Karri Ramo has been putting in some serious overtime of late in order to work a little less.
Early in the season, when Ramo was struggling, he would find himself working too hard and overplaying the puck, often leaving himself in vulnerable positions. His goals-against average went to new heights, his save percentage dropped to new lows and his once-high stature was starting to take a hit.
"The first month, he kind of bothered me with the way he played, because he was really all over the map," Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet said. "He was pushing everywhere, goals would be scored because he'd be 5 yards out of the net and guys would just tap it in. And to me, that's not the type of goalie I want."
Tocchet wanted to see a calmer presence in net. Lately, the 22-year-old Ramo has been showing poise and letting everything come to him.
In his past six starts - five of which went into overtime - heading into tonight's game against Ottawa, Ramo is unbeaten in regulation with a 2-0-4 record and a 2.53 goals-against average. He has faced 196 shots during that span, stopping 180 for a save percentage of .918.
"I think that goaltending coach Cap Raeder has done an unbelievable job of quieting Ramo's game to where he's more in tune with the shooter and he's relying on his defensemen to help him out on the back door," Tocchet said.
Raeder sits down with each goaltender and reviews every game, offering praise and criticism when warranted. With Ramo, he's worked primarily on getting his movements more under control.
"Things are coming his way, and he's not chasing," Raeder said. "It shows up at the odd time, but he's got a lot better. He's not so active in the net."
It couldn't have come at a better time for Ramo.
As the season winds down, so does Ramo's entry-level contract. With a new set of evaluators in the Lightning front office, he needed to show them he is capable of playing at the NHL level. With an open slot behind Mike Smith in the Lightning net, Ramo also has been in an audition of sorts to serve as next season's backup.
"The steady work ethic, being strong mentally and his experience now is starting to show that he can come out of struggles, and that's important to know because he'll be in it again," Raeder said.
Ramo said working with Raeder has helped.
"I feel that I've found the right path, doing a lot of good things right now and following the right road to where I want to go," he said. "I know there have been games where three or four goals go in, so there are still things I need to work on. But when we watch the tape we can see that I have the calmness and confidence in my game, so it's getting there and getting better."