Calgary Flames: David Rittich deserves more than back-to-backs

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 17: David Rittich
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 17: David Rittich /

Since David Rittich was recalled from Stockton about two months ago, he’s had just six starts. But he deserves more than that with the Calgary Flames.

David Rittich has been an exceptional backup goaltender this season for the Calgary Flames. In just six starts, he’s 4-0-2 and is 4-1-2 in total games (he was used as a relief). But the only starts he’s been getting has been during back-to-back games.

Right now, Mike Smith is projected at starting around ~70 games this season. This is tied for the highest projection among every starter in the NHL with Henrik Lundqvist. Both Lundqvist and Smith are 35 years old. It’s a little odd, but kind of funny.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Smith has been incredible for the Calgary Flames and has been quietly making his way in Vezina conversations. But Rittich is proving himself a more worthy backup than any backup goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff ever had. While I can understand the choice to play Smith as much as they can, giving him more of a break, especially with the Flames playing 33 games in 68 games after the All-Star break, Rittich will most likely need to start more.

Related Story: Flames Daily - Mike Smith going to ASG

But we all shouldn’t be concerned. In fact, this is the first time that I’m not worried about goaltending in any game in a long time.

I’m going to first compare Rittich’s numbers to some backup goaltenders this year. I’m mainly looking at goaltenders part of teams in the top 10 in the league. Note: The sv% and ev sv% are all among their starts, not for games they’ve relieved.

Warning: lots of numbers will be used, so read at your own discretion.

RecordSV%EV SV%QS%LDsv%MDsv%HDsv%
CGY David Rittich4-0-20.9350.9471.00096.369579.17
TBL Peter Budaj
Louis Domingue
WPG Steve Mason3-6-10.8970.9000.40097.3590.6273.33
BOS Anton Khudobin10-2-40.9240.9310.50099.4391.8788.89
NSH Juuse Saros5-3-40.9260.9310.50097.6694.3581.97
STL Carter Hutton12-4-10.9430.9480.82498.9295.9579.31
WSH Philipp Grubauer4-6-30.9170.9370.61599.2493.9785.71
TOR Curtis McElhinney4-4-00.9250.9340.37599.0288.2488.89

As we can see from these stats, Rittich’s even-strength sv% is one of the best among some of the other backups. What’s also interesting to note is that Rittich has had a quality start in all six of his starts. Basically, over 60% is good, between 50 and 60 is average, and under 50 is quite bad and not ideal. Rittich is at a perfect 100%. The league average this season is around 53%. So it’s nice to see that Rittich hasn’t had one bad start this season, basically, and not only that, but all his starts have been quality starts.

What’s also interesting to note about Rittich is that his low-danger sv% isn’t an incredible stat, it’s average, but he makes up for it with his medium-danger chances and his high-danger chances, which is why he has one of the better sv% and ev sv% among good backups in the league.

I’m now going to look at Kiprusoff’s backup goaltenders to show how Rittich differs from them.

YearRecordSV%EV SV%QS%LDsv%MDsv%HDsv%
2017-18David Rittich4-0-20.9350.9471.00096.369579.17
2012-13Joey MacDonald8-9-10.9020.9040.41297.1890.7870.79
2011-12Leland Irving1-3-30.9120.9110.7149592.8674.29
Henrik Karlsson1-4-20.9000.9100.28692.3110081.4
2010-11Henrik Karlsson4-5-60.9080.9100.54599.299069.57
2009-10Curtis McElhinney3-4-00.8850.8740.28699.2688.2775.93
2008-09Curtis McElhinney1-6-10.8890.9020.40097.1888.0977.27
2007-08Curtis Joseph3-2-00.9060.9220.60010090.7773.68
2006-07Jamie McLennan3-5-10.895
2005-06Philippe Sauve3-3-00.891
2003-04Jamie McLennan12-9-30.910
Roman Turek6-11-00.914

(The reason I didn’t include metrics from 03-07 is because they didn’t track them at that time).

As we can see, none of Kiprusoff’s backup goaltenders have ever had great numbers and their even-strength sv% have been quite subpar. Besides 2012-13, where MacDonald played almost as many games as Kip (due to injury, so he wasn’t necessarily a backup, but I still included him), in the last decade, the highest amount of games a goaltender has ever won was four games. Of course, we go down to 2003-04 where the Flames made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. So you’d hope their backup goaltenders were decent in the regular season.

Otherwise, none of these backups have good numbers, which is generally average for a backup goaltender, but a great team will have a backup over 0.500. So far, Rittich looks great.

Next: Two former Flames goaltenders heading to Olympics

Like I mentioned earlier, I can see why the Calgary Flames choose Smith to start so often since he’s been excellent this season. But again, with a tight stretch coming soon, they’ll need to start Rittich more to give Smith a break.

And for once, it not a “we’re doomed” situation when they do.