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Know Thy Enemy: Flames Goalie Preview

After ceding the Anaheim crease in the playoffs to a pair of rookies last season, Jonas Hiller has the opportunity to burn his old team in the Pacific Division Final.

Hello boys,  I'm BACK!
Hello boys, I'm BACK!
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

It's a storyline as old as sports itself: after multiple seasons of leading his team to great heights a veteran finds his spot pushed by a newcomer, and after competition ends up ceding to the upstart. So was the story back in 2008-09 when Jonas Hiller usurped the Anaheim Ducks starting spot from Jean-Sebastien Giguere, en route to upending the Presidents Trophy winning San Jose Sharks in the first round and pushing eventual conference champion Detroit to seven games in the second.

With the passage of time all players are subject to this, and so too was Hiller last season in being outplayed by Frederik Andersen down the stretch, and then seeing John Gibson get the net after backstopping the first two second round losses to Los Angeles and Andersen go down with injury. The Ducks decided to go young between the pipes thereafter, allowing the goalie with the third most games played (326), third most wins (162), second most playoff appearances (26) and wins (12) in franchise history to walk to unrestricted free agency. Enter the Calgary Flames.

With the retirement of franchise regular season games played (576), wins (305), and shutouts (41) record holder Miikka Kiprusoff following the 12-13 season, the Flames spent a season with a patchwork of net presence. Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, Joey MacDonald and Joni Ortio all saw action as the team floundered to a second-bottom Pacific Division and Western Conference finish, saved the indignity of last place by only the ten point poorer play of their Albertan rival Edmonton.

Signing Hiller to a two-year, $4.5 mil deal in the offseason gave the Flames a new veteran presence between the pipes, and the Swiss-born netminder rewarded Calgary's faith with his best performance since the 10-11 season in backstopping the team to the playoffs. Having dispatched western Canadian rival Vancouver in round one, the stage is set for the ultimate payback.

How did their season go?



Save Percentage


Hiller 26-19-4 .918 2.36
Ramo 15-9-3 .912 2.60
Ortio 4-2-0 .908 2.52

After spending the first month of the season with a relatively even split of playing time between Hiller and Ramo, Hiller began to pull away with the job late in the month and hold it through much of November, going 9-6-1 in his first two months in Calgary including an string of seven starts where the Flames earned 13 points. Hiller did miss a stretch of time from January 10-20, necessitating the call-up of Ortio. Down the stretch he went 11-5-1 to help lead the Flames into the playoffs, including making 33 saves on 34 shots in the must-win game against Los Angeles.

Further breaking down the save percentage based on danger areas, Hiller stopped low danger shots at a .967 mark, medium at .937 and high to the tune of .853 at even strength. For all situations the low danger performance is better at .968, while both medium (.913) and low (.845) dip. Of particular interest is his performance with the Flames on the penalty kill; perhaps the reason why it could be an achilles heel is that Hiller stops low danger shots at a .950 clip, but his medium (.706 second worst amongst goalies with 100+ minutes of SH time faced) and high (.739 sixth worst among starters) numbers fall off a cliff.

Ramo was his busiest in March, going 5-2-2 as Hiller sat for a ten day stretch from March 17-27. He lost his final start of the season at Minnesota on March 27, giving up four goals on 35 shots and being lifted in favor of Hiller, who then held the job down the stretch and into the first round.

Stats vs. Ducks



Save Percentage


Hiller 1-2-0 Season .889 Season 3.43 Season
Ramo 1-0-0 Season

1-1-0 Career

.906 Season

.914 Career

3.00 Season

2.83 Career

Ortio 0-1-0 Season

1-1-0 Career

.636 Season

.818 Career

8.15 Season

4.05 Career

Hiller earned a dramatic shootout win in his first game against his old club, stopping 24 of 27 shots and then denying both Jakob Silfverberg and Corey Perry in the skills competition. The image of his leaping celebration while the pyro shot off overhead in the Saddledome was an early season punch in the gut. His first appearance in road colors at Honda Center saw the Ducks jump out to a 3-0 lead through two periods, before the Flames rallied with two in the third including Jiri Hudler's with 26 remaining to cast a brief shadow of doubt over the result.

Hiller's next appearance came in relief as the Ducks chased Ortio scoring four times on 11 shots with just under half the game played. He turned aside 14 of 15 and gave the Flames hope for a comeback, but the one conceded was a wrister from between the circles top shelf to the glove side by Ryan Getzlaf that snuffed out hopes of a comeback. The final showing was allowing five goals on 37 shots in a 6-3 Ducks win on February 20, notable for him allowing a rebound off the end boards to bank off him and in.

With his pure butterfly style, Hiller drops to cover the bottom of the net with essentially every shot. It leaves the upper corners vulnerable, and the Ducks have been able to pick them in each of their games facing him. There's also the matter of occasional lack of technical soundness in covering the post, as he can be beaten along the ice on wraparounds, as well as issues with his positioning. His tremendous quickness for a goalie of his size help him overcome these holes, particularly when his game is in top form. Though not quite to the degree of Ondrej Pavelec he will leave rebounds as well, so again getting to the gritty areas to find them will be important.

Ramo presided over the final meeting of the season that saw the Flames pick up the 6-3 win, making 29 stops in the process. Last year he had an early mop-up appearance, as well as giving up a pair in the third period as the Ducks completed a comeback for a 3-2 win on March 26, 2014. Outside of the shelling this season, Ortio made 20 stops in the ignominious 7-2 shelling Anaheim took March 13 last season.

Playoff Experience



Save Percentage


Hiller 3-2 Season

15-14 Career

.931 Season

.932 Career

2.20 Season

2.28 Career

Ramo 1-0 Season .905 Season 2.11 Season
Ortio N/A N/A N/A

Hiller has been the man for the Flames this year, getting all six starts but twice being lifted in favor of Ramo as a means to spark the team, including in game six where he allowed a pair on the first three shots of the game. Hiller's career numbers are still skewed by his tremendous first playoff run with the Ducks, as over the last two postseasons with Anaheim he went 5-6 with a .914 save percentage and 2.37 goal against average.

Outside of the relief appearance Ramo has no other NHL playoff experience, but had a pair of solid playoff runs with Avangard Omsk of the KHL in 11-12 and 12-13 where he went 19-13 with sub 2.00 GAAs both times. Ortio appeared in the playoffs twice in the highest level of Finnish hockey, and made four appearances for the Abbotsford Heat in the AHL last season going 1-3 with a .915 SV% and 2.88 GAA.