Post-Game: Over The Lowest Bar

Ryan Pike
March 24 2014 10:39PM

The 1997-98 Calgary Flames were, to be blunt, bad.

They racked up just 67 points over an 82 game season and firmly in the dreadful Young Guns era of hockey, they were the worst Flames club there ever was. With tonight's shootout win over the third-overall San Jose Sharks, this year's Flames club (a) broke the 30 win barrier and (b) guaranteed they'll be better than the 97-98 team.

And it was a pretty nice game, too, with strong goaltending from Karri Ramo and a great performance by a rookie defender.

THE RUNDOWN

The first was all Sharks. Well, mostly Sharks. But the Flames did their best to keep things to the outside, and Karri Ramo did his level best to keep stuff that didn't stay to the outside out of his net. However, late in the period, just after a Flames power-play, Matt Nieto and James Sheppard broke into the Flames zone. Ramo went down for Nieto's shot...which instead hit Sheppard in the back, so he spun around and put it past a sprawling Ramo. An adequate first period sullied by a weird play. Sharks led in shots 18-8 and attempts 23-18, but the Flames held a 17-14 face-off edge.

The second period was mostly Flames. They came out fast and pressured well, but the Sharks did their best to keep the chances to the outside – the fourth line and the Agostino line each set up nice scoring chances, though. Late in the period, Tyler Wotherspoon found Joe Colborne beside the net with a slap-pass, which Colborne put past Stalock to tie things up. Calgary led in shots (12-4), attempts (17-13) and face-offs (11-6).

The third was very much like the first, in that the Flames appeared to run out of gas a bit against a good Sharks team, but Karri Ramo kept them in it. Nobody scored, so it was off to overtime! Shots were 10-5 Sharks, attempts were 26-11 Sharks and face-offs were 7-6 Sharks.

Nothing was solved in overtime. Shots were tied 2-2. The Sharks 7 attempts to Calgary's 2. San Jose dominated face-offs 4-0. Mike Cammalleri scored the lone goal in the shootout to give Calgary the extra point.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

After letting the Sharks dictate the pace early, the Flames took control in the second period and then stuck with it – via some great Karri Ramo netminding in the third – long enough to give themselves the chance to win.

RED WARRIOR

Tyler Wotherspoon's played 10 NHL games. This was probably his best: 16:58, +1, a great assist and he put six pucks towards the net (four got blocked). Add in some strong defensive play and Wotherspoon had a tremendous evening.

SUM IT UP

This year's Flames are guaranteed not to be the worst edition in franchise history. Considering how low expectations were going into the year, that's a minor accomplishment. They've got 10 games left, so it'll be very interesting to see how they fare from here on out.

They welcome the Anaheim Ducks – they of the 7-2 losing effort earlier this month – back to town on Wednesday night.

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Now in his fourth season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers and the Wrestling Observer.
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#1 Craig
March 24 2014, 10:50PM
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Wotherspoon has looked really good the past couple of games. Small sample size but how are his fancy stats??

Also Ramo looks like a legit starter, really solid tonight.

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#2 Jeff Lebowski
March 24 2014, 10:54PM
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There are far more interesting stats. Scoring chances. Who is making plays - shots in the scoring area. Too bad we don't get.

Edmonton Journal has them.

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#3 Kevin R
March 24 2014, 10:55PM
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Great win! This team seems to be having fun & are enjoying playing for each other. What a refreshing change from the last 4 years. We should have rebuilt a long time ago if its like this.

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#4 beloch
March 24 2014, 11:02PM
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That was a great game for the Flames and especially Ramo. It will be interesting to see the advanced stats on this one. I have a feeling the Flames took a step backwards, even if they won. Still, that's to be expected when playing a top-3 team like the Sharks.

Here's an interesting comparison:

http://www.extraskater.com/team/calgary-flames/2013#rolling-10-game-5v5-close-ff

http://www.extraskater.com/team/edmonton-oilers/2013#rolling-10-game-5v5-close-ff

The oilers climbed out of their pit of suck for about a week and a half in December and briefly looked like an NHL club. Since then they've gone back to mining the depths for lottery picks. Their remaining schedule is pretty tough and they're in total disarray right now. They may soon delve deeper than ever before (although Buffalo is somehow still even lower).

The Flames began the season weakly, as everyone expected. Clearly, they were not a playoff team. They fell off a small cliff in December as the injuries piled up (and the voodoo curse of the alternate jerseys tightened its grip). By January the playoffs were beyond hope. However, since January the Flames have steadily climbed ever upwards and are currently performing very respectably. If they played like this for a whole season they'd make the playoffs easily.

Can the Flames maintain this level of play for a whole season though? As we saw in December, the wrong players being hurt can derail this team. More depth is clearly needed, especially on the blueline. However, the steady improvement we've seen since January is really worth noticing. This cannot be entirely due to veterans returning to the lineup. In fact, Stempniak being traded should have hurt the team, but seemingly hasn't! The younger players have taken some pretty big strides forward. Make no mistake, this team is not simply trying hard and getting lucky. They've been steadily improving and are being rewarded in spite of having pretty awful luck. I'm very encouraged.

It's probably not too early to start thinking about the moves that are going to happen over the summer. Tops on my shopping list is a quality second pairing defender with the potential to go top-pair when the injuries pile up. I don't think Burke really needs to be all that busy this summer though. I'd actually prefer he did nothing if the only other option is to make massive changes in an attempt to rush the rebuild. This bunch of kids is accruing in value steadily. With minor additions and a little good luck (for a change) they could squeak into the playoffs as early as next year, although the odds might be a tad long. The important thing is that these kids are developing rapidly and accruing in value significantly. For the first time in ages, the Flames are a team that will improve rather than decline if patience is exercised.

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#5 CTibs
March 24 2014, 11:18PM
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I think Ramo deserves more credit. He was stone cold stopping one of the best offensive teams in the league, and has begun to look more and more like a legit NHL goaltender rather than a plug in during a rebuilding season. Not to mention that he shone brightly in the shootout, arguably the weakest part of his game.

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#6 beloch
March 24 2014, 11:20PM
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Craig wrote:

Wotherspoon has looked really good the past couple of games. Small sample size but how are his fancy stats??

Also Ramo looks like a legit starter, really solid tonight.

Wotherspoon's possession stats are, on the whole, not good, but have improved significantly over the last few games as his TOI has climbed upwards. He played 17 minutes both tonight and against the Oilers. According to extraskater his corsi was 50% against Edmonton and 53.8% tonight. That's pretty impressive since (unsurprisingly) the team as a whole performed worse against San Jose than Edmonton and had an overall CF% of just 41.0%. Tonight was easily Wotherspoon's best NHL game to date.

I'd say Wotherspoon was initially overwhelmed when he was called up, but is rapidly rising to the challenge. That slap-pass he made tonight was just beautiful. He might still benefit from more time in the AHL but he's looking more like an NHL'er every game.

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#7 cunning_linguist
March 24 2014, 11:32PM
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You know, I used to be firmly within the #tankmode camp, but gosh darnit, I've been converted. This is the most enjoyment I've had watching the Flames since probably 2005-06. Backlund, Brodie, Byron, Ramo, Monahan, Colborne, Matty Franchise, Gio and now even Wotherspoon. The feel good stories just keep on rolling in. Go Flames Go!

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#8 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
March 24 2014, 11:43PM
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These are exactly the kind of games I wish we were on the losing side of. We got heavily out-played for two of three periods, but found a way to win due to stellar goaltending and some luck. That would be great if we were in a playoff hunt or further down the rebuild, but not in year two (considering draft position and all).

Entertaining hockey, nonetheless, and great for the development of our young rookies.

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#9 Colin.S
March 24 2014, 11:47PM
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The Flames defense is heads and shoulders above the rest of the team. Giordano is a Norris caliber D right now, and Brodie might get there in a couple years. Russell moves the puck about as well as anyone. And Wotherspoon is moving along rather nicely. As long as Wideman isn't expected to carry the load I think he can fit in nicely and Butlers looked a lot better.

Since we have a ton of cap space, maybe we can try and supplement the D in the offseason, maybe try sign Niskanen out of Pitt?

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#10 Justin Azevedo
March 25 2014, 12:45AM
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@Jeff Lebowski

you're kidding me, right?

RIGHT?

we post scoring chances for every damn game - it may not happen right away but it happens. we've tracked every match.

as for the other issues, we're looking into the corsi% improvement as we speak and rämö is now above nhl average evsv% on the season: he's now at .922. i like niskanen but for that to happen i think we'd have to see smid move

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#11 exsanguinator
March 25 2014, 01:00AM
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@beloch

Looks like the UFA Defenseman market this off season is a little mediocre but Calgary certainly has the cap space and hopefully the reputation to buy a 3/4 D.

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#12 Burnward
March 25 2014, 01:02AM
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Unless we flip Wideman+ for a clear stud...I think we should let this D corps grow. They've been great.

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#13 beloch
March 25 2014, 02:31AM
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Burnward wrote:

Unless we flip Wideman+ for a clear stud...I think we should let this D corps grow. They've been great.

I doubt Wideman will be moved this summer. His play was a bit of a step down from where it was last season and he's been injured an awfully long time. Also, he has a pretty hefty cap-hit for a second pairing defender even if he does bring high-end offense. He needs to play at least part of a season and look good doing it before he'll net a decent return.

Speaking of injured for a pretty long time... There's always a chance we'll see Pat Sieloff called up next year. He'll probably be in Abby to start the year but I bet he'll be auditioning, at the very least, in Calgary by the end of next season.

Burke is less into college kids than Feaster was, but it's possible that the Flames might go after an unsigned college defender like Kenny Morrison, who is a 6'2", 198 lb Alberta boy with a NHLE of 16, which is nothing to sneeze at. He's 22 and could be ready to go... uh... 3 days ago. The Bronco's finished for the season on Saturday. The rumor-mill says MacT has been flirting hardcore with the kid so Burke would have to act quick. On the bright side, the current state of affairs in Edmonton should make the Flames a relatively easy sell. I'd be disappointed in Burke if doesn't at least call the kid up on the telephone and ask him if he likes playing with forwards who backcheck. I should probably expect a few trashes because some Oilers fans already have him penciled into their top pair.

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#14 44stampede
March 25 2014, 04:19AM
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I was unable to watch most of the game but saw the first period shot totals and thought Flames were going to get smashed. Pleasantly surprised to see we not only won but played better after the first.

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#15 redricardo
March 25 2014, 05:41AM
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You know... If you take away some of the Berra and MacDonald starts at the beginning of the year that were sub-NHL goaltending, replace those with a few wins, and we're not starting in as big of a hole.

Then, add on the end of season surge that we have now... And all of a sudden teams would be looking at us as a hard working team on a hot streak that nobody would want to play in that 8 spot.

It'll be interesting to see what changes are made, and how these guys come together to start off next year.

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#16 Flash
March 25 2014, 06:07AM
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Fun fact: If you remove Berra (which BB has now done), Ramo, Ortio and Macbackup have a combined record of 21-18-5

Things looking good for next year!

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#17 negrilcowboy
March 25 2014, 06:48AM
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can someone provide an advanced stats comparison of gio and the dion, i am interested in seeing how a true team first guy like gio matches up with the centre of the universe's 7 million dolla flunky. how is giostats relative to the much heralded big name dudes.

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#18 ChinookArch
March 25 2014, 07:05AM
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beloch wrote:

I doubt Wideman will be moved this summer. His play was a bit of a step down from where it was last season and he's been injured an awfully long time. Also, he has a pretty hefty cap-hit for a second pairing defender even if he does bring high-end offense. He needs to play at least part of a season and look good doing it before he'll net a decent return.

Speaking of injured for a pretty long time... There's always a chance we'll see Pat Sieloff called up next year. He'll probably be in Abby to start the year but I bet he'll be auditioning, at the very least, in Calgary by the end of next season.

Burke is less into college kids than Feaster was, but it's possible that the Flames might go after an unsigned college defender like Kenny Morrison, who is a 6'2", 198 lb Alberta boy with a NHLE of 16, which is nothing to sneeze at. He's 22 and could be ready to go... uh... 3 days ago. The Bronco's finished for the season on Saturday. The rumor-mill says MacT has been flirting hardcore with the kid so Burke would have to act quick. On the bright side, the current state of affairs in Edmonton should make the Flames a relatively easy sell. I'd be disappointed in Burke if doesn't at least call the kid up on the telephone and ask him if he likes playing with forwards who backcheck. I should probably expect a few trashes because some Oilers fans already have him penciled into their top pair.

Burke had actually put some time and energy into sourcing NCAA players, in his first few seasons with the Leafs, and was then a fan of finding players in that league.

Here's an old article that may give us a peek at the future with Burke at the helm.

http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2009/05/29/brian-burke-wants-to-go-shopping/ The article basically explains that Burke planned to take a balanced approach to Toronto's rebuild in terms of players from drafting, free agency, finding un-drafted players in other leagues (read NCAA), and trades.

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#19 suba steve
March 25 2014, 07:45AM
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exsanguinator wrote:

Looks like the UFA Defenseman market this off season is a little mediocre but Calgary certainly has the cap space and hopefully the reputation to buy a 3/4 D.

Flames have Wideman & Smid signed for 3 more seasons. Gio & Russel for 2 more. Brodie for one more. Butler could be re-signed or could be gone as a UFA, I lean toward the re-sign option. T-spoon is looking like he may be ready to join the team permanently next season, though another year in the AHL wouldn't hurt him. I'm just not seeing where they need to go out shopping for another second pairing guy at this stage.

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#20 Jeff In Lethbridge
March 25 2014, 07:51AM
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the sharks are a great, even elite team.for 2 of the 3 periods the flames were just doing all they could to hang on as the sharks poured it on. the sharks did NOT mail it in or give this one away, but played hard and played for the win.

The flames earned this one. yes, hanging on by their finget nails, but they earned it.

Now, sharks will be even more determined to get points in Edmonton.

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#21 Jeff In Lethbridge
March 25 2014, 07:57AM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

can someone provide an advanced stats comparison of gio and the dion, i am interested in seeing how a true team first guy like gio matches up with the centre of the universe's 7 million dolla flunky. how is giostats relative to the much heralded big name dudes.

dion was a cancer in the room, often seen out drinking and smoking, and cohldnt leave the other guys wives alone and so got his butt kicked by Iginla. there is no comparison. (disclaimer: these are rumors being stated for entertainment puposes only and I in no way insinuate they are true)

:-D

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#22 Jeff Lebowski
March 25 2014, 08:21AM
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Justin Azevedo wrote:

you're kidding me, right?

RIGHT?

we post scoring chances for every damn game - it may not happen right away but it happens. we've tracked every match.

as for the other issues, we're looking into the corsi% improvement as we speak and rämö is now above nhl average evsv% on the season: he's now at .922. i like niskanen but for that to happen i think we'd have to see smid move

Nope. NOPE! Not of the kind I originally posted with a link Obviously someone altered my post Gestapo like.

The link: http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/03/24/are-taylor-hall-jordan-eberle-and-ryan-nugent-hopkins-great-young-players-or-not/

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#23 Bean-counting cowboy
March 25 2014, 08:21AM
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Burnward wrote:

Unless we flip Wideman+ for a clear stud...I think we should let this D corps grow. They've been great.

I'm not suggesting this is what I would do nor is the best approach, but if Burke wants to speed things up as he so claims, maybe he can get in on an RFA who is ticked at his team in the negotiations process. Plus they would be just getting into their prime.

I'm thinking like, Jankowski, Baertschi, Wideman (retain 1/2 salary) + Colorado's 2nd (if the above doesn't get it done) for P.K. Subban.

Then do a sign & trade with Cammy (retain 1/2 salary again) + our 2014 2nd + Knight or Granlund for Ryan O'Rielly.

Calgary might be best positioned to do something like this given our cap space and willingness to eat some of it. Teams can get solid roster players at half price to lessen the blow of losing their big players.

Can't help but admit we would have a scary top 4 next year and great center depth without giving up Monahan, this year's 1st, etc. Much easier to fill in the wings if your D and center depth is solid.

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#24 Baalzamon
March 25 2014, 08:38AM
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@Justin Azevedo

i like niskanen but for that to happen i think we'd have to see smid move

deal. Ladislav Smid and Coda Gordon for Matt Niskanen. Just Niskanen, though; I'm not greedy.

;P

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#25 McRib
March 25 2014, 08:49AM
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@ChinookArch

Brian Burke found Tyler Bozak in NCAA Free Agency, which of the last 10 years is one of the better College Free Agent Pickups. Don't get me wrong Tyler Bozak is not a first line centre like Nonis, Carlyle & Co think, but nontheless a solid pickup. Unfortunately for us the Chicago Blackhawks have already signed the best two College free agents this season in Trevor van Riemsdyk & Matt Carey, some people have all the luck!!!

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#26 McRib
March 25 2014, 08:58AM
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I hope Mike Cammalleri lights it up against Anaheim why in the world would a team like that didn't throw us their first rounder for him straight up (or even a second) to ensure scoring depth in a playoff run is beyond me.

They have Ottawa's first rounder this season which (unfortunately for us) is looking more and more like a Top. 5 pick and one of the best prospect systems in the league, where guys like Emerson Etem cannot stick with the big club permanently.

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#27 Kent Wilson
March 25 2014, 10:50AM
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@negrilcowboy

They're better. And Gio did better than Jay Bouwmeester when he was here too.

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#28 Burnward
March 25 2014, 11:21AM
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@beloch

I gotta sneaking feeling Wideman is moved this summer with a prospect or two for an impact forward.

The way Gio, Brodie and Russell have stepped up has kind of made him expendable. Nice little problem to have for a change.

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#29 SmellOfVictory
March 25 2014, 12:06PM
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Burnward wrote:

I gotta sneaking feeling Wideman is moved this summer with a prospect or two for an impact forward.

The way Gio, Brodie and Russell have stepped up has kind of made him expendable. Nice little problem to have for a change.

It's more that Wideman kinda not being that good at hockey has made him expendable. The Flames still need at least one more top 4 defenceman.

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#30 palooza
March 25 2014, 12:45PM
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@negrilcowboy @kentwilson

http://www.extraskater.com/players/dashboard?players=416,162

I'd say Gio has had a significantly better year. DP has had slightly less favourable situations but Gio is killing it. It would be even more one sided if DP's on ice SH% weren't sky high.

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#31 negrilcowboy
March 25 2014, 02:13PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

They're better. And Gio did better than Jay Bouwmeester when he was here too.

would love to see the advanced stats in a head to head. not doubting gio killing it what i would love to see is the matchup.

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#32 FirearmSizzly
March 25 2014, 03:12PM
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Even though the Sharks were totally outplaying them in the first period, I'm so glad that they racked up this win! Especially impressed with Ramo, the shootouts were great and with the amount of trafficking by the net he had to take; I have a lot of faith in him now. Really great to have him back.

He picked up where he left off before the injury and is 3-0-0 with a 0.75 GAA and .971 save percentage in his last four games, which includes a 27-save effort against San Jose. Yup, my hats off to him. This team just gets better and better.

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#33 Jackson
March 25 2014, 04:24PM
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Kent Wilson,

Were you wrong about Smid when he was traded to Calgary?

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#34 Glenn
March 25 2014, 06:57PM
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Don't you think Ramo should have been the Red Warrior?

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#35 Colin.S
March 25 2014, 11:39PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

It's more that Wideman kinda not being that good at hockey has made him expendable. The Flames still need at least one more top 4 defenceman.

I made the pitch that we pick up Niskanen in Free Agency. Ditching Wideman makes that easier.

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#36 jeremywilhelm
March 26 2014, 10:51AM
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I am very proud and extremely happy about he number of people in our fanbase talking about, utilizing and referencing advanced stats, and the sites that promote them.

The constant demand on Flamesnation for more complete and accurate reviews of players and games is very encouraging to me as a part of this fan base.

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#37 FirearmSizzly
March 26 2014, 01:10PM
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@Colin.S

Sounds about right to me, personally while I believe Wideman is a decent player - he's 5 million dollars we could be utilizing somewhere else.

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