SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter backs goalie pull

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

Darryl Sutter has no problem with the way Mike Keenan handled Miikka Kiprusoff in Tuesday's Game 7 loss.

But he also has no issue with the way his star goalie played.

"That's not a concern -- that's a good decision," Sutter told the Sun of Keenan lifting Kiprusoff late in the second period of a 4-2 game.

"You're not going to fault Kipper. They scored on rebounds. On Jeremy Roenick's (first) goal, he didn't see it -- good screen in front. Pulling the goalie is nothing. I'd do the same thing."

Fact is, Sutter wouldn't have. He wasn't that type of knee-jerk coach who toyed with goalies like Keenan always has.

He's not just defending his coach either. Sutter simply didn't have a problem with the issue that has most of the city up in arms, given how Kiprusoff's unwarranted departure deflated and puzzled the bench and allowed the San Jose Sharks to score one minute later on a stone-cold Curtis Joseph.

It was a bad decision, especially considering how well Kiprusoff played while facing 30 shots in 34 minutes.

It was an even worse decision for Keenan to hang the loss on Kiprusoff afterwards.

But in Sutter's eyes, the game was lost by then, thanks to a relentless Sharks attack that capitalized on two powerplays and gave them a two-goal lead that couldn't be overcome in the building he used to work in.

"Regardless of what everybody says, playing Game 7 in your own building is a big advantage when you have two dominant players in Joe (Thornton) and (Patrick) Marleau and you get last change," said Sutter, sitting alone in the press box poring over game stats 20 minutes after the 5-3 loss.

"When you're an experienced coach, you can get people on the ice you want to match up, and when you don't have that, it makes a big difference. Once you get to this point, the difference is probably the powerplay. Jeremy Roenick's powerplay goal was huge -- a two-goal lead in that game is going to hold up."

So is the blow of another first-round exit cushioned by the fact his squad played admirably throughout the series.

"It's similar to last year in that we lost in the first round, but the big difference is the team that went into the playoffs last year lost four in a row going in and didn't have the mental ability to recover.

"This team got into the playoffs fighting for a division championship and was playing on a four-game road trip to do it. That gave us stability to come back in Game 3 when we were down early. It probably allowed us to win Game 6 -- and a lot of it has to do with being down 4-1 in the third period of Game 5 (and building momentum in a near comeback).

"If you look at this series, it's very similar to the 2004 series against Vancouver in which we went to the final."

Only, this time, they lost.

So, does that mean big changes this summer?

"It's a little premature in asking," said Sutter, who always takes several weeks to evaluate the season. "I thought it was a helluva series. Some of these young guys haven't played many playoff games, and they've still got a lot to learn -- there's only one way to learn how to play in the playoffs and that's to play in them."

Which is exactly what Keenan should have let Kiprusoff do.

The players were furious with the move, the Sharks found it laughable and Kiprusoff's frustrated reaction was more terse than usual. Nice way to end the season.

Whether the GM agrees or not, it was a major gaffe.


Videos

Photos