Flames Thoughts: Calgary’s confidence in Rittich growing

Mikael Backlund had a goal and two assists as the Calgary Flames beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2.

The Calgary Flames extended their NHL-long winning streak to six games on Friday night, completing a two-game sweep of the Sunshine State with a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

STREAKING UP THE STANDINGS

After moving into a Stanley Cup playoff spot with a 5-1 win in Tampa on Thursday, the Flames stretched their winning streak versus the Panthers to four games with 4-2 come-from-behind win in Sunrise on Friday. Thanks to their season-long six-game winning streak, the Flames have inched to within one point of the second place Kings in the Pacific Division standings.

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RITTICH REMAINS UNBEATEN

In today’s NHL, it’s tough to have success without two good goaltenders. As good as Mike Smith has been for the Flames this season, he can’t play every game. With that said, one of the reasons Smith has started 37 of Calgary’s first 44 games is because the team couldn’t trust former No. 2 netminder Eddie Lack, who after a poor start to the season was placed on waivers, sent to the AHL and then traded to the Devils.

David Rittich, who the Flames signed as an undrafted free agent prior to the start of last season, has been fantastic since being recalled from the Stockton Heat in late November. As a matter of fact, Rittich is unbeaten in regulation time in his first five NHL starts.

Prior to Friday’s game, Rittich said his confidence is growing by the day. After making a career-high 41 saves in his team’s 4-2 victory over the Panthers, the 25-year-old’s confidence should be at an all-time high. More importantly, so should the team’s confidence in Rittich, who has earned an opportunity to play more often than just in the second of back-to-back games.

BACKLUND’S BEST

Mikael Backlund was fantastic on Friday. Despite having to focus on defence first because Glen Gulutzan asked him to go head-to-head against the Panthers’ top players as often as possible, Backlund still led the way for the Flames offensively. He notched one goal and two assists for a season-high three points.

Backlund, who finished fourth in Selke Trophy voting last season, continues to be one of the league’s top two-way forwards.

FIRST LINE FLYIN’

Even though Micheal Ferland’s four-game goal, assist and point streaks were snapped on Friday, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan continued to produce.

After snapping a season-long 10-game goalless streak versus the Lightning on Thursday, Gaudreau scored again against the Panthers, stretching his point streak to six games, while Monahan extended his assist and point streaks to six games with his team-leading 21st goal and an assist in the 4-2 win.

After recording 23 points in 14 games last month, the Flames’ first line has produced 25 points in five games this month.

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THREE DOWN, ONE TO GO

After sweeping a three-game home stand, the Flames are one win away from sweeping a four-game road trip going into their CBA-mandated five-day break.

Following a very impressive 5-1 victory over the league-leading Lightning on Thursday, the Flames weren’t as good in Friday’s game against the Panthers but still found a way to win. During the 82-game grind that is the NHL’s regular-season schedule, there are going to be night’s when you’re not at your best. Friday was one of those nights for the Flames, but they still picked up an important pair of points versus the Panthers.

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