Friends, the Calgary Flames used to have a goaltending problem. The problem was that after Miikka Kiprusoff retired, they couldn’t find a starting goaltender that was particularly good. That problem was effectively solved when Jacob Markström signed prior to the 2020-21 season – he’s been excellent to start the 2021-22 season – and it appears that the secondary problem, finding a reliable backup goalie, may have been solved, too.
It’s quite early, but it really seems like Dan Vladar could be the best Flames backup netminder since Brad Treliving came to town.
Vladar has registered two wins in two starts, and achieved his second win by the sixth game of the Flames season. If the idea that the backup’s gig is to spell off the starter in order to keep him fresh for the late season playoff push, having a backup establish themselves as a viable option to start and win games early is crucial.
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In 2014-15 and 2015-16, the Flames ran with a tandem of Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo (and early in 2015-16, also Joni Ortio). Neither goalie was a “true” starter or a “true” backup, so we’ll ignore those seasons.
In 2016-17, the Flames used Chad Johnson as a backup. He registered his second win in his fourth game with the Flames (and the club’s 12th game of the season). He was a perfectly fine backup goaltender.
In 2017-18, the Flames brought in Eddie Läck to be backup. He played four games, registered one win, and was replaced by late November by AHL starter David Rittich. Rittich won two of his first three starts. His opening game was the second win by a backup overall in the fifth backup game (in the 23rd game of the season). Rittich was used almost entirely in the second half of back-to-back situations on the road, yet managed to win a lot of games that season.
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In 2018-19, Rittich was the backup from the get-go and it took him three games (and eight games of the Flames season overall) to hit two wins. In 2019-20, Cam Talbot didn’t get his second win until his eighth game (and the Flames’ 31st game overall). In 2020-21, Rittich’s second win took until his ninth game (and the 22nd game overall).
If you ignore Vladar’s underlying numbers – they’re adequate for a young backup – and accept the premise that the primary job of the backup is to spell off the starter and win games when he does so, Vladar’s been quite a strong backup thus far. Two wins this early makes him the best backup in years, and probably the best backup since Rittich stormed into the crease and created the legend of Big Save Dave in 2017-18.
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Have you seen enough from Vladar to believe he’s a suitable backup goalie behind Jacob Markström? Or do you need to see more from the young Czech goalie? Let us know in the comments!