The Calgary Flames rode Reto Berra to eight straight and 11 of 12 starts in November.
Now, it’s Karri Ramo’s turn.
Coming off back-to-back wins and allowing just a single against both the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes, coach Bob Hartley indicated it was time to see what Ramo can do with a string of starts.
“For me and the organization, how can we make them No. 1 goalies in the NHL?” Hartley asked. “The only way to make them is to give them strings of games, to put them in the No. 1 chair and say, ‘Can you carry us for six, seven, eight, nine games like Mike Smith or Marty Brodeur or Carey Price’. I think that’s what we want to create over here and it’s a positive challenge for both of them.”
Ramo stopped 21 of 22 against the Kings on Saturday before kicking out 29 of 30 Wednesday night against the Coyotes, dropping his goals against average to 3.00 in the process. His save percentage has risen to .898, too.
His success against the Coyotes came with improvements in tracking the puck.
“Karri’s very focused,” Hartley said. “Here’s a team that puts lots of good pucks to the net with intentions of getting tip or screen shots. They’re doing a very good job at it and I felt that throughout the game (Wednesday), Karri had about four, five tips that were very dangerous chances. I felt that his tracking was unbelievable. It looked like routine saves and they were not. I feel that right now, the game is easy for him. He makes saves look easy and that’s a quality of a good goalie. He’s playing very well.”
Mark Giordano, who watched Ramo in Los Angeles before returning Wednesday from an 18-game absence with a broken ankle, had a similar assessment.
“He’s reading the play unbelievably,” Giordano said. “Last night, they must’ve had…I don’t know…I counted six or seven when I was on…they deflected the puck and he tracked it and made the saves. You know when your goalie is reading those deflections, he’s on and he was into the game. He was really solid, good rebound control. The last two games he’s been really good.”
THE GIO FACTOR
With a win his return Wednesday, the Flames improved to 5-2-2 with Giordano in the lineup. Without him, the Flames are just 5-11-2.
The two records aren’t just coincidence, Hartley admitted.
“He’s our leader,” he said. “Nothing to take away from our other great leaders. He’s our presence. You look at him on the ice. I’ve never seen a guy work hard like Mark Giordano.
“Coming off the plane on Monday from LA, he came straight over here, got in the gym, worked out. It’s a pleasure to be Gio’s coach. You never worry about him. You know exactly where he’s going to be, what he’s going to do, how he’s going to prepare.”
Giordano said it’s tough to watch regardless of whether the team is winning or losing.
“Any time you’re out, it’s tough,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how things are going. If things are going well you feel like you’re not part of it and when things are going bad, obviously it sucks sitting out and feeling like you can’t contribute.”
He's contributed in a big way when he's been in.
Despite playing in just a third of Calgary’s 27 games this season, Giordano is ninth in team scoring with 11 points.
MAINTENANCE FOR MCGRATTAN
Brian McGrattan left the ice midway through practice on Thursday, but Hartley cautioned its nothing serious with the pugilist.
“It’s maintenance,” he said. “He’s banged up a little bit but he’s okay.”
McGrattan played 7:52 against the Coyotes -- his fourth-highest total of the season. He has one assist and 29 penalty minutes in 25 games this season.
“Stempniak, going back years now, has always been great on the PK, a great offensive guy on the PK and him and Stajan together are a great combo but I think it’s our whole team’s mindset where if we get the chance, we’re going.”
-Giordano on Flames’ penalty killing prowess
The Flames welcome Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche to Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday (7 p.m. MT, SNET-W).