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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Berra and Ramo are Finding Their Groove

After the Calgary Flames practice last Sunday, I had one-on-one conversations with both Karri Ramo and Reto Berra. It's been three months since the first exhibition game and I wanted to know how the adjustment has been going for the two 'older' goaltenders who had come from Europe. We talked about improvements they've made, what they're still working on, the upcoming Winter Olympics and other things.

Below is a link to the story I wrote for The Canadian Press that went on the wire on Wednesday. It appeared in the sports section of the print edition of Thursday's Calgary Herald.

> Dec. 25, 2013 - Berra and Ramo Starting to Fill Flames Goaltending Void

Meanwhile, here are some other random excerpts that I didn't have space to include but I thought were interesting:

Other Ramo Thoughts on the Finnish Olympic Team

I asked Ramo straight-up who he'd pick if he was selecting the three Finnish goaltenders and legitimately he passed on himself although more than anything, it was almost as if he didn't want to be the guy that had to explain why he passed on one of the big four. "If I was to pick, Rinne’s injured so he’s probably going to be out although I don’t know his situation, but then (Tuukka) Rask, (Antti) Niemi and (Kari) Lehtonen for sure. It doesn’t matter who you put in the net out of those three. It’s who has the best day," Ramo said. "Even if I’m really hot and they wanted to pick me, it would be hard for them to talk to the media and tell them that this guy isn’t going to be there".

Instead, Ramo says his priority is the Calgary Flames. "I’m only focusing on these games. Winning here is more important for me than thinking about the Olympic stuff."

Berra on His Relationship with Ramo

Berra noted he's never had one of those 'bad roomate' scenarios with his goalie partner. "I always have it good with my other goalies," he said. "I've never had a bad guy next to me and Karri’s really nice too." He described their relationship as a "really healthy competition" in which they both want to play but realize that it's the coaches decision so when they're not playing, they support the other. "We both want to play but we help each other out.  I’m not angry when he’s playing or anything like that. The coach makes the decisions and all we can do is give our best and whoever plays plays and that’s it. I really enjoy it and we have a really good relationship with (Flames goaltender coach) Clint Malarchuk also."

Ramo on Adjustments NHL Goalies Need to Make in Sochi

Of the eight goalies invited to the Finnish Olympic Orientation camp in late July, the one advantage I thought Ramo and Blackhawks goalie Antti Raanta might have over most of the others is that they most recently played on an international-sized ice surface having done so up until last season. One other invitee -- Petri Vehanen, is currently playing in the KHL.

However, Ramo says all the goalies have plenty of experience playing on the big rink so it will not be a big factor. "Even if it’s bigger ice, you can’t be so focused on that, you just have to adjust and get into the game," he said. "All rinks are different -- different ceilings, different marks on the boards, different colours, and that’s all stuff you have to adjust to over here."

Ramo did provide a couple tips for the Canadian and U.S. goalies. "It gives the players a little more time to make plays so for goalies, you have to be more patient. You can’t be as aggressive as you can be here because guys can just go around you because they have so much space."

Ramo also pointed out that the Finnish "camp" was more a dinner get-together for the same insurance concerns that kept Team Canada off the ice and resulted in Sidney Crosby and his teammates playing ball hockey.

Berra on Getting Into a New Season

Berra noted he feels he's come a long way since September and said it always takes him some time to settle into a new season. "Always, when you go into the season -- and after the whole summer. For me, at first I feel like shit. I don’t really feel comfortable. You have to practice hard and be focused every shot and then it always comes back over time."

Ramo on the Flames Improved Team Defence

It's something the fans, players, and the media repeatedly heard from Brent Sutter during his entire time in Calgary as head coach, good defence results in improved offence. "Since the start of the year, we’re more focused now on being ready to defend than focused on trying to score a goal,” Ramo said. “That’s also key for us to score a goal. When we’re playing good defence , we limit their chances and we’re going to get more chances. That’s been a big key in our goals against going down and us winning more games.”

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