It’s often impossible to tell which trends early in the NHL season will continue, but Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich is certainly holding his own and one of the main reasons why his team is able to start the season with a solid point total.
While the 27-year-old was able to perform well down the stretch for the Flames last year as they held onto the top spot in the Pacific division earning the nickname “Big Save Dave” — this season he’s shown a possible new level.
Rittich has been full-time with the club for about two years now and has appeared to be the saving grace from the consistent worry fans in Calgary have had since Miikka Kiprusoff retired six years ago.
Given the reins when normal starter Mike Smith was injured, whether he would be able to fully take over was still an unknown. But after his play late last season, the Flames felt comfortable enough to let Smith sign with the provincial rival this summer.
Rittich has started all four games for Calgary, sporting a .929 save percentage despite facing the highest number of shots against among all goaltenders in the league so far. Regularly a defensively-stable team, the Flames have been lacklustre on the back end thus far, letting Rittich steal the show.
At even-strength, the net-minder has faced a total of 6.99 expected goals, the third-highest that a starter has faced this season. Considering that the Flames were the fifth-best team at keeping opposing expecting goals to a minimum last year, for their goaltender to face that amount early on and still have some wins to their name, tells you how strong the performance between the pipes has been.
He even has some big moments in clutch situations just four games in.
Rittich is fired up to stop a penalty shot in OT! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/fSEIIMHlkC— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) October 11, 2019
In a last ditch effort against the Dallas Stars, Rittich was able to deny Alex Radulov the potential game-winning penalty shot in overtime. The Flames went on to win in a shootout.
Looking beyond the single saves, the Flames starter has already bested his 2018-19 total in goals saved above average. Through his 45 appearances last season, he was able to be a positive goaltender, but amassed only 1.68 GSAA — in less than 10 per cent of those games, he has been able to save 3.74 ‘goals’ compared to the average NHL goaltender.
Despite the Flames starting off their season on the wrong foot defensively, Rittich has been able to keep them afloat early on. Calgary still has a positive goal differential, and they can thank their starter for that.
Too bad they don’t name the Vezina Trophy winner after four games.
—all stats via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference—
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