Karri Ramo is a patient man in a business that isn’t.
When the then-struggling Calgary Flames put the goaltender on waivers in October, they basically said they were ready to say farewell should another team claim him.
Fast forward 11 weeks and Ramo is back to No. 1 on Calgary’s goaltending depth chart. The Finn has started the last 10 games for Calgary and 25 of its last 28.
As he’s sorted out his game, so have the Flames. Ramo’s resurgence coincides with Calgary’s climb out of the NHL’s basement and into playoff contention in the Pacific Division near the halfway mark of the regular season.
Ramo’s save percentage has risen from .868 in October to .913. After a 3-8-1 month to start the season, the Flames (19-18-2) have won 11 of their last 15 games. Once the worst team in the NHL defensively, Calgary’s goals-against average has contracted to 3.10.
“October is long gone,” Ramo said Wednesday following practice at Scotiabank Saddledome. “Obviously at that moment, it’s not the greatest feeling, but in that kind of situation you have to see the bigger picture.
“In the NHL, everything changes so quickly so you can’t just think everything is done. You have to keep moving on. In a couple days, I was back up here. You never know what’s going to happen in this business.”
The Flames will hit the midway point of the season after games at home against the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks on Thursday and Monday respectively. Flames head coach Bob Hartley said winger Jiri Hudler will be out at least a week with an undisclosed injury.
It’s taken time, twists and turns for the Flames goaltending situation to settle in 2015-16. The team began the season with three goalies — Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio — all under one-way contracts.
Hiller started the majority of games for the Flames last season, but was supplanted by Ramo in the playoffs. The Flames re-signed Ramo to a one-year, $3.8-million deal on July 1.
After clearing waivers, Ramo’s October stint in Stockton, Calif., was brief because of an injury to Hiller. Ramo then did what Hartley hoped one his goaltenders would do, which was take the ball and run with it.
The way Ramo sees it, playing a lot of games accelerates improvement because he’s continually forced to execute at high speed and in pressure situations.
“The more you play, the more you always want to be better,” the 29-year-old said. “You change small things all the time. You try to get better stuff into your game and maybe that’s been the key.
“The more you play, the more you can do those things. In a game, you don’t have time to think that much. To make those things automatic, it takes a lot of work.”
Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet say he and Ramo have worked on making him more efficient in net.
“Karri is a huge student of the game,” Sigalet said. “He’s 29 and he’s still trying to learn ways that will make his game easy, simplify his movement.
“The big thing we’ve worked on since the start of the year is just calming him down in the net, bringing him back in his net a little bit deeper and allowing his movements to be calmer and more controlled and not relying on his athleticism all the time, but using it when he needs it.”
Ramo collected his first shutout of the season Saturday with 26 saves in a 4-0 win over the host Colorado Avalanche. Tampa Bay’s late goal in a 3-1 loss to the Flames on Tuesday ended Ramo’s shutout streak at 152 minutes and 55 seconds.
There is a likely correlation between Ramo’s play and the increased production of Calgary’s top defensive pairing of captain Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie.
The duo have been more audacious on the attack lately. Brodie has two goals and 12 assists in his last 15 games while Giordano has contributed five goals and 10 assists in that span.
“You give up the odd chance here and there,” Giordano said. “I think we are playing better as a group but when you give up those big (chances) and he’s making those huge saves . . . it goes a long way. Our overall team record and play is a big result of that.”
Although his contract is up after this season, do they go after a true starting goaltender?