The Calgary Flames meet the Canadiens in Montreal after the downed the New York Rangers by a score of 4-1 on Sunday. That win was all because of the performance of David Rittich in net. He sent back 44 Rangers’ shots with just 1 goal allowed in the victory. Rittich was under pressure for 3 periods, including 20 shots in the 3rd period as the Flames had to hang on to keep it a 3-1 game. If Mike Smith can’t keep pace with Rittich in net, we might quickly see Smith in the backup role and Rittich as the starter.
The 26-year-old made the most of his opportunity when he got called up last November, and he’s appeared to be working hard on his game in the offseason. In three appearances, Rittich has a 1.30 GAA and 0.962 save percentage. Smith is on the hot seat right now and will be in need of a sharp performance against the Canadiens tonight.
At 36 years old, Smith isn’t going to be in the future plans for the Flames, but they are paying him like a starter for the time being. It’s been a hot start for Rittich. However, who knows if he can keep it going and be the goalie they’ve been looking for since Kiprusoff. Mike Vernon and Kiprusoff are the only netminders that the Flames have had confidence in.
Brian Elliott was supposed to join those two after finally opening up the wallet to spend money on a proven guy. That of course didn’t work out, with the hope now that Rittich is for real. The Habs have gotten off to a surprising start of 4-2-1. Surprising in that sense that the Canadiens aren’t expected to amount to much this season, which will likely be the case come the second-half of the season. They get the Flames at home on a road trip, so we’ll see if they catch Calgary in a letdown after a stop in NYC on Sunday. Get our free Flames vs. Canadiens pick below.
Calgary Flames vs. Montreal Canadiens Pick
The Flames don’t want to shake Smith’s confidence here. Even though Rittich has been performing at a high-level at the moment, they’re going to need their starting goaltender to keep his moral up. Rittich hasn’t played a full schedule in his career yet, so giving up on Smith with this small of a sample size could do more harm than good. Smith owns a 3.38 GAA and 0.885 save percentage.
What the Flames are hoping is that Rittich’s solid play motivates Smith to bounce back. In their last trip to Montreal, the Flames edged the Habs out by a score of 3-2 in overtime. Calgary are averaging 3.75 goals per game, while allowing 3 goals per. A bunch of young talent like Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau have this offence going in the right direction. Some help in their own zone would likely get them in playoff contention, which goes back to getting their goaltending right.
The biggest surprise of the Canadiens has been their offence playing well. They traded Max Pacioretty to the Knights before the season started, a move that sent their captain to Las Vegas. Pacioretty was a polarizing figure in Montreal, with some people questioning his heart and motivation. We’ll see if it’s one of those situations that is addition by subtraction. The Canadiens are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Senators on Saturday. That snapped a three-game winning streak for the Habs, but they’ve earned a point in four-straight.
Their last loss in regulation was against the Kings on the 11th. Overall, Montreal are scoring 3.29 goals per game and allowing 2.71 per game. They are going to see some variance and regression coming soon, though. I don’t think they have the talent so consistently average over 3 goals a night. If this game was in a couple of months, it’d likely be tough to get this price on the Flames against the Canadiens. Give me the up and coming talent on the Flames over the Habs in this one.