In Game 2 of the Qualifying Round against Winnipeg, Cam Talbot allowed three goals on 26 shots. Rather than start David Rittich in Game 3, they went back with Talbot and were rewarded for their faith with a 33 save win in his second start in as many nights.
In Game 3 against Dallas, lightning struck twice for Talbot and the Flames.
In Game 2, Talbot allowed five goals on 36 shots. Following the game, per Talbot, the coaching staff asked him how he was feeling and if he was good to go for Game 3. He said yes. He rewarded their faith with a 35 save shutout to give the Flames a 2-1 series lead.
During the first intermission, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman looked at the evidence – the Flames played Talbot in both halves of a back-to-back and went back with him after a loss, twice – and came to a pretty clear conclusion. Cam Talbot is the Flames number one netminder.
Talbot has played every single second of hockey for the Flames since the playoffs began. He and Rittich evenly split the 10 starts prior to the NHL’s stoppage; Talbot had a superior record (4-1-0 to Rittich’s 2-2-1) and superior numbers (.918 save percentage and 2.38 goals against average to Rittich’s .899 and 3.22). If you were going to choose a top goalie, it seems logical to go with the more experienced guy and the one with the hot hand. It just so happens that both happened to be Talbot.
At Friday morning’s media availability, Ward declined to announce a starter. But when asked about Talbot’s performance thus far and what factors went into the decision-making, his poker face and word choice gave a little bit away:
He’s been great, all through the playoffs he’s been solid for us. I’m sure not concerned for where he’s at. As far as what sorts of factors lead into the decision on who’s starting in net, I think it has to do with performance. I think it has to do with fatigue level. I think it has to do with confidence that the team has in one guy or the other. There’s an awful lot of factors. Who you’re playing, some guys over the course of time have a better record against other teams than the other guy. So there’s an awful lot of factors that play into it. and that’s sort of what we talk about all the time when we’re trying to make decisions on who our goaltender is. And at the same point in time, who’s got the hot hand, who’s playing well. We’ve seen through the regular season that both our guys have given us long stretches of real good hockey in the net.
Following the Game 3 win on Friday night, Ward had even more praise for the Flames’ starter.
“He’s been real good for us,” said Ward. “I had no qualms at all [to start him on Friday night]. There wasn’t even a question of changing goalies going into this game today. He’s been so solid for us. We had confidence that he would come out today and battle for us hard in the net, give us a chance to win, and he certainly did that. He was he difference in the hockey game.”
Friday’s start against Dallas was Talbot’s 20th playoff start and he captured his 12th win. Rittich has yet to play a single second of playoff hockey. The Flames have confidence in both goaltenders based on how they used them in the regular season, but they needed to lean on someone in the bubble and they’ve chosen Talbot. It’s hard to argue against their choice so far.