All 31 National Hockey League clubs are, in many ways, at the mercy of the league’s scheduling robots. The Calgary Flames have 10 sets of games on back-to-back nights this season, roughly a quarter of their schedule. They’ve already completed one set and have their second this coming weekend.
How did the Flames fare on back-to-backs last season? How did Bill Peters mix up goaltending duties and lineups between games?
Oct. 29 & 30: Toronto and Buffalo
The Flames beat the Leafs 3-1 and the Sabres 2-1 (in overtime). Mike Smith started the first game and David Rittich the second. There were zero lineup changes between the two games.
Nov. 10 & 11: Los Angeles and San Jose
The Flames beat the Kings 1-0 and lost to the Sharks 3-1. Rittich started the first game and Smith the second. Rasmus Andersson swapped in for Michael Stone for the second game.
Dec. 8 & 9: Nashville and Edmonton
Coming in the aftermath of that wild Dec. 6 game against the, uh, Wild, the Flames were without Mikael Backlund (injury) and Mark Giordano (suspension). They beat Nashville 5-2 at home, then lost 1-0 in Edmonton. Smith started the first game, with Rittich in for the second. Anthony Peluso was called up and played in place of Austin Czarnik in the second game (and they opened up the roster spot by sending a suspended Ryan Lomberg to the AHL, taking advantage of a CBA loophole).
Dec. 15 & 16: Minnesota and St. Louis
The Flames grinded out a 2-1 in Minnesota, then drubbed the Blues by a 7-2 score. Rittich started both games, backed up by Gillies in the first game (due to a lingering injury to Smith) and Smith in the second game. They dressed seven defenders for the first game and six for the second (Prout came out), and they swapped Backlund and Kerby Rychel in for Andrew Mangiapane and an injured Sam Bennett for the second game.
Jan. 2 & 3: Detroit and Boston
The Flames beat the Red Wings 5-3, then lost to Boston 6-4. Smith started both games, with Jon Gillies dressing as backup due to an injury to Rittich. The only lineup change was swapping out Dillon Dube for Czarnik for the second game.
Jan. 18 & 19: Detroit and Edmonton
The Flames beat the Red Wings 6-4 at home, then beat Edmonton 5-2. Smith started the first game, Rittich the second game. They made zero lineup changes between the two games.
Feb. 26 & 27: NY Islanders and New Jersey
The Flames beat the Islanders 3-1 (at Nassau Coliseum) and the Devils 2-1 (in Jersey). Smith started in the first game and Rittich in the second game. The only lineup change was swapping swapping out Dalton Prout out for Oscar Fantenberg for the second game.
Mar. 6 & 7: Vegas and Arizona
The Flames lost both games, going down 2-1 in Vegas and 2-0 in Arizona. Rittich started in Vegas and Smith in Arizona. The only lineup change was swapping Prout out for Fantenberg for the second game.
Mar. 15 & 16: NY Rangers and Winnipeg
The Flames beat the Rangers at home 5-1, then headed to Winnipeg and lost 2-1. Rittich started against the Rangers and Smith against the Jets. The only line-up change was swapping a banged-up Sean Monahan out for Alan Quine for the second game.
Mar. 31 & Apr. 1: San Jose and Los Angeles
The Flames won both of these games: 5-3 in San Jose and 7-2 in Los Angeles. They clinched the division with Smith in net in the first game, so they started Rittich and sat Giordano, TJ Brodie, Noah Hanifin, Travis Hamonic, Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk for the second game.
The Flames played 10 sets of back-to-backs in 2018-19: they won both five times, split the games four times and lost both games once.
Aside from the two back-to-back sets when a regular goalie was injured, Peters always split up the starts between goalies – if nothing else, there may be something to be read into the organization’s trust of Gillies last season that they would seemingly rather play the same guy twice than give him a game.
Lineup-wise, the Flames tended to roll with the same lineup in each game or make minor defensive tweaks for the second game.