Flames 3, Stars 1 post-game embers: Goaltending saves the day

The Calgary Flames won their seventh game in a row, sixth game in regulation, and third game by more than one goal. 

Also, they’re now officially in a playoff spot. So that’s pretty cool!

Karri Ramo, NHL goaltender

It wasn’t that long ago the Flames waived Karri Ramo to solve their three goalie problem. It wasn’t that long until he was called back up, either, due to a Jonas Hiller injury. And he’s started almost every single game since then, save for a couple of back-to-back or flu-related instances.

Ramo was the reason the Flames won last night, though. The only goal he gave up was the result of a shorthanded break; otherwise, he stopped 35 of 36 shots for a pretty nifty .972 save percentage. His team entered the third period with a two-goal lead, and only kept that two-goal lead thanks to the play of their goalie – because the Flames gave up 17 shots in that period alone, and were out-corsied 40-10.

There’s score effects, and then there’s not knowing how to play with a lead. Ramo was the only guy who knew how to play with a lead, apparently. 

Jamie Benn was a monster on the ice. Ales Hemsky led the way with five shots on net and a 92.00% ES CF. And the only guys who dented Ramo’s numbers were Johnny Oduya and Vernon Fiddler.

This was Ramo’s third straight game with at least a .900 save percentage; better yet, three straight with at least a .939 save percentage. 

In October, Ramo carried a .868 save percentage. In November, he rose to .909. So far, in December, he has a .918.

At least for now, Ramo is the undisputed Flames starter, and boy, did he have to earn it. But he did. Now he’s just gotta keep it up, especially if that third period was the Flames’ idea of how to play with a lead.

Hope for the power play?

The power play in the first period was… so bad. It was so bad. They were outgunned, giving up that shorthanded goal; for the way they played, they might as well have been outmanned and outnumbered, and they were definitely outplanned. One shot over two power plays wasn’t a good look for the new-look units.

But then that second period power play happened, and while the Flames didn’t score, they generated nine shots. Nine shots on net over a two minute period is unheard of for this team, let alone when they actually have the man advantage. It was a shame they didn’t score, because if they have more power plays that look like that, then their percentage will probably climb above the league-worst 10.8% it currently sits at.

Player usage was weird, though. Johnny Gaudreau led the way playing 3:40, but his linemates were Joe Colborne and Mason Raymond, who played 3:37 and 3:28 apiece. Considering how the power play really looked like it was going when Sean Monahan (2:27) and Sam Bennett (2:18) were on the ice, you have to wonder if they just needed a little Gaudreau to put it in.

On defence, meanwhile, things were spread around pretty evenly amongst five guys: Mark Giordano (3:24), T.J. Brodie (2:51), Dennis Wideman (2:10), Kris Russell (1:52), and Dougie Hamilton (1:43). Loved, loved, loved seeing Giordano and Brodie kept together on the power play; and really, it only makes sense: if they’re your top two defencemen, doesn’t it make more sense to keep them together?

And while Wideman’s game lends itself to power play usage, honestly, between the five of those players, at least based on how things looked last night – and maybe even due to the fact the power play has been so bad, and Wideman is the most-used defenceman on it – he’s the one I wouldn’t want on it anymore. Because guess which defenceman wasn’t out there for the nine-shot, competent-looking power play?

Weird ice times

I don’t think this is going to be indicative of usage for any future games, but man, some Flames were deployed way more than you thought they would or should have been last night.

Brodie (28:54) and Girodano (27:22) led the way, with Russell (25:07) following up, but then the next most-played defenceman was Hamilton (17:19). That big a difference between your third and fourth defencemen, even when accounting for special teams time, is just odd.

Then, there were the forwards. Gaudreau (18:31) led the way, but following him up wasn’t Monahan or Jiri Hudler or anyone like that – instead, it was Colborne (18:13) and Matt Stajan (18:08). (Okay, so Monahan ended up right behind with 17:34, but for Stajan to play that much more than him – who would have expected that?)

Just weird. You could make the argument that it worked, because the Flames won; at the same time, you could make the argument that it didn’t, because Ramo was the only one who looked impressive as the game went on.

From the pressbox to the first line

The last time Josh Jooris played a game, it was Nov. 28. He sat for six games straight. He only got into the lineup because Michael Frolik was injured and unable to play.

And then he spent more than six minutes with Gaudreau and Monahan, his most common linemates of the night. And they actually played better with him: 44.44% ES CF with, as opposed to 20-24% without.

Jooris had a clean statline over his 14:04 of ice time. No shots on net, one takeaway, and 2:50 played on a penalty kill that didn’t give up any goals – the most-used forward. He had a -2 corsi differential when shorthanded, which is pretty impressive considering how much time he spent on the kill. Jooris is a pretty good penalty killer, though, so it’s good to see him out there.

As one last side note – you know who led the Flames with shots on net? Micheal Ferland. He had five. And he was flying. He jumped up to 13:29 in ice time, so hopefully, this marks the return of his getting a regular shift – because he deserves one, especially if he can keep that up (and there’s no reason to think he can’t).

  • mk

    I’m reminded of a comment made a couple years ago – teams are rarely as good or as bad as their current streak shows. I took solace in that fact when the Flames stumbled out of the gate and am now keeping cautious about my optimism. The Flames still seem to be a playoff-bubble team: not world beaters, but have a realistic chance to make the dance. Miles better than languishing in the basement for a decade, as some teams seem to enjoy. 😉

    Now for some optimism (hate to be a downer) – Ferland looked good last night, really seemed dialed in to good hockey. He was using his size, but seemed more focused on making a good play rather than just hitting people. If he enjoys a good career in the NHL, this will be the key.

  • cberg

    I hope this quells the thirst some Flames fans for a trade for a wasted Jonathon Bernier who has still yet to win an NHL game this season! Ramo has won 11,second most in the Pac Division!

    With the injury to Sparks following the one to Reimer, Leafs need Bernier in the worst way! lol

    • everton fc

      Ferland’s time will come – he needs the right linemates. But what he’s learning in the interim is how to play special teams, defence, and so on. Not bad for the kid.

      As for the Leafs, perhaps they’d take Hiller for Bernier – or maybe just take Hiller!! I actually think a change of scenery, in a more positive room, would help Bernier find his form. He’s still young, for a goalkeeper. But we are exactly “deep” in net, as Stockton’s goaltending has bee pourous. (Amazing Kent Simpson was a 2nd round pick by the Black Hawks!)

      • The GREAT Walter White

        “(Amazing Kent Simpson was a 2nd round pick by the Black Hawks!)”

        We’ll be saying something similar about Mason McDonald in a few years…..



    • The GREAT Walter White

      I’m with yah. Never really got excited about the trade talk with Bernier, although there was some logic behind it. With the way Ramo is playing and the injuries in the 6, Bernier wont be wearing the flaming C anytime soon.


    • Kevin R

      not sure I agree. Babcock wasn’t too happy he had to back peddle because he now has to go with Bernier. Goes to show, you may go nuts with Hartley’s player usage (which I totally agree with everyone) but the man is a positive person in the media about his players.

      After last night I think it just made Hiller’s value in a transaction go up with the Leafs. Both these goalies need a change of scenery, what a perfect fit. If we can get the Leafs to add a 2nd or 3rd to the Bernier for Hiller deal for taking on that extra year of contract fantastic. But a rebuilding Leafs are probably not wanting to part with picks so maybe they take Raymond or Smid with Hiller & we take one of their expiring contracts like Grabner back with Bernier, no other picks or prospects involved. Grabner walks at the end of the year, we have a goalie signed for next year that was going to be needed anyway & & we manage to free up Smid or Raymonds 3.0+mill next year.

      Babcock then doesn’t have to pop Maalox having no choice starting Bernier next few games & we use Hiller to dump one of our contracts next year & take a Hail mary on Bernier. Who knows, suddenly he starts to win in a new uniform.

      Now another scenario could be Arizona who BT has a pretty good take & relationship with. They need a goalie. Maybe we can swap Hiller & Smid on Arizona for Lindback, who can back up Ramo. I see the stars aligned for us to be able to use Hiller to get rid of one of our contracts everyone would like to see disappear for cap space next year. Imagine gaining 3.1 or 3.5 in unexpected cap space without having to buyout or use assets to move out. Gotta love the NHL, my how things change so quickly.

      • Toofun

        I agree with all of this… I’m not sure how likely it is that Tre could pull it off but they are deals that would be worth doing. No downside, some upside and a lottery ticket.

      • everton fc

        I think Hiller for Bernier straight-up is worth a punt. Can’t see anyone giving up anything much for Hiller, even in a scenario as you painted above. Arizona might be the other trade-partner.

        Like I’ve said before, at least my opinion, Bernier’s young enough where a change of scenery to a more positive environment where the coach is always upbeat and positive about his players, which Hartley was/is – look at how he handled interviews when the Flames were caving, how he stuck with Russell, in particular; players like this… Perhaps Bernier can become who he was in L.A., here.

        Hiller certainly can’t. Or has proven as much, in most fans opinions. Hiller can handle Toronto, I believe. He could certainly handle Phoenix. Trouble we have is we’re on a roll, and giving Hiller a start to see and hope he brings a shutout and some trade value is a big risk I hope we don’t take, for it could also turn into a mistake we don’t want to make.

  • travisbell

    Good game. As long as a goaltender can keep at least a .910 save percentage for the team, I think they can stay on track. It took ~25 games but someone is finally answering the call.

    I was really hoping Ferland could have been involved on a goal, he deserved it last night. You get these flashes of his skill and I think it’s higher than a lot of people give him credit for.

  • RKD

    Everything has turned around since that comeback victory against Dallas to start that home stand. They have had a couple of games that were not great but still found a way to win and somehow have carried this strong play on the road. They have been a lot better defensively and the goaltending has bailed them out a few times. They didn’t have this in October, they didn’t have Brodie. Giordano was not looking himself and Hamilton was out of sorts learning a new system. A few weeks ago we were ranting about Auston Matthews and now we are talking playoffs.

  • maimster

    I thought that Ferland/Stajan (and even Colbourne) looked competent in the 3rd period last night. At least they got the puck out of the zone and tried (tried!) to keep it near or in the Stars zone for a few seconds. Could be why they played more as the 3rd went along. I’m always surprised they don’t play more Backlund while protecting a lead, because he usually seems to know that a bit of puck pressure on the offensive end works.

    The others…I recall one smart play by Hudler and nothing else too good. Seemed like they had breakout plays in mind but no-one told them the Stars were going to play 25% faster in the 3rd period. Our guys looked really slow. All except Ramo’s glove.

  • RKD

    Good article Ari.

    I don’t find Matt Stajan’s usage weird at all. I believe he was centering the “shut down” line primarly used against Benn and Seguin.

    I’d be happy to play Stajan and Colborne 25 min each if I could keep the scoreline for the #2 and #3 scorers in the league to:
    0-0-0 and 0-0-0 after two games.

  • SydScout

    I noticed that Gaudreau often double shifts himself.

    Might be irrelevant but I’d like to know how often he has extra long shifts v his teammates, and other players that may be peers like Kane. Jonnny just seems to have boundless energy and is prepared stay on the ice to keep the puck in the zone. Additionally, if that assertion is correct, it’d be interesting to see how often the second half of his double shifts turn into Corsi events and goals.

  • everton fc

    A lot of credit goes out to Matt Stajan, he has now helped shutout Benn and Sequin in 2 games. He had to play big minutes if he was going up against the leagues #2 and #3 leading scorers. Ferland looked great with Matty. He is a great skater but I am not sure he will be much of a finisher.

  • everton fc

    How good has Karri Ramo been of late?

    Ramo has been stellar over the last three games stopping 87-91 (.956SV%) shots against three playoff teams in the San Jose Sharks, Predators and Stars, while making timely saves and bailing his team out when needed.

    He deserves a tonne of credit for the turn around and current seven game winning streak.