The goaltending position in Calgary has never been a worry for the past half decade, and considering Flames fans tend to worry about pretty much everything else, it’s nice to have one less thing. This season, Calgary looks to have its strongest tandem to date in between the pipes with Miikka Kiprusoff and newcomer Henrik Karlsson manning the 4X6.
Kipper for his part, was the lone bright spot and hands down MVP of the Calgary Flames last season. Was he smoking a new kind of weed? No one really knows.
Regardless of what dope he may or may not be into, Miikka Kiprusoff is a world class goaltender that deserved a better fate last season.
His numbers last year speak for themselves. He had a 2.31 GAA with a .920 Save% and posted 35 wins including four shutouts. The only thing Kipper didn’t do was score goals, although I’m sure he would’ve tried if given the chance.
So how can the Flames help Kipper out?
Well, scoring more than 2.45 goals per game (2nd last in the NHL) would be a great start. For a quick scary comparison that’s a goal and a half less per game than Washington scored last season.
You score more goals, you conversely put mountains of less pressure on your goaltender to save your bacon time and again. The Flames have put pieces into place to score more goals; whether these pieces are the right pieces are yet to be determined, but we will find out soon enough.
The other thing the Flames did to help Kipper out is go and find him a suitable back-up goaltender; or so it would seem. Karlsson, or the “Calgary Tower” (he is 6-foot-5), has a firm grasp on the back-up position given his stellar pre-season play and his one-way contract.
No one really knows a lot about this guy and that’s why it could bode well for the Flames this season as opposing shooters will not have a lot of film to work off of. He has looked stellar in the pre-season and made some fantastic saves in the Red vs. White game. He takes up a large portion of the net, so right away the intimidation factor is present. Other than that he is a mystery man. He has never suited up in an NHL game, which is the only thing that worries me. But then again, the other possible back-ups (Keetley and Irving) have suited up for one game combined. Karlsson is used to a bigger ice surface but I am sure he will adjust fairly quickly.
With a suitable back-up in town - something Calgary has never had with Kipper in between the pipes - it will allow Kipper to have the odd night off without forfeiting the game as the Flames did on so many occasions over the past 5 seasons.
In the nine games that he did not start in last season the Flames won 4 and lost 5; reasonable I guess but the team was allowing more than a half a goal more per game. And with a Flames team that ranked so extremely low in goal scoring, that ‘half a goal’ looked like a five, I am sure.
Every year the team says they would like to limit the amount of time Kipper plays, yet every year he has played in excess of 73 games. Part due to the non-reliable back-up, but also because I believe, and I think many other will agree, that Kipper simply loves playing every night; much like Martin Brodeur who is arguably the greatest goaltender of all time. Goaltenders want to be in the crease, regardless of how tired they get. And what is the Coach to say when Kipper plays like he is capable of; in Calgary it was the only hope of winning most of last season.
But this year, I have a feeling things might be different. If Karlsson steps up in a couple of his early starts than Brent Sutter will not hesitate in throwing him in probably 15-20 times throughout the season, which will limit Kipper’s playing time significantly. The fascinating thing to see will how Miikka responds to not playing night in and night out; will he be less sharp? Are the Flames limiting his potential in doing so?
There were two instances last season where he started 19 straight games (11-5-3) and 15 straight games (5-7-3). I would be shocked if we see that again this year.
Bottom line, for the Flames to do anything this year Miikka has to be just as good if not better than he was last year. He needs to steal games, like he has been doing for so many years in Calgary. So whether it’s a new kind of weed, or he is back chain smoking([url]http://bit.ly/bAeqfM), I don’t care. As long as he keeps the little black thing out of the big net behind him, he can be high on whatever he wants. I’m sure Henrik will share in a toke if it results in playing like a golden god.
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