For a few seasons now, it’s been my view that the Calgary Flames were underachieving based on the quality of their roster, and the style they play. This season, though, everything seems to be clicking perfectly, with captain Mark Giordano putting forth a Norris quality season and Johnny Gaudreau in the Hart conversation. The performances from those two aren’t a big surprise.
What has been a surprise, and possibly the biggest change to the Flames’ fortunes this season, has been the emergence of “Big Save Dave” Rittich. He has grabbed the starter’s reigns from Mike Smith, despite a lot of hesitation from the coaching staff to give them over fully.
On the surface, Rittich’s .917 save percentage may not seem that impressive. We’re used to an era where the NHL’s average save percentage had climbed all the way to .915 as recently as 2015-16, but this season we’re at about .908. So adjusting that for our expectations in our heads, the same level of performance Rittich is giving would be a .924 save percentage back in 2015-16. That looks a lot better, doesn’t it?
Rittich’s save percentage stands out even more compared to Smith, who has struggled mightily this season with a .888 save percentage. Smith has given the Flames quality starts in just 41.7 per cent of his appearances, while Rittich has one of the highest marks in the league with 64 per cent quality starts.