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A few thoughts on Calgary vs Toronto:
I have to begin with David Rittich. He was making his first start since being named an All-Star and he certainly looked out to prove he deserves the honour. It felt like every shot Toronto took was a Grade A opportunity and Rittich turned them aside time and time again. He came up with a *ton* of post-to-post, 10-bell saves and made them look effortless throughout. What’s even more impressive is a lot of those chances came off the sticks of Toronto’s best players – such as Auston Matthews, who had nine shots on target.
I noted in my game preview Toronto has been piling up high-danger chances and that Rittich, owner of the league’s best HD save percentage since Dec. 1, would have to be on his game and turn away a pile of them in order to win. He did just that and helped the Flames snag an extra point (or two) that easily could have slipped away.
Thanks to Big Save Dave, the Flames are now back atop 1st in the Pacific Division. They have a chance to build on that Saturday with a game against a struggling Senators team in their last before the All-Star break.
I thought Johnny Gaudreau had a strong night. He was all over the puck and consistently generated chances. He had a few good ones around the net and also tested Frederik Andersen with some tricky bad angle shots. What I liked about Gaudreau’s game is he didn’t give up on a play after taking them. He hunted pucks down and won battles to regain possession and create extra opportunities for his teammates. Nothing ended up coming of it on the scoresheet but I thought he played well.
I’ve talked a lot about concentrated shooting in recent weeks and months. The Flames kind of shot from anywhere and everywhere under Bill Peters. In particular, there were a ton of point shots. I guess it’s partly understandable – the Flames have good offensive-minded personnel back there – but point shots are very low percentage shots regardless of which player is taking them.
The Flames have been much more particular about *where* they shoot from under Geoff Ward and last night was yet another example of that. Toronto’s defensive injuries surely made it easier to be picky but the Flames once again abandoned long range shots and essentially only pulled the trigger from the slot area.
Much like Rittich, Frederik Andersen made some saves he probably shouldn’t have and was the key reason another couple of goals didn’t go up on the scoreboard.
I thought Thursday could have been the night for Mark Jankowski. I was wrong. He only had one shot on net – a good one at that – and failed to convert. Beyond that, he was caved in at 5v5. The 4th line spent a lot of time on its heels, being out-chanced 7-2 and finishing below 25% in both Corsi and Expected Goals. The guy just can’t get anything done right now and the longer he remains in a rut, the tougher it will be for him to get out of. I’m not advising selling low as a team but, individually, the poor guy could use a change of scenery.
David Rittich named All-Star replacement
All aboard the Tyler Toffoli train
Flames sign Rasmus Andersson to long-term extension
My choices for Calgary’s three stars of the month in December
Midseason Vezina Trophy picks
Midseason Norris Trophy picks
Midseason Hart Trophy picks
Tkachuk, Giordano named NHL All-Stars