SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper's stats seem fishy

Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has a laugh during practice at the Saddledome on Sunday....

Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has a laugh during practice at the Saddledome on Sunday. (Calgary Sun/Darren Makowichuk)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

The numbers aren't up to Miikka Kiprusoff's usual standards.

A 3.01 goals-against average. A losing record of 2-4-1.

Not the kind of start expected from the Calgary Flames goaltender.

Don't try pinning any blame on him, though.

"Everyone in our room knows we're not nearly good enough in front of him," said captain Jarome Iginla.

"It's not just shots, it's high-quality shots in the middle of the slot we've been giving up, and if you give up too many of them, they'll score. It's not outside shots, it's breakdowns.

"Besides, look at last year: He went on to win the Vezina convincingly."

Head coach Jim Playfair agrees with his captain.

"We're giving up way too many shots and way too many scoring chances and it's going to lead to way too many goals against," he said. "Our team prides itself on giving up 24 shots a night or 22 shots a night and we're giving up 35.

"You can pinpoint Miikka, you can pinpoint the defencemen and you can pinpoint other facets of our game."

Too bad, then, the Flames aren't as good defending Kiprusoff on the ice as they are defending him off it.

But while the reigning Vezina and Jennings trophy winner and two-time goals-against average leader has been left hung out to dry too often by his teammates, that's no consolation to Kiprusoff.

"I'm not happy how I've played and I know I can play better," he said.

"There's no time to wait. Every point counts."

Tonight's home clash with the Phoenix Coyotes (7:30 p.m., PPV) gives Kiprusoff the opportunity to turn things around much the same as he did a year ago.

Kiprusoff opened 2005-06 with a GAA of almost 5.00 due to a dreadful season-opening road trip. Detractors said he was a one-year wonder. He dispelled that belief with an excellent 2005-06 season, also adding a first-team all-star selection and Hart Trophy finalist tag to his resume.

But looking at the past isn't in his repertoire.

"I don't want to think that way. I don't watch those numbers until after the season but what I want to do is have a good game (today)," he said. "Last year is last year. I'm confident with myself and confident with this team we're gonna get the job done. But you can't think too much of the past ... and you can't think too much forward.

"The best thing for us and for me is to think about who we're gonna play next."

Should Kiprusoff return to form, as expected, he's on the cusp of duplicating NHL history not seen in more than 40 years.

Since the NHL expanded from the Original Six in 1967, only three other times has a goalie led the league in goals-against average in two straight seasons -- Dominik Hasek, Ken Dryden and Bernie Parent.

The last netminder to do it three years in a row was Toronto's Johnny Bower (1963-64 through 1965-66).

Again, that's of no concern to Kiprusoff. He's busy focusing on improving his game, although he's not willing to divulge what he and David Marcoux have been working on.

"Some stuff but it's between me and my goalie coach," he said with a grin.


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