The Calgary Flames have finally won their first game of the season in an exiting overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres. Even with that win, Chad Johnson only walked away with 0.857 save percentage. So how come for the last 4-5 seasons, why do the Flames never have any luck with their goaltending?
Calgary Flames fans definitely remember Mr. Miikka Kiprusoff, who retired from the NHL after the 2012-2013 season. The Flames made playoffs in the 2003-2004 season for the first time in eight years and that was also the season they got Kiprusoff. A large part of their playoff run, and the first time they made the Stanley Cup Finals since 1989, was because of Kiprusoff. After that season, he became the the Flames #1 goaltender.
The Flames were a team that struggled. In the years Kip played with them, except for that cup run in 04, they made playoffs four other times. But each time, they were defeated in the first round. Kip, however, still managed to have a career sv% of 0.912 and a GAA of 2.49. Pretty respectable, given that he was the starting goaltender for a team that never really turned heads.
For the majority of his career with the Flames, Kip found himself in the top 10 for goalie wins, and for sv% (on goaltenders who have played at least 30 games a season). Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have a team in front of him who could help him out.
So what happened with the team? Well, they got an amazing defensive duo, some forwards who have been turning heads, and a season where they were known as the “comeback kids”. But what about their goalie situation?
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Jonas Hiller most recently played for the Calgary Flames, but before that played for the Anaheim Ducks. He had a good career with the ducks, normally splitting the games like he did in Calgary with Karri Ramo. Ramo, who played in the KHL before playing with the Flames also had a good career, averaging around 0.923 sv%. But for some reason, Calgary has had a problem with their goalie situation for the last four-five years. With only getting one decent playoff run in the last seven years, it’s no news this team has struggled.
I’ve mentioned before, but I’m not one to goalie shame. I hate doing that and I think the fault should rarely be on a goaltender. But in the 2014-2015 playoff run, I mean a large reason for their success that season didn’t have a lot to do with goaltending. In fact, they were one of the least talked about during that playoff run. Hiller and Ramo didn’t exactly start winning conversations.
But what about now?
Brian Elliott, who the Flames traded for on draft day this summer, has had an incredible past five seasons. Coming in second for sv% in the last five seasons, just after Cory Schneider, he was definitely a steal. And something the Flames desperately needed. But the first two games of the season don’t exactly show that, and it’s leaving Flames wondering if this goalie-turns-bad-when-he-comes-to-Calgary scenario is happening again. It might take him a while to get in the hang of things in a new city with a new team and new coaches, but it’s something that the Flames cannot afford. In the first two games, Elliott struggled.
In the season opener, he allowed six goals on 27 shots, and the first two goals happened on the first two shots. Then fast forward two days later for the Flames home opener, he allowed four goals on 28 shots. Better, but not good enough.
Did Elliott magically become bad after coming to Calgary?
Chad Johnson, who signed as a free agent with the Calgary Flames during the off-season, left people worried during the preseason. He didn’t do so hot and left fans thinking they’d be relying on Elliott for the majority of the games. However on the third game of the season, Johnson was on fire (because he’s a flame probably. Sorry, this is the second article in a row that I’ve made this pun somebody stop me). He allowed only one goal on 31 shots, the only other one he let in was during a shootout, which the Flames unfortunately lost in. However, it definitely gave fans a sense of optimism regarding the goalie situation.
However on Tuesday night in an exciting overtime win against his former team, the Buffalo Sabres, Johnson let in three goals on 21 shots.
But let’s not only look at the score sheet. He was there when the Flames needed him, and made some incredible through traffic saves when the Sabres were putting on some pressure. He also had a couple of awesome saves in overtime, leading the Flames to their first win of the season. It wasn’t the ideal way to win and not the numbers they would have liked for Johnson to have, but hey. What can you do about that now?
Yes the goalie situation right now isn’t exactly what fans were expecting after signing Elliott and Johnson. But the only thing to really do right now is to be patient.
And hope to whoever controls the Universe to give these Flames a break.