Last season, it was up for debate who was truly the number one goalie. That was a mistake. Thankfully, that mistake has been rectified because that’s exactly the kind of game you want from your number-one goalie to inspire a season’s worth of dreams. All aboard the David Rittich train.
Feel of the game
Amidst the fun of winning the home opener with a shutout over the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames still feel like a work in progress at this point. Some of that progress feels notable – like not letting in a goal over 60 minutes of play. Some of that progress feels pedantic – like taking a whole 33 seconds to take a penalty instead of 10 seconds.
Through two games, the Flames have really been battling themselves here. It’s not just the penalty trouble, but just those kinks that are associated with the start of a season. It feels wrong to go overboard after just two games, but this still feels like preseason, where the moments where everything clicks feel like basics coming together instead of something special.
That being said, shutting out a division rival? Always a treat. Watching all three members of the top line score a goal was also extremely satisfying. Regression be damned, team Purple Gatorade (still yet to make a notable appearance this season) wants to keep building into something special. It’s been fortunate that they’ve been able to capitalize on the chances they’ve been given so far this season, as this lineup still feels as though they’re feeling each other out.
The good news
The big players wanted to make sure the home crowd left happy. Rittich in particular is playing with such confidence, it’s a treat to watch him and not wait with bated breath. His teammates love him, fans love him, I love him. His glove save in the first on Tyler Myers was electric. He swallowed up chances, and never felt like he was going to let this game get away from him, even when it should have.
The second period was the best for the Flames, which is good because they learned if they’re only going to have one superior period that it is a lot easier to fortify a lead rather than chase one.
The 3M line looked a lot better than it did in Colorado, which is why it was a shame to see Bill Peters bust out the line blender so early into the season. Andrew Mangiapane could be an interesting fit with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, and they seemed to mesh well together in the second period. Will that line be given time to really do some damage together? Or will Mangiapane get a short leash similar to Austin Czarnik in his limited time riding shotgun on the second line last year.
While there hasn’t been as many moments this season where Johnny Gaudreau has turned on the jets, he’s been able to make his moments count. Taking advantage of that gaffe from Tyler Myers in the first was a treat, and helped the Flames carry momentum out of the first and into the second. Watching him seal the deal in the third also felt the same. While the consistency isn’t there, at least the points are coming for someone who likely feels like they missed out coming one point shy of 100 last season.
While Tkachuk hasn’t put any points on the board yet, he doesn’t look as sluggish as he could for missing all of training camp essentially. This is really encouraging, because it would be a shame to see the highest-paid player go through a year similar to William Nylander’s last year. Tkachuk is a really big part of this team, and when the top line has a game where they don’t score several goals, it will fall to him next to bring that offense.
Mark Giordano is a point-per-game player two games into the season, meaning he truly is both young and also fresh.
The bad news
The Flames were really just opportunistic. A lousy giveaway from Tyler Myers gave the Flames the lead in the first period. An ill-advised pass attempt from Jacob Markstrom nearly gave them another. Surviving all the penalties in the third to score an empty-netter. It’s not a valid strategy to get outshot by a 3:1 ratio in the third period. This one could have easily gone another way, especially if the Canucks knew how to count to five properly.
Let’s think back to one year ago, with Mike Smith starting the home opener. Calgary scored seven, which was great because things were sloppy and Vancouver scored four. The Canucks could have easily scored four here last night and walked away with a W, so just because this statistically looks like a big win doesn’t mean the Flames are firing on all cylinders yet.
The bottom six, as a whole, did not have a great game at 5v5. One of the biggest cases for keeping the 3M line together was that the line of Frolik-Jankowski-Rieder looked overwhelmed out there. It didn’t help that players like Frolik, Jankowski, and Tobias Rieder had to weather so much on the penalty kill, but the Flames won’t have a great chance against deeply skilled teams if they look so disjointed half the time.
Also, there were still too many penalties. Gotta cut that out.
Numbers of note
4 – Calgary finishes off the 2010s with four victories in their home opener games. Compared to their season-openers, that’s a blessing.
8:08 – Andrew Mangiapane’s ice time, as the only Flame to not crack 10:00 TOI. He was a victim of all the penalties, which is a shame because he had the highest CF% of any Calgary player.
84.3% – With a night of perfect penalty killing, the Flames see their percentage jump up to 84.3%. This has also correlated to them being 14th in the league instead of 28th. You have to love how wild early-season sample sizes are.
392 – Johnny Gaudreau’s career point total in 396 games played. He’s started the season with back-to-back multi-point games. Will he become a career point-per-game player in October? Survey says: it’s likely.
6 – Six shots on net for Sean Monahan. No one else on the Flames had more than two. In total, Monahan has had 11 shots over the first two games. His career average so far been about 2.4 shots per game. This could be a very exciting development if he can keep this pace.
2 – The number of rebound shots against that David Rittich had to face, according to Natural Stat Trick. He was one with the puck.
October is going to be a blur with the amount of games the Flames are going to play. While they can feel good about relying on their stars to get them a win in the home opener, it’s going to take a lot more of a team effort if they want to have a fighting chance by the time Halloween rolls around.
Or just hope that Rittich can keep doing his thing. Both are valid options.