Two things were known about the Flames' goaltending situation at the start of the season: the crease was crowded, and it was filled with unknowns. With Joey MacDonald as the only established, if you can call it that, name in net, the Flames were in for an adventure this year.
To recap, the Flames' three goalies thus far have been MacDonald, obtained off waivers last season; Karri Ramo, acquired in a trade with Montreal along with Mike Cammalleri and a fifth round pick in exchange for Rene Bourque, a second rounder, and prospect Patrick Holland; and Reto Berra, one of three pieces coming back from St. Louis in the Jay Bouwmeester trade (the other two were a first rounder and Mark Cundari).
Following Friday's loss against Detroit, a result of questionable goaltending, MacDonald was waived. He cleared waivers and was assigned to the Heat on Sunday. This made room for Berra, who was recalled Saturday to give him a chance to show his stuff.
Berra's debut was a breath of fresh air after recent goaltending performances by MacDonald and Ramo. Thrown into the fire against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, Berra stopped 42 of 44 shots for a .955 SV%, (.971 ESSV%). The two goals Berra gave up were not his fault: the first the result of Patrick Kane having his way in the offensive zone, and the second at the very end of an extended five on three. The most memorable save of Berra's night came on that five on three as he used his big body (he's listed as 6'4) to slide over and stone Patrick Sharp.
For an organization in search of goaltending for the first time in almost a decade, Berra's debut was a welcome sight. MacDonald was never going to be a long term solution, and Ramo and Berra, 27 and 26 years old respectively, are the organization's best chances for the near future while prospects Joni Ortio, Laurent Brossoit, and Jon Gillies develop in the AHL, ECHL, and NCAA.
Ramo's Flames debut came in the season opener, a 5-4 shootout loss to Washington. To compare, in Ramo's first game the Flames' FF% was 47.0% (61.3% 5 on 5 close), while Berra dealt with a FF% of 37.9% (39.1% 5 on 5 close). Berra's debut was much tougher, and against a higher quality opponent. It is, however, worth noting that his defence helped him out, as most of the Blackhawks' scoring chances came from further out, while much of the Caps' scoring chances against Ramo in his debut came in much closer to the crease.
These are still small sample sizes for both goaltenders, but everything points towards Berra having an impressive start - one more so than Ramo's. The Flames have, however, committed to Ramo for the next two years. Hartley's apparent love for Berra may result in him being the starter for the next few games, depending on his future performances, but he should be on a short leash with Ramo ready and waiting to start games again. For the foreseeable future, at least, the Flames should be working with a Ramo/Berra tandem until one of them emerges. The goaltending is still questionable, but a clearer picture is being presented.