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.