Bright Spots – Miikka Kiprusoff

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 25: Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff #34 of the Calgary Flames against the New York Islanders during an NHL game at the Nassau Coliseum on March 25, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Looking at more of the positives following a disappointing 2009-10 season for the Calgary Flames, you can’t go very far without getting to Miikka Kiprusoff.  The 33 year old goaltender had one of his best seasons of his career, a season that can’t be done justice solely by looking at statistics.

Obviously Miikka’s record is going to reflect the overall play of the Flames, as Kiprusoff went 35-28-4 last season.  The other two major stats were very impressive however, as Kiprusoff’s goals against and save percentage saw their best totals since 2005-06.

Calgary’s season long focus was to decrease the number of shots against, and it was successful, as Kiprusoff faced 2,035 shots (in contrast, the Flames faced 2,155 in 2008-09).  As such, his goals against was going to be lower, and it was at 2.31 over 73 games.  But goals against is a stat that is affected greatly by the play of the team in front of you, so it’s expected Kiprusoff’s number would go down.

It’s the save percentage number which has turned into one of the most telling stats in hockey, and it did last season.  Kiprusoff stopped an even 92% of shots on net, for a save percentage of .920, his third best NHL career total.  The season before, Kiprusoff posted a .903 save percentage, which ended up being the worst total in a Flames jersey.

There were a number of reasons why Kiprusoff’s play was as noticeable as it was.  First, it was a fairly direct contrast from the year before, where his play was much more inconsistent.  But more importantly for me, it was when Kiprusoff was playing his best hockey, and when he was coming up with the most impressive saves.  He’s gained a reputation of making clutch saves at key points of the game, and that was exactly the case last year.  I can remember numerous instances in the final five minutes of a one goal game (surpising) where Kiprusoff came up with a big stop.

For me, it was a perception thing as much as anything else.  When Kiprusoff is at his best, he gives off a certain vibe, a vibe that seems to rattle opposition players at times.  He gave off that calm, consistent vibe last season, making big saves look as routine as any other.  When he’s got that rhythm going, Kiprusoff is as tough a goalie to beat as there is in this league.

I know some look at the goaltending position as a place not to invest significant amounts of cap space.  Recent success stories like Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit are evidence to suggest a team can be extremely successful with a goaltender not considered elite.  But, in watching Calgary’s season last year, I think you can safely say Kiprusoff was a big part of the reason why they were in contention until close to the very end.

  • OilFan

    I agree. Without Kipper, the Flames would have been knee deep in the Taylor or Tyler debate. (well, they would have been, if Darryl didnt decide Olli Jokinen was worth a first rounder, a second line centreman, and an effective role player.)

  • Kipper played great last year (don’t know if he’s worth his salary anymore considering the dramatic drop in goalie salaries over the last few years). He’s one of the few goalies in the league that can almost literally steal games for you (remember the penalty parade 1st period in Detroit a couple years back? Someone try to tell me that we win that game with anyone but Kipper in net).

    The one thing I noticed was that Kipper stopped giving up a “soft” goal a game. I swear that 08-09 Kipper would always seem to let in 1 goal a game that he really should have unquestionably stopped… those went away last season.

  • House

    Miikka is by far the best goaler in the NHL – bar none. Never one to complain and always 1000% effort. Despite the salary (as JF refers to, and in fact I agree with his point), his work ethic is second to none *plus* he doesn’t need a “C” on his mask to prove his worth like his compatriot if Vancouver.

  • icedawg_42

    thank God for Kipper last season. I’ve never been the guy with the kipper jersey on his back, but his season last year deserved a much better outcome. I hope he can retain that form in behind a (hopefully) better squad this year.

  • marty

    Kipper bounced back more than i would have thought. The only problem I see this year is the same as last year, where are the goals going to come from? The team is basically the same with a couple retreads. Is it fair to say that the team will have a “bounce back” season offensively? Sure but when you have 21 players have an off offensive season and bring back mostly the same. I still think the way this team is made up and coached really is the core problem. When you have a coach and GM who see nothing wrong with a 1-0 or 2-1 game as well as a key defender there is a problem which is deeper than the skin, it’s the way the team was made. A new focus and new blood is needed. I’m predicting a 9th or 10th place finish once again.