SUN Hockey Pool

Kipru-stop makes it easy

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET

Oh sure, Miikka Kiprusoff could make more highlight- reel saves.

You know the type -- the goalie is out of position and flopping around like a seal on the ice floe but manages to throw up his arm or stick at the last possible split second to take away a sure goal.

But why would the Calgary Flames netminder put himself through that? He prefers to make them seem easy.

If you want a classic example of a textbook Kiprusoff save, look at the one he made against Detroit's Robert Lang in Calgary's 4-1 win more than a week ago. Lang, in the high slot to Kiprusoff's right, was handed a cross-ice feed and fired.

Calm and cool, Kiprusoff slid across in his butterfly position and vacuumed up the puck into this chest. Scoring chance erased, whistle blows and he cool-as-a-cucumber lifts his mask for a shot of water.

"Kipper's lateral movement is second to none in the league. There are only a couple of guys who can move so well," said his goalie partner Jamie McLennan. "A save like that, he makes it look easy. Robert Lang is an elite player but Kipper made it look easy. That's a sign of things going real well and a guy dialled in mentally and playing at the top of his game."

The numbers bear that out, too. Going into tonight's meeting in Los Angeles against the Kings, Kiprusoff is on a roll goalies -- even at the NHL level -- dream about.

In his last eight outings, he's won seven games, posted a 1.13 goals-against average by allowing nine goals and has an incredible .960 save percentage.

Before this streak Kiprusoff's record was 3-7-1 with a 2.84 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Talk about a noticeable difference, the kind that leaves you wondering what's changed.

"It's a combination of everything," McLennan said. "If I have to pinpoint it, I'd say it's a combination of everything. Our defence has really stepped up, our top line has raised its level and Kipper's raised his level. Those kinds of things drag everybody up."

Kiprusoff, who leads the early voting among Western Conference goaltenders for the all-star game, believes he's improved since the opening month but doesn't take all the credit.

"It's hard to say. I think I did pick up my game a little bit, same thing as the team," he said. "It's always six guys there (on the ice) and it has to be six guys working together and we all are doing a better job. It's made a huge difference in my game. It's made it so much easier."

He insists the biggest part of his game is being in position to make saves look easy.

"You try to be in the right spot so you don't have to make huge saves. If you're right there, the puck will hit you in the chest," he said.


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