough the conference is, we still only have a better regulation record than Vancouver, Edmonton, and Arizona.

    Minny, Chicago, Colorado, and Anaheim are all 1 over 500.

    The 5 day break appears to be coming at the worst possible time; with the Flames on a roll.

  • RKD

    The Flames despite being on a back to back are dialed in nice to see secondary scoring from Backs. Gaudreau should bring out the slapper more. Having a legit back up in David Rittich makes a massive difference.

  • Carl the tooth

    Johnny and Mohnny we’re making some absolute insane plays . The 3rdline is a very Strong solid consistent line , I was thinking moving Bennett up to Secondline too but that 3rd line meshes so well . That line will finish the second half of this season as the top 3 3rdline in NHL . If Ferlund wasn’t playing this good I would think Bennett would be on the First line foresure . Bennett could end up still being a good centre but he is so Strong on the boards and behind the net . The potential of this team . Flames are not fun to play against at the moment .