It’s been an exciting couple of days for David Rittich, who at Monday’s trade deadline went from being the Flames’ backup goaltender to Toronto’s … well, it’s complicated over there. He could end up the Leafs’ playoff No. 1 as easily as he could never see the ice. But at least it’s not Calgary! It’s got to be thrilling for any athlete to get sent to a contender, but the transition period isn’t easy under the smoothest of circumstances. And these were not quite the smoothest of circumstances.
By coincidence, the Flames had a game in Toronto on Tuesday, so rather than Rittich head out to his new team by himself, he hitched a ride on his old team’s plane. “It was OK,” Rittich said of the flight. “A lot of chirps there. Some guys didn’t hold back, I expect that. But at least I had a chance to say goodbye to all of them.” Aw!
Perhaps because Jack Campbell, after a fairy-tale run, has had a couple of rough games, and perhaps just because the Leafs are fans of chaos, they decided Rittich would get the start Tuesday night. That did not give him time to obtain all the necessary new gear, so Rittich took the ice with his old, bright red glove, pads, and blocker. The Leafs’ equpment staff was able to wrap the front of the latter items in blue, but the backside still told the tale.
I assume he’ll get this fixed up by the next game, but I have to say the blue kit with the red trapper is a pretty sweet look.
Color proved another hurdle for the 28-year-old Czech once the game started. In the first period, while he corralled a puck, one of the Leafs skated back to take it. After five seasons in Flames red, Rittich did not immediately recognize that “blue = good guy” now, so he instinctually fired the puck around the boards to keep it away from his own man. “I got scared of player in blue jersey,” he said when asked about the weirdest moment of the game for him. “[S]o I just rimmed that puck and then I figure out I’m blue too.”
In the game itself, Rittich was fine. He stopped 25 of 28 shots, which isn’t great, but given the turmoil of the previous 24 hours, he’ll probably take it. He likely wants this last one back, though:
Johnny Gaudreau potted the overtime winner for Calgary on a short-ice breakaway, which you might expect wouldn’t give the two former teammates enough time to ponder each other’s tendencies, but pro athletes think fast. At the very least, Gaudreau, having faced Rittich in practice for years now, guessed that the goalie would be familiar with his usual moves, and mixed it up. “We had a couple shootouts in the last few practices before the deadline there and I scored a couple on him, so I kind of felt a little comfortable there,” Gaudreau said. “Normally, I don’t go to my forehand. Maybe kind of fooled him a little bit there.”
This is the last regular-season match-up between the Leafs and Flames this season, so barring an enormous Calgary surge, Rittich won’t have to worry about his old teammates anymore. Now he can just focus on object permanence.