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Goaltender Matchup: Inside Ramo vs. Hiller

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL.com already broke down the Western Conference Second Round matchup between Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks and former Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller of the Calgary Flames, but Calgary switched to Karri Ramo during a Game 1 loss and is sticking with him for Game 2. It’s a significant switch in goaltending styles, so NHL.com added this pre-scout of the more dynamic Ramo.

Much like many goaltending coaches will do before a playoff series, NHL.com correspondent Kevin Woodley, the managing editor of InGoal Magazine, charted every goal scored against Ramo this season with the help of a program from Double Blue Sport Analytics. The graphics showing where goals went in and shots were taken from on the ice are nice, but the real value is tracking and analyzing the types of plays that led to them, and whether they reveal strengths, weaknesses and tendencies that can be targeted.

Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames

OVERVIEW

Ramo is almost the anti-Hiller in terms of how he plays the position and presents a totally different challenge for the Ducks, who may have to adjust their attacking tactics. Where Hiller calmly relied more on patience and deeper positioning to keep his body in front of the play, Ramo plays a lot more aggressively, often on top of his crease, and relies on athleticism to make up for the extra space he has to recover. Where Hiller makes more blocking saves, even on the glove side, Ramo, like most Finnish goalies, catches a lot more pucks with an active glove. Where Hiller keeps rebounds close and in front of him, they come off Ramo more actively and often at more acute angles. None of it will matter if the Flames don't tighten up in front of their net after allowing the Ducks to have their way in Game 1, but if they do, Anaheim will need to adjust how it tries to score.

When he's on -- Ramo takes away time and space with controlled aggression, limiting what shooters see with positioning and closing on passing options quickly with powerful lateral movement on his skates.

When he's off -- Ramo can wander a bit with his positioning on end-zone plays and get caught sliding into and through save positions and shots rather than beating plays on his feet, stranding himself too far from his posts.

GOAL TRENDS

Finnish goalies are well regarded for their ability to catch and control pucks, but Ramo gave up more goals on the glove side this season, and twice as many mid-to-high on the glove side (22) as he did on the blocker side (11). That may be a function of a small sample size, and short of being able to track every shot he faced to produce a save percentage for each area, it's hard to know if there was a trend teams were exploiting, but there were some habits that may have played a role. It was easy to figure out why Ramo gave up nearly one third of his goals along the ice (13 past the right pad, 11 beyond the left). Almost all are backdoor tap-ins, and most were the result of teams exploiting his aggressive positioning.

This also shows up in where the goals come from, with Ramo posting one of the lowest totals to date from the mid-to-high slot (32 percent), but higher totals from off to each side and in tight around the crease from when he gets caught out.

Pass around him: A little more than two minutes after Ramo entered Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round against the Vancouver Canucks, he was beaten on a set play by Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin that left Radim Vrbata alone for a backdoor pass on a power-play rush. Vrbata chipped it over the goalie's outstretched left pad, and commentators agreed Ramo didn't have a chance. Ironically, Hiller might have had a better chance with deeper positioning and a shorter push across. It would have taken a great save, and there's a good chance Hiller doesn't get to it either, but it was an illustration of how to attack Ramo's aggression.

Where Hiller plays almost exclusively within his crease in terms of his depth and inside his posts laterally, Ramo gets beyond the blue ice in each direction. Where Hiller was typically in position and forced teams to beat him with good shots to the perimeter, there is an option to pass around Ramo instead, off the rush and in-zone.

It is a function not only of where Ramo plays, but how he moves on lateral chances. Rather than rotating and pushing back toward his far post, Ramo tends to push explosively straight across his crease, shortening the distance he travels at the expense of getting off angle. So if the backdoor attacker gets wide enough, or the defense leaves him enough time to hold onto the puck, Ramo is often out near the top of his crease, leaving plenty of room to the far post behind him. He got some rotation on Anaheim's final goal in a 6-1 Game 1 loss, but it wasn't enough to cover the distance on a backdoor power-play pass.

Attacks off and below goal line: Ramo improved and diversified his post integration options this season, taking a page out of Hiller's book by adding reverse-VH as an option on sharp-angle attacks below the goal line. But he also uses an overlap technique on plays from above the glove line, squaring up to shooters and placing his short-side skate outside the post in order to eliminate any gap between the shoulder and post if he drops into a butterfly. The overlap technique increases the distance he has to cover on plays back to the far post, which cost him some wraparound goals.

Push him back: It's never a bad idea to force a goalie that likes to be aggressive farther back into his crease, and though getting traffic to the net is one way of doing it, so are plays from behind the net that force him back to his posts. Ramo gave up 19 percent of his goals on passes from below the goal line, which can leave him deeper than he'd like coming off his posts or sometimes catch him moving as he tries to get from the post back up to the top of his crease.

Rebounds at side or high slot: For all the attention paid to Hiller's rebounds in the playoffs, Ramo gave up 27 percent of his goals on rebounds in the regular season compared to 15 percent for Hiller. The big difference is where they go. Ramo typically steers them out farther, often to the sides but also higher in the slot, where Emerson Etem converted one in Game 1.

Catch him moving off rush: Goalies with retreating, outside-in movement against rush chances are typically more susceptible to getting caught moving. Ramo gave up 20 percent of his goals on clean shots, and most came off the rush. If there was a slight trend to these, it was far-side glove shots, an indication he can get caught moving a bit more and early to his right.

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