Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Back-to-backs and divvying up the goalie starts

The Flames just played their first of nine back-to-backs this season. The natural course, when faced with such a situation, is to have the starting goalie take one game, and the backup the other. That means at least nine starts for the backup this season.

But of course, there’s going to be more than that. In 2017-18, the Flames overworked Mike Smith right from the get-go, including having him play their first back-to-back, only to see their seldom-used backup goalie flounder when he finally got a start 10 games into the season.

This season, though, the Flames seem aware that playing their 35+ goalie in too many games is actually bad. Now 13 games into the year, their backup has already started four games: just one back-to-back.

The results so far? Mixed: the Flames have a team save percentage of .898, 18th in the NHL. Through nine games, Smith has a .878 save percentage, including being hooked twice. David Rittich, meanwhile, who made the opening night roster for the first time in his career, is boasting an impressive .939 save percentage through six games to date.

Small sample sizes abound, but it’s also probably worth noting Rittich is a decade younger than Smith and, as such, has less wear and tear on his body. Rittich has looked the better goalie to date, and the numbers back him up: and though the season is still young, they aren’t that far apart in games played.

Which begs the question: assuming Smith and Rittich stay the Flames’ goalies throughout the season, how would you handle their starts over the next five months?

Back-to-back philosophy dictates Rittich gets at least eight more starts over the Flames’ remaining 69 games, but we all know there’s more to come than just that.

Let’s take a look at November’s upcoming schedule: the Flames will play 13 games over those 30 days, including one back-to-back. They will have three consecutive days off between games twice. Eight of the 13 games are divisional matchups, so they’ll be extra crucial: this includes two games against what presently appear to be the bottomfeeder Kings, one game against the projected Pacific Division leader Sharks, and a game against the Edmonton McDavids.

How would you divide those up? The back-to-back is the Kings and then Sharks; would you have Smith take the first game against the apparently weaker team and leave Rittich to mop up against the assumed juggernaut? Should the presumed starter, Smith, play games on both sides of the three-day breaks they’ll have coming up?

If the Flames keep up their current nine-four start splits, then two months into the season would see Smith with 18 starts and Rittich with eight. That prorates Smith to 57 starts and Rittich to 25. Is that acceptable, or, if both goalies’ level of play continues, should the playing field be levelled a bit more in Rittich’s direction in terms of more starts for him?

What would you do, both over the month of November and beyond?

    • Stockton's Finest

      Flushed, I will expand a little.
      Mangiapane, and probably Foo, are ready. But where to put them? Lazar has played very well down here and could be back up sooner than later. No other forwards are ready, in my opinion.
      As for defense, the only one that may be considered is Kylington. He has played better this year, but still at least a year away from the NHL. If he were to be called up now, it would hurt and expose him.

  • FlushedOut

    With Stockton’s Finest himself saying we have no defencemen at the moment with Stockton proving they should be called up would people please quit trying to trade 1 or 2 of our defensemen away. My brain will be explode soon if people quit asking about trading for Nylander. Look up this little thing the league instituted called a salary cap. We have no money for him this year and if we some how worked it out we’d have absolutely no way of signing Tkatchuk next year. Tkatchuk vs. Nylander, I’ll take Tkatchuk 100% of the time.

        • MontanaMan

          You’re smarter than that WW. I think its reasonable to assume that during the nasty arbitration, things were said that would make it difficult to resume the relationship. I am guessing one of the statements made by Kulak’s camp was “we will never play a game in Stockton.” Yes, it’s a guess on my part, but the quick exit of Kulak after camp seems to indicate it. There’s always more to the story.

        • Stockton's Finest

          Both of them just recently got into the line up after dealing with injury (Taormina) and Visa (Valiev) issues so haven’t seen but a few games with them in. I will say the defense played much better than earlier in the season the last two periods last night. But again, those two have just entered the line up. The jury is still out on them.

  • cjc

    Both Smith and Rittich put up decent starts in their last games. Maybe have them alternate starts? As we saw last year, Rittich bombed once he took over the f/t starters role, but he’s looked very good when not expected to carry the starter’s load. It will also ensure that Smith stays fresh.

    If one goalie falters, then a permanent starter can be identified.

  • freethe flames

    I sais at the start of the year and I will repeat it today; a 2/1 spilt or a 4/2 split is the way to for this tandem and if Rittich is awesome on a given night it’s okay to go back to him the next game on occasion.