Trapped in a recurring nightmare, Miikka Kiprusoff had every right to be upset when he woke up Sunday.
The only Calgary Flames player to bother working up a sweat in the regular-season finale in Vancouver against the Canucks took a beating.
“You don’t want to see him go out like that,” Flames centre Craig Conroy said of his goaltender’s final game of the year, a 7-3 loss at GM Place.
It’s not the way anyone wanted the team to go out at the conclusion of a disappointing season. Maybe it should have been expected.
Outside of the team’s clear-cut MVP in Kiprusoff, the Flames have shown little heart this year. But you had to think maybe, just maybe, they’d do everything possible to win one for the Kipper.
Instead, they left him flailing in the breeze created by the storming Sedin twins.
Pulled by head coach Brent Sutter after Daniel Sedin scored his third of the night to make it 6-2 a few minutes into the third period, Kiprusoff first had to suffer the indignity of a between-the-legs highlight-reel move from the Canucks winger that’s sure to be played on every sports channel for the next week.
The goal was sick.
Triggering a stronger gag reflex was the way Kiprusoff’s teammates played in front of him. He faced just 21 shots through nearly 44 minutes of action, but more than half of them were stellar scoring chances. More than a quarter of them wound up in the back of the net.
“I said sorry when he got off the ice,” Conroy said.
“I feel bad. He didn’t have many shots, but every shot he had was a good scoring chance. He wanted to play the game. He didn’t have to, and he did. And we just come out and play like that. It’s embarrassing for him and us.”
Told earlier in the day by Sutter play for pride, and to represent the Flaming ‘C’ logo on their chests, the Flames turned in another stinker.
A fitting end to a messed-up season.
Competitive as Kiprusoff is, you have to believe he was angry. He’d just never show it.
“He kind of lets it roll off his back,” said Conroy. “Nothing bothers him. If it was me, I’d be mad. With him, he just takes it in stride.
“He’ll be back next year better than ever.”
Question is, will the rest of the Flames show that kind of spark? They wasted a Vezina-worthy season few will appreciate because the team missed the playoffs.
There can’t be too many of those left for the 33-year-old Finn whose heroics impressed new teammates who played with him for just a quarter of a season.
“You don’t need to be here very long to notice,” said Flames defenceman Ian White, who told Kiprusoff to ‘hang in there’ after the Canucks scored the third goal of the opening period.
“He’s our best player by far. He’s stolen us many, many games and kept us in many others. I give my vote for the best goalie in the league bar none. He’s incredible.”
Has been all year.
“I don’t remember many soft (goals) at all,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
“He never gives up.”
Too bad the rest of the team didn’t follow Kiprusoff’s lead.