1. So Kiprusoff is back
Miikka Kiprusoff returned to the Flames crease last night and somehow this was treated as some sort of cool and great news. Finally, the team had its starting goaltender of the last nine seasons back and everything was going to be fine.
Except two things were wrong with that. First of all, before his knee injury, Kiprusoff had two wins in seven games, and only one of them coincided with the two times he actually posted an in-game save percentage of more than .900. I’m writing this on Wednesday night before the game, so I don’t know if he stood on his head (yup) or mailed in another 16-save stinker, but it seems to me the ideas both of starting Kiprusoff on a nightly basis once again and trying to squeeze into the playoffs, as the team clearly wants to do, are dichotimous. He’s bad now, small sample size be damned, we’ve seen this decline coming for a while now, and no matter how good he was last year (rather) that doesn’t excuse how bad he was in all but two of his first seven games.
A 36-year-old man with an .870 save percentage. That’s what’s coming back into the Flames net now. Let’s not act like this is in-his-prime Ken Dryden or, hell, in-his-prime Miikka Kiprusoff riding over the nearest hill. Unless you’re like me and think they should be tanking every one of the remaining 27 games on the schedule in pursuit of a lottery pick, in which case this plan could work out great.
2. Has the world gone mad?
Speaking of the team’s goaltending situation, what is all this talk about the Flames’ backups doing an admirable job "keeping the team afloat" in Kiprusoff’s absence. They conceded 42 goals in 13 games, and I’m no math expert, but that sure looks like more than three a night to me. Of the three backups Bob Hartley used in Kiprusoff’s stead, Joey MacDonald was clearly the best, with a .899 save percentage and 3.04 GAA.
I’m sorry but in which version of the National Hockey League is that, like, anything better than "dreadful?" You have to reach way back into the 1920s to find seasons in which 3.something GAAs were considered elite, and that’s so long ago they didn’t even track save percentage. I swear that’s true.
I suppose it’s technically possible to stay afloat just below the surface instead of sinking deeper, so in that respect those who would praise the team’s terrible backup goalies are correct. But those people seem to be operating under the assumption that the Flames’ original position under Kiprusoff was in some way enviable, which it was not.
Again, this team should be trying to lose, so keep playing these guys by all means, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that being an improvement over Miikka Kiprusoff this year is in any way noteworthy.
3. More college updates
Switching gears, I just have to say I’m very proud of myself. I finally did it, you guys. I actually saw Mark Jankowski play hockey live and in person.
It came on Saturday afternoon when Jankowski and Jon Gillies and Providence College traveled up Interstate 95 to play Johnny Gaudreau and Billy Arnold and Boston College in a crucial Hockey East tilt. BC had defeated the Friars down in Providence the previous night and could, with a win, pretty much crush their opponents’ hopes of winning home ice in the Hockey East playoffs, which begin a week from today.
Instead, BC was total crap on their home rink, as they were the previous Tuesday against Lowell. They lost 5-1, and apart from one noteworthy moment, which I’ll get to in a second, the Flames’ four prospects in the game did little to impress me.
The first thing I noticed about Jankowski is that it looked like a stiff breeze, let alone a college hockey defenseman, could have sent him flying. I tweeted while at the game that he looked like 5-foot-10 worth of clay stretched to 6-foot-4, which is to say he was reedy and looked totally out of place. And I don’t even mean physically among the better-built players that usually litter the NCAA; he put no shots on goal at all in 60 minutes despite getting pretty regular shifts and, had I not been on the lookout for him every time he came over the boards (he was the one that looked and skated like a giraffe) I would hardly have noticed him at all. He finished the game minus-1 but had a secondary assist on Providence’s third goal, which came on the power play.
Arnold and Gaudreau were far more active and noticable, as you might expect, but despite combining for seven of BC’s 18 shots they only managed one good scoring chance, on which Gaudreau beat a defenseman to the outside and tried to squeeze his famous backhander past Gillies at the left post. To be fair, though, he had a pair of assists the night before.
Arnold was once again solid, as I’ve come to expect, and tried to get into the game with some borderline play, but had little influence on the outcome overall.
As for Gillies, he was perfectly fine but rarely tested by an injury-riddled and oddly-dispirited BC team that should have been able to crush a mediocre Providence squad, and stopped 17 of 18. Also he made this save:
4. Just getting around to this
I can’t believe all that Ryan O’Reilly stuff shook out just a few hours after this column published last week. How unfortunate. Oh, the laughs we would have shared. As the Flames themselves have noted, the whole thing is now moot, an academic exercise in incompetence at best. But let me just ask you this question and be done with it:
What other current NHL GMs beside Feaster would you have expected to offer sheet a player from a division rival, lose two picks including a high first-rounder, and then lose the player on waivers as well?
The correct answer is "none."
(I think you are forgetting about the T-bone and K-Lowe up north – ed.)
5. Shipping out Bouwmeester
Interesting that this is being bandied about now, and reasonable too. Which is why it won’t happen.