SUN Hockey Pool

Hair of confidence

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Samson's locks were the key to his great power.

Could Miikka Kiprusoff's locks be the opposite?

The Calgary Flames goaltender has struggled since the start of the season, but before Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild, he cut his hair off, ditching the mane he'd been sporting since the beginning of training camp.

First game with the shorn look, and Kiprusoff stopped 26 shots.

"Oh you're blaming my hair now," he said with a laugh amidst the joy of the victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.

"That's a crazy theory. Crazy. I try to do my job, with hair or without."

Yeah, it's a stretch, but seeing as it's only the fourth game this season Kiprusoff has surrendered two or fewer goals, you can't help but think he'd be searching for an answer to his struggles.

A slow start from Kiprusoff wasn't anything new. But the fact it lasted more than five weeks certainly is.

Kiprusoff's goals-against average of 3.12 was 30th in the league prior to Tuesday's action, and his save percentage of .887 was 34th.

No goalie has surrendered more goals than the 55 he's allowed, and while it's worth noting he's started every game this season and is second in the league in minutes played, San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov has played two more minutes but allowed 38 goals.

Could the solid performance kickstart his season?

His teammates are sure hoping -- and needing -- it to be the case.

"We're squeezing the stick harder, and Miikka's the same way," said left-winger Alex Tanguay. "He's putting a lot of pressure on himself, but we know how good he is and he knows it, too. It's just a matter of confidence."

Kiprusoff isn't alone in that category.

It's just the netminder -- who recently signed a six-year contract extension worth US$35 million -- will face tighter scrutiny than most.

"When you're in a five-game losing streak, nobody's happy and everybody feels pressure to be better," said captain Jarome Iginla.

"I'm sure he feels a little bit, but we all feel it right now as far as turning this thing around."

Kiprusoff has openly admitted he needs to be better. After the Minnesota game, he could have given himself some praise. However, he opted to deflect it.

"I felt pretty good, but we played pretty strong," he said.

"It was a close game, but we played strong in our own end and with patience. That's how we like to play."


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