Kipper's return

Jean Lefebvre
February 28 2010 11:54AM

When it comes to sedatives, there's diazepam, lorazepam, nitrazepam and oxazepam.

Now, brand new and specially made for Flames fans, is bronzepam.
At precisely the same time Miikka Kiprusoff was donning a Suomi ballcap and taking a seat on the Finnish bench following his brief and disastrous appearance during Friday's Olympic semifinal match, the more nervous members of the Flames fanbase were initiating full panic mode as they contemplated the consequences the bombing of the netminder would have on Calgary's bid to latch onto a 2010 playoff berth.

Well Jukka Jalonen must have felt sorry for Calgary fans or maybe he has a few Euros on the Flames getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference because the Finnish coach went against logic by coming back with Kiprusoff for Saturday's bronze-medal game. The result was a victory over the Slovaks, a medal for Miikka and the rest of the Finns, sighs of relief from some of the nervous Nellies and a round of I-told-you-sos from those who believe Kiprusoff is made up of 87 per cent rubber because of his ability to bounce back from adversity.

If you want the statistics behind the reputation, Kiprusoff has been yanked 26 times as a Flame. One of those hooks came in the final game of the 2008 playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, but in the 25 instances Kiprusoff had an immediate opportunity to atone, he has an 18-7 record, a 2.27 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

If anecdotal evidence is your thing, then look at this way — Kiprusoff has been in Calgary for more than six years and based on his visible emotions, no one has been able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt Kiprusoff is actually human.

Now if Flames fans want to be worried about anything regarding Kiprusoff and the Olympics, it's not his ill-advised wandering from his crease on the Americans' first goal that's the problem, it's the added weight to the Finn's already heavy season-long workload. Calgary has 20 games left on the docket and, with only two back-to-backs to go and negligible confidence in backup option Curtis McElhinney, Kiprusoff could well wind up running the table starting assignment-wise. Even if he gets a day or two off the rest of the way, Kiprusoff will blow past the 70-game mark for the season, and that doesn't count his Olympics work.

Now think back to the fall when Brent Sutter declared that getting Kiprusoff more rest and having him fresh for the playoffs was a major priority. A noble intention to be sure, but circumstances have made the follow-through on that plan impractical.

A year ago, Kiprusoff was pulled six times in March and April including Game 5 of the first-round series against the Blackhawks. Attributing the role fatigue may have played in the struggles (Kiprusoff played 76 regular-season games in 2008-09) was problematic because the team was frequently playing shorthanded down the stretch because of injuries and a cap crunch.

This season, if Kiprusoff flounders in the late-season going, some observers will undoubtedly point to the Olympic semifinal as a contributing factor and fatigue will again avoid the total blame. But whatever the cause might be, any potential dip in Kiprusoff's play would seemingly doom the Flames' already challenging push for a playoff spot.

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 RossCreekNation
February 28 2010, 06:28PM
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If anecdotal evidence is your thing, then look at this way — Kiprusoff has been in Calgary for more than six years and based on his visible emotions, no one has been able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt Kiprusoff is actually human.

Pure Gold, Jean!

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#2 Matt
February 28 2010, 10:51PM
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I'm not sure I'm ready to just gloss over this. Was getting Kipper more rest important, or not? This was basically cited as a major Keenan firing offense.

If it's important that Kipper gets more rest than previously, then it's important. If it's really important, then it's really important. What say you, Sutters?

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#3 Kent Wilson
March 01 2010, 12:02AM
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I obviously can't speak for the Sutters ('quite honest), but I'm sure that Kipper getting more rest is important insofar as his being tired was an explanation for his lackluster performance. Whereas he's performing well this year and, assuming he will continue to, then we can all safely forget that the "fatigue" hypothesis was ever proffered and go on our merry way. Or something.

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