Do We Trust the Flames' Goaltending?
By Patrick Hoffman
Last season, the Calgary Flames were the best team in the Western Conference.
Yes, you read that right. The team scored a ton of goals, relied on their best offensive players to produce every night, got an outstanding season from Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Mark Giordano, and simply had one of their best seasons in years.
With all of that said, however, it did not end well for them. The team got knocked out of the first round and their play form the regular season never transferred over to the playoffs. It was a very disappointing end to what could have been a magical season.
Going into this season, the team has much of the same roster. As such, scoring goals will not be a problem and the players who put up good numbers last season will more than likely do the same this year.
With that said, one position on this club that is somewhat unclear when it comes to how it will perform this season is goaltending. With Mike Smith now on the Edmonton Oilers, the team's goaltending duties belong to 26-year-old David Rittich and and 32-year-old Cam Talbot.
Rittich had a solid year this past season. He went 27-9-5 with a 2.61 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage, and one shutout.
Surprisingly, Rittich did not a get a start in the playoffs last season as that role went to Smith. I would have at least given him a start to see how he would handle the pressure in the playoffs.
When it comes to Talbot, we know what he brings to the table. He's a veteran that has playoff experience and is someone who has decent career numbers (138-112-24 with a 2.60 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage, and 20 shutouts).
While having Rittich and Talbot as the Flames' goaltending tandem does not look terrible on paper, it is one that raises a few questions:
- Who will be considered the starting netminder on this hockey club?
- Will this end up being a 1A/1B situation?
- If Rittich does end up being the main guy in goal for this team, can he handle the rigours of playing in a lot of games?
- If Rittich falters, can Talbot pick-up the mantle and provide the goaltending that this team needs to have success in the regular season and beyond?
These are just a few of the questions that will need to be answered this season. This club is more than good enough to make the playoffs, but if they want to have success in them, they are going to need top-notch netminding.
Do we think that either of these guys can provide that when the team needs it the most? For me, the jury is out.
What about you folks?
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.