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Can Flames’ David Rittich Carry the Load for an Injured Jacob Markstrom?

The Calgary Flames Jacob Markstrom missed Monday’s game with an injury. David Rittich replaced him and did well. Can he continue to do so?

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Just prior to Monday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames announced that goaltender Jacob Markstrom had an upper-body injury and wouldn’t make his scheduled start. That left David Rittich to take Markstrom’s place. Was it cause to worry for the Flames’ fans?

Related: Flames Bust Slump Against Maple Leafs, Rittich Earns Shut Out Win

In truth, the Flames’ season has been so-so, but one aspect that hasn’t been so-so – at least for the most part –  has been the play of Markstrom. How would Rittich do against the high-flying Maple Leafs?

David Rittich Tosses a Shutout Against the Maple Leafs

To cut right to the chase, Rittich stopped everything that came his way – all 34 shots he faced in Monday night’s 3-0 win over Toronto. Although Markstrom was sidelined – or maybe because he was sidelined and the team couldn’t depend upon him as their last defense – the team played well-enough in front of Rittich. 

David Rittich Calgary Flames
David Rittich, Calgary Flames

The Flames got the lead and held it. Surprisingly, for as strong at the Maple Leafs’ power play has been, the Flames scored two with the man advantage and the Maple Leafs – obviously – got zilch.

But mostly, it was Rittich who made the difference. He was absolutely locked in against the Leafs from the beginning of the game. The 28-year-old Czech goalie – who actually represented the Flames in the 2020 All-Star game – now sports a 1-3-0 record with a goals-against-average of 2.36 and a save percentage of .909 for the 2020-21 season. 

Rittich Also Played Well Against the Oilers in Edmonton But Lost

It isn’t Rittich’s first good game of the season. He was in goal for Friday night’s game against Edmonton to give Markstrom a bit of a rest. Markstrom had pulled during Wednesday’s loss to Vancouver and it seemed as if he needed a break. 

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames

On Saturday against the same Oilers, Markstrom started and was bombarded with seven goals against him. It was far from a stellar game by the Flames. Still, Markstrom is Markstrom and he’s usually a tireless workhorse in the net. 

That leaves the question: Had Markstrom been injured before playing Edmonton?

Rittich Was Going to Play More, Now Does He Have to?

There was word recently – before he started in Edmonton – from the Flames’ coach Geoff Ward that fans should look for Rittich to begin to play more regularly. 

As Ward noted, “Now, we’re getting to the point in the schedule where we’re playing a lot, so we’re going to start using (Rittich) a lot more than what he’s already played.” 

Geoff Ward Calgary Flames Coach
Geoff Ward, Calgary Flames Coach

Ward suggested that “We’ll probably go on a week-by-week basis. We’ll sit down with the goalies at the beginning of the week and sort of map out what the potential schedule’s going to look like for them.”

In fact, during the Flames back-to-back games against the Oilers on Feb. 19-20, that’s exactly what happened. The team’s next back-to-back games scheduled are on Feb. 24-25. As well, the Flames also have a busy schedule for the rest of February. 

So it was likely – according to Ward’s plan – that fans would see Rittich picking up a couple more starts before March. Now, do they have to?

Related: Trade Talk on Flames’ Sam Bennett Has Cooled Considerably

Can Rittich Carry the Team if Markstrom’s Out?

If he’s called on, Rittich should be as good to go as he’s able. He’s had two solid performances in a row – both against offensive powerhouses. He held the Oilers to two goals on Friday night and tonight he did even better by shutting out the Maple Leafs.

David Rittich, Calgary Flames

Those two performances should boost Rittich’s confidence and the team’s confidence in him.

Flames’ fans have to hope Markstrom is just out for a short time; however, if his injury keeps him out longer, both the fans and the organization know they have a better-than-adequate backup in the wings.

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