Last year was a tale of two seasons for Flames netminder David Rittich. He was the team's most valuable player to start the season, playing so well he was selected to play in the NHL All-Star game.
But things went sideways in the second half, and by the time the playoffs rolled around in late July, he had lost the net to Cam Talbot.
To make matters worse, in the off season the Flames signed Jacob Markstrom to a six year, $36 million contract, relegating Rittich to the role of Markstrom's backup.
But rather that being angry or bitter about his reversal of fortune, Rittich says he’s taking a positive approach to the upcoming season.
“(It's a) great opportunity for both of us to push each other to get better,” Rittich said.
“And the biggest thing (is) which (other NHL) team can say they have two all-star goalies?”
Rittich wants to go back to being “Big Save Dave” so in the off-season he did a couple of things to improve his game. He hired a mental coach but says he’s not about to change how emotional he is on the ice. He says that’s what he needs to succeed in the National Hockey League.
“We were talking about a lot of stuff during the off-season and I kind of feel like it’s really good for me. I’m feeling a littler lighter right now about my head.”
The other thing Rittich did was set up a virtual goalie system. He used it in his garage and feels it can help his game.
“I didn’t believe until I tried the first time how realistic it can be,” he said.
“I was actually really surprised but I honestly feel it’s really helpful.”
Rittich’s attitude and humour has always endeared him to his teammates and the entire organization.
Coach Ward impressed
Flames' head coach Geoff Ward says he’s impressed with how the 28-year-old has handled the situation.
“It’s sort of been everyone talking to him a little bit and I give him a lot of credit,” Ward said.
“You know at the end of the day you can talk to someone as much as you want to but ultimately he has to make the decision he’s not going to be bitter, he’s going to be better.”
And if Rittich can do that, there’s a good possibility the Flames will have one of the best goaltending tandems in the National Hockey League.