Yesterday at dailyfaceoff.com Mike McKenna would write about all the goalie tandems in the NHL. Connor Hellebuyck and David Rittich find themselves 18th overall on the list. I disagree with that spot on the list for the Winnipeg goaltenders. I would rank the Winnipeg Jets between 8th and 12th in the NHL. I’m not here to rip on McKenna or the list, but I do think we should talk about the expectations of the Jet’s tandem.
Rittich signed with the Jets on July 13th, with a one-year 900k contract. Some would speculate this could be Rittich’s last shot in the big show. I disagree. I think there’s still lots in the tank fo ther Czech Republican native. The guy just turned 30, he might not have another seven years in the NHL in him but he should have enough for another five years. The last two seasons were not great for Big Save Dave. In the shortened 2021 season Rittich would lose his spot as the starting goaltender for the Calgary Flames to Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom was a free agent and would sign a big-ticket deal and was better than Rittich. Rittich saw less and less ice time. Losing your job and your rhythm due to someone who just rolled up has to sting. On April 12th, 2021 Rittich would get traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a third-round pick in the 2022 draft. Overall in the 2021 season, Rittich would have a .901 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average. Ultimately Rittich would start 15 games with a record of 5-8-2.
Things would go from bad to worse for the 6ft tall goaltender. On July 28th 2021, Rittich would sign with the Nashville Predators for 1.25 million for one year. The former starter would only start in 12 games last season for the Predators, which would have Rittich sit on the bench for weeks at a time. Rittich would win a game and then get sat for several weeks at a time, then he would lose one, sit for a bit, and then drop three more over three weeks. That sort of playing schedule is a bad rhythm and no one can keep their confidence up when you’re playing like that. Rittich would pick up a win over the Florida Panthers who peppered him with 48 shots. Rittich would stop 44 of those shots against the Presidents Trophy winners and would be benched the next game. It shouldn’t come as a shock that his stats don’t look good in Nashville, he would have a record of 6-3-4, a .886 save percentage, and a 3.57 goals-against average.
Looking at Bowness’ track record over the last four seasons with his goaltending tandems the two goalies split the time about 60/40. Now Bowness didn’t have a Vezina winning goaltender with the Dallas Stars during that time. Overall, I would expect Rittich to play in 35 games and start 32. Goaltending coach Wade Flaherty has turned the last two back-ups into NHL starters. Mind you Eric Comrie and Laurent Brossoit aren’t going to win a Vezina but they have become starters in their markets, and the common denominator for both of them was Flaherty. If Rittich is willing to listen we could see him slide back into his All-Star ways. If Rittich starts 32 games and brings his save percentage back up to a .905 save percentage and 2.95 goals against average we might see Big Save Dave back to his former glory.
Rittich is also wearing 33 this season. I hope the Dustin Byfuglien spirits that use that number find Rittich and he can get in and kick some ass.
I’ve been screaming about it from the rooftops “Hellebuyck will thrive with fewer games and a different defensive structure”. Under Rick Bowness, we’re going to see that emerge. More shots from the outside, and fewer starts for the 2020 Vezina winner. Last season we could see the wear of playing so many games on Hellebuyck as he had a record of 29-27-10, a .910 save percentage: his worst since 2016-17, and 2.97 goals against average: the worst we’ve seen from him. The one thing that I’ve noticed is that towards the middle of the season is that Hellebuyck starts to look tired. He’s still making big saves, but he lets those small mistakes in. Hellebuyck would start 13 straight games where he would have a record of 4-7-2 during that stretch. This isn’t the NHL of yore where one guy would command the net for that many games, this is the new NHL where there usually is a 1A and 1B goaltending option. As much as I would like to see Helle win another Vezina, I want a deep playoff run, or better yet a Stanley Cup even more and I’m sure he’s saying the same thing. Hellebuyck has the skill, the drive, and the ability to get hot at the right times to carry this team on his shoulders for a playoff push and run. Hellebuyck should start in 49 games this upcoming season and see action in 53. If he can go back to a .915 save percentage and 2.70 goals against average there shouldn’t be any reason for the team to miss the playoffs.
On the off chance, either Hellebuyck or Rittich gets hurt, there is the good old third-string goaltender to save the day. Mikhail Berdin has been doing pretty well for the Manitoba Moose. Last season for the Moose, he had a 19-10-2 record a .902 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average. The 2016 6th-round draft pick does need some more time to prepare in the AHL before he plays with the Jets, but when the day comes he should be ready to start for the Jets. If he gets time with the Jets, don’t be shocked if Bowness throws the Russian native into the deep end where he can just simply play some hockey in the NHL. Bowness did it in Dallas and I’m sure he’ll do it in Winnipeg. Berdin has sat as a backup before with the Jets, but his time in the NHL will come soon and he has the potential to overtake someone else’s job.
Make sure you follow all Jets Nation’s social media including Twitter, Tiktok, Facebook Instagram, and check out Jets Nation radio on Youtube and Spotify