The Calgary Flames were the true embodiment of a goalie timeshare through the first 10 games of the season, equally rotating starts between Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller:
But now, that narrative has changed.
On Monday, head coach Bob Hartley confirmed Hiller would make his fourth straight start on Tuesday against Washington, giving the Swiss netminder a shot at securing at least a point for the seventh consecutive game.
Needless to say, Hiller’s been a big reason why the Flames are off to their impressive 7-4-2 start, one that has them sitting fourth overall in the Western Conference.
“I’m feeling comfortable out there,” Hiller said, per the Calgary Sun. “I feel like the coaching staff stands behind me. I feel like all the players stand behind me.
“So I really feel I can go out there and just worry about playing well and not worry about all the other things.”
That last remark is likely in reference to the end of his tenure in Anaheim. Hiller fell out of Bruce Boudreau’s favor late in the season and was parked on a number of occasions, later admitting his final few months with the Ducks were “frustrating.”
It was an unpleasant departure for one of the best goalies in franchise history. Hiller left Anaheim sitting third all-time among Ducks goalies in games played (326), wins (162) and shutouts (21) but, with youngsters John Gibson and Frederik Andersen ready to make the leap, Hiller was allowed to walk in free agency.
And Calgary’s sure glad he was.
The Flames have been poor in recent seasons and while it’s tough to hang that on the goaltending, the club wasn’t getting much in that department. Four different guys tended goal last season (Ramo, Reto Berra, Joey MacDonald and Joni Ortio) and, the season prior, Miikka Kiprusoff’s struggles led to the likes of MacDonald, Leland Irving and Danny Taylor all getting games.
(You could make the argument that Calgary hasn’t really had good goaltending since Kiprusoff finished seventh in Vezina voting… three seasons ago.)
As such, Hiller’s play this year has been a real difference-maker. His signature game was a 49-save stunner over Chicago two weeks ago (a 2-1 Flames win in OT) but the key is that he’s been consistent all season long, reflected in his 1.84 GAA and .932 save percentage.
“For me, it’s been great,” Hiller said. “On the ice, it’s been working out pretty well. Off the ice, I’m feeling really comfortable here.
“Same thing with my wife and our little daughter, and that helps — to feel comfortable here and also be able to play well on the ice.”