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Goaltending under microscope in disappointing season for Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames



CALGARY, AB
-- An NHL-high 260 goals against.

A league-low .892 save percentage.

But it isn’t just the cast of goaltenders -- the trio of Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio, and latecomer Niklas Backstrom -- to blame for a 10-win, 20-point drop in the standings that has the Calgary Flames cleaning out lockers instead of gearing up for a first round matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, suggested the man who pieced together the 2015-16 edition of the Flames that finished 26th a year after advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“You can’t be 30th in goals against,” general manager Brad Treliving started, on what served as the final day of media availability for a disappointing 2015-16 season. “And that’s not just hanging out goaltenders, that’s a group stat.

“Do we need more saves? Sure. But all of us wear that.”

All did Monday.

“The way the season went, our start wasn’t very good and our goalies took a lot of the blame for that, but we weren’t good enough defensively,” captain Mark Giordano said. “We were giving up too many quality chances in the slot. No goaltender’s numbers will look good when you’re giving up some of the chances we were giving up.

“It’s never on one guy. We all know goaltending is an important position, but you can’t expect your goalie to be making save on the chances we were giving up -- some high quality chances.

“It’s on all of us.”

But the goaltending stats are damning, as collectively as they are individually.

A 9-11-1 record, complete with a 3.51 goals against average and .879 save percentage for Hiller -- the worst in his nine-year NHL career.

A 17-18-1 record for Ramo, who rebounded to post the best numbers of any Flames goaltender at a 2.63 goals against average and .909 save percentage, before sustaining a season-ending ACL tear in February.

A 7-9-5 record, and a 2.76 goals against average and .902 save percentage from Ortio, who carried the ball late in Ramo’s absence, and well after any playoff hopes had long been extinguished.

A 2-2-0 record for Backstrom, who joined Calgary at the NHL Trade Deadline, complete with a 3.35 goals against average and .881 save percentage in his first NHL action after a 15-month layoff.

“I don’t think goaltending was terrible here,” Hiller declared. “It was rough early and we gave up a lot. When you see so many high quality scoring chances against you, after that it’s tough to go out there with confidence.”

“When you look at goaltending, it’s easy to blame if you’re not winning,” added Ortio. “I think there is some truth to it, but we’re all in this together. I’m sure there’s blame on the goalies, but I’m sure there’s blame somewhere else too. It’s not that black and white.

“We all need to be better.”

Whether they’re given the chance to remains Calgary’s biggest question heading into the offseason.

Ramo, Hiller and Backstrom are all unrestricted free agents. The latter pair has been informed a return isn’t at the top of the agenda.

Ortio, 24, is a restricted free agent.

All, at Treliving’s choosing, could be forced to find employment elsewhere.

“No decisions have been made at this time and obviously we will have to weigh in on different scenarios so I’m sure that in the next couple of weeks I’m going to have more talks with Brad about all positions,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “Yes, with goaltending there is going to be lots of questions to get to (the media) and our fans.”

Yes, the questions are many.

The answers still remain.

“I know right now looking at our goals against… whenever you finish 30th in goals against in the NHL, there’s going to be all kinds of questions regarding goaltending,” Hartley said. “Looking at our season, yes goaltending could have been better but after 82 games sitting in our position right now I think it’s very fair to say that everyone has got to be better.

“It’s a year that we started on the wrong way and we never recovered.”

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