SUN Hockey Pool

In Kiprusoff's defence ...

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET

Rest assured, Mike Keenan's public roasting of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff will receive plenty of play around the NHL in the coming days.

Hey, many in the media morbidly want to see Keenan in a high-profile tiff with one of his players, especially if it becomes the start of another fall for Iron Mike.

Certainly, Keenan's words after Saturday night's disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets will add to the pyre.

"Let's call a spade a spade. We should have better goaltending. Period. If we had, we'd be rewarded with a victory tonight," said Keenan, who has been remarkably patient with his criticism of Kiprusoff this season.

He has a right to be frustrated and disappointed. Keenan used fact when asked what Kiprusoff must do: "Improve his save percentage dramatically. If you check the statistics, you can find out all about it."

At a dismal .884, Kiprusoff can boast about being better than only three netminders.

However, pinning so much on the team's struggles on Kiprusoff is off base.

Undoubtedly, Kiprusoff hasn't been good enough. His annual slow starts are inexcusable, and this year's has lasted far too long. He's too often been second best on the ice against backups like Jose Theodore, Mathieu Garon and Columbus' Fredrik Norrena.

Hey, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo headed into last night's game against Minnesota with a three-game shutout streak. By comparison, Kiprusoff hasn't pitched a single goose egg this year.

That said, even on a night Kiprusoff was singled out by the coach, plenty of others are unfairly escaping the wrath of the coaching staff, GM Darryl Sutter and the fans, who have every right to look elsewhere for their hockey love.

Just look at the goals surrendered in Saturday's loss.

- Nikolai Zherdev's opener makes it 1-0:

Craig Conroy cleanly loses the draw, and wingers David Moss and Dustin Boyd are too slow getting to the mercurial Zherdev before he releases a glove-side wrister. It's one of those saves winning goalies make but a sign of what's to come defensively.

- Curtis Glencross' first makes it 2-0:

Four Flames have the unheralded Blue Jackets forward surrounded, yet he not only managed to get a shot away from the slot but also grabbed the rebound.

- Kris Beech makes it 3-2:

Alex Tanguay's redirected own-goal is a bad break, and it went through the five-hole, but Tanguay was reaching because he was flat-footed with Kris Russell -- who Beech was trying to pass to -- driving to the net behind him.

- Glencross' OT winner:

Dion Phaneuf gives Beech far too much time to get to the puck along the end boards and spy his teammate as he heads to the front of the net, while Daymond Langkow beats Glencross to the slot but doesn't tie up his stick or intercept the pass.

Should Kiprusoff have stopped one, two or three of them? Elite goalies are paid to make the impossible save. However, Calgary's horrible defensive-zone play is also a big cause for the team's problems.

As CBC colour commentator Craig Simpson said during the broadcast when Glencross's first goal was being replayed: "This has been a common theme with the Calgary Flames over this last stretch. There's been bodies and players in the right position, but nobody's been doing anything."

Simpson was talking about the club's play in the defensive zone, but the same can be said for the team's offensive effort.

You can look at shot counts and say the Flames are generating chances but suffering a team-wide slump -- save for Jarome Iginla -- or facing hot goalies, but that's too easy.

The Flames are generating chances but not bearing down on them.

Count the number of shots going into the netminders' bread-baskets. Count the rebound chances.

Watch for the number of all-out plays like Iginla's diving goal Saturday night that made it a 2-2 game. Especially when they've fallen behind.

Since this slide began 15 games ago, the Flames have scored 31 goals. In only six of those games have they scored three or more.

Yes, Kiprusoff should have delivered more than four wins in that spell -- think of all those 2-1 Kipper specials in the past -- but the fingers should be pointed throughout the room.

Otherwise, you're looking at a team full of players believing close is good enough, since it all can be blamed on one man.


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