DENVER — Some weren’t so pretty, like the puck that hit his mask as he protected the side of his net.
Others were indescribable.
Those are the kind of saves the Calgary Flames have come to expect from goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Those are the ones that will ultimately be the difference in their playoff push.
Who would you rather put your money on? Craig Anderson and the Colorado Avalanche, or Kiprusoff and the Flames?
Anyone still on the fence needs to watch highlights of the third period of Friday night’s 2-1 win over the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.
Kicking out his right pad to deny Brandon Yip and preserve a one-goal lead had scribes plopping a description into their save of the game categories.
They had to delete it when he robbed Ryan O’Reilly point blank with a quick swipe of his glove after the Avalanche rookie deflected a pass that seemed destined to find the back of the net.
Before that one settled in, Kiprusoff dove across his crease to reject Chris Stewart’s best scoring chance of the night.
“One lucky save there,” Kiprusoff said modestly in the wake of the win that brought them into a tie with the Avs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“And I would take that any time.”
Hard to say which of his 35 saves he was talking about. They all looked pretty spectacular — or devastating if you were one of the 18,007 in attendance in Denver.
“Oh ya, he made a couple of saves. I don’t think we really asked him to do too much out there,” Nigel Dawes said with a laugh. “We know he’s there to make those big saves. We wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in right now if it wasn’t for him. It gives us a lot of confidence.”
Especially when they get the lead. Dawes scored first early in the second period, and Rene Bourque added the winner early in the third before the Avalanche mounted a frantic attack and beat Kiprusoff with a perfect play to a wide-open T.J. Galiardi.
Kiprusoff didn’t flinch. He didn’t allow another goal, either.
“It’s great when we can have a lead and he can sit back on that and play with that,” Dawes said.
It’s hard to imagine a more clutch goalie than Kiprusoff, who is easily this team’s Most Valuable Player and would probably earn a couple of votes for the Hart Trophy if the Flames were a top seed in the playoffs.
As it is, he has to be a Vezina Trophy candidate.
It’s a year-long award, and while Anderson has been a frontrunner for the Avalanche, you’d have to think the team that gets into the playoffs on their goalie’s back would be the guy given the hardware.
“We need him to be clutch, and he has been all year,” winger Eric Nystrom said calmly after the victory, munching on a sandwich.
“It’s good to see him step up and be a big-game player.
“We need him to play great down the stretch, and I’m sure he’s going to.”
By now, everyone expects it.
And Kiprusoff hasn’t disappointed.