Seeking a bounce-back performance after one of their more lethargic showings of the season last night in Montreal, the Maple Leafs will welcome new addition David Rittich to the crease tonight against his struggling (but rested) former Flames team (7:30 p.m EST, Sportsnet Ontario & West).
The Flames have only played once since last Sunday-Monday’s back-to-back losses to the Leafs, shutting out Edmonton with an impressive 5-0 win on Saturday. The Oilers went away quietly after Calgary scored three times in the second period, as the Flames continued to control the game despite the score effects — in the third period, the Oilers only mustered eight shot attempts. After the game, Connor McDavid questioned the NHL’s decision to reschedule that game just hours after the Colby Cave memorial ceremony.
The Leafs‘ performance in Montreal last night wasn’t nearly as bad as the Oilers’ in that game, but their five-on-five performance — their start to the game, in particular — was their worst in recent weeks, and the team’s power play continued to flail without too many encouraging signs of an imminent turnaround. A tired Leafs team will need to dig in deep tonight to manufacture a response in front of their new goaltender.
In one of the funnier anecdotes of the trade deadline activity, Rittich traveled with his now-former teammates on the Flames’ plane to Toronto in order to start against Calgary tonight.
The 28-year-old has been on a journey filled with highs and lows over the last few years. In 2018-19, he roared onto the scene by starting 41 games and winning 27 of them (27-9-5) in a 50-win season for the Flames. In 2019-20, Rittich was a late addition to the 2020 All-Star game (replacing the injured Darcy Kuemper) after starting the year 18-11-5 with a .913 save percentage and two shutouts. His performance faded as the season wore on, however, and he lost the starting job to Cam Talbot, who took over down the stretch and into the bubble playoffs. The Flames then invested their dollars into Jacob Markstrom with a six-year, $6 million AAV contract this past free agency period.
Over his 130 NHL games, Rittich is 68-39-15 with a .908 save percentage and a GSAx of -20.4 (59th of 80 goaltenders with >1000 shots against between 2017-2021). If he’s starting regularly at any point from here on out, the Leafs may have an issue on their hands, but the hope is he can provide quality backup goaltending while Frederik Andersen remains on LTIR, as well as additional insurance come playoff time. Rittich has carried a 1B-type of workload with reasonable enough numbers in recent seasons, unlike Michael Hutchinson.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the decision to start David Rittich:
We are playing a back-to-back, so we were going to not have Campbell play today. I had a conversation with Dave yesterday just to get a sense of where his head is at. Of course, we’re being sensitive to the circumstances, but he didn’t hesitate at all. He wanted to play.
I let him sleep on it, and we wanted to see how he arrived today and make sure everything went smooth. He got a skate in and is excited to play.
Keefe on what he’s looking for in regards to a response from his team:
We’d like to get a good start here. Tat’d be the first thing – just be really focused and be sharp. I thought our play with the puck in general really created some problems for us last night, particularly in the first period. I’m looking for us to be a lot sharper there. Just our focus and commitment all the way through the game – that’ll begin with a good start.
Darryl Sutter on Milan Lucic’s career as he plays his 1000th NHL games tonight:
Well, I think if you look at that draft, there are several of those really quality veteran players that have played on championship teams, have continued to play, and are looked on as character, leadership-type guys. Lucic certainly fits that bill.
Sutter on losing Rittich to the Leafs:
I was only with him for, what, 35 days? He probably started three games and went in once for [Markstrom]. He’s a good guy who has lots of energy always. From a personal standpoint, I liked him a lot.
Sutter on his team’s poor results against Toronto this season:
We just finished playing them the two [times] in Calgary — we played close games other than the last gam,e where we came back and they scored early. [Backlund] scored the shorthanded goal — I believe that tied it up. We went ahead, then they tied it up right away. They’ve got a lot of firepower.
We need big saves, and we need to bear down on opportunities. It’s the same thing we talked about after those games [against Toronto]: You have to finish your opportunities, and you have to limit their big guys.
It’s very similar to when we play Edmonton — two of the top four scorers in the NHL are [on the team]. It’s not that hard to figure out.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines*
*Note: Sheldon Keefe hinted there could be changes to last night’s lineup but we won’t know until warmups
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#97 Joe Thornton – #91 John Tavares – #11 Zach Hyman
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #47 Pierre Engvall – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#89 Nick Robertson – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #49 Scott Sabourin
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian
#33 David Rittich (starter)
#36 Jack Campbell
Covid list (precautionary): William Nylander
Extras: Jason Spezza, Joey Duszak, Adam Brooks, Scott Sabourin, Martin Marincin
Injured: Frederik Andersen, Riley Nash
Quarantine: Nick Foligno, Ben Hutton, Riley Nash
Calgary Flames Projected Lines
#13 Johnny Gaudreau – #28 Elias Lindholm – #19 Matthew Tkachuk
#88 Andrew Mangiapane – #23 Sean Monahan – #29 Dillon Dube
#17 Milan Lucic – #11 Mikael Backlund – #20 Joakim Nordstrom
#27 Josh Leivo – #10 Derek Ryan – #24 Brett Ritchie
#5 Mark Giordano – #8 Chris Tanev
#55 Noah Hanifin – #4 Rasmus Andersson
#6 Juuso Valimaki – #26 Michael Stone
#25 Jakob Markstrom (starter)
#70 Louis Domingue