SUN Hockey Pool

Kiprusoff needs to play like Superman

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:16 PM ET

As anniversaries go, Nov. 16 is a major date in Calgary Flames history.

It was on that day in 2003 when one move played a major part in finally turning the team’s fortunes.

While the flickering Flames were coming off a seventh straight season without making the playoffs and appeared destined for the same fate again with their 7-8-2 record, GM Darryl Sutter acquired goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff from the San Jose Sharks for a second-round draft choice.

We all remember what happened after that.

Kiprusoff was the backbone of a team which ended the playoff drought, while setting a modern-day goals-against average record, and then helped carry the team to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final over an unforgettable couple of months.

In short, he was almost a miracle worker — a huge achievement for a netminder who was third on the Sharks depth chart watching game after game from the press box.

A Vezina Trophy, a couple of all-star game appearances and a selection to the first all-star team in 2006, and the Flames have been fortunate to have a world-class, top-flight goalie since that trade.

Fast forward to today, and it’s become obvious Kiprusoff must again conjure that old magic.

Otherwise, the Flames have absolutely no hope of making the playoffs, let alone mounting anything of a Stanley Cup run.

Heading into Wednesday night’s clash with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Flames will not only be on a run of six losses in seven outings — all in regulation — but their 7-9-0 record puts them ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference standings.

In short, they need Kiprusoff to be as good as he was in years past to turn those fortunes in a hurry.

It’s their best hope, because the rest of the team can’t seem to find the gear needed to win consistently.

This is not to say Kiprusoff has been off his game to start this season.

Sure, he’ll be disappointed to have more losses than victories and won’t be enamoured by his .903 save percentage and 2.80 goals-against average. However, considering the number of players who haven’t been up to snuff to start this season, those aren’t horrible numbers for the 34-year-old goalie.

It’s just that until Jarome Iginla returns to some semblance of the elite player he once was, Olli Jokinen scores at the rate expected of a top centre and not a checking forward and a litany of others start pulling their weight, such as Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano, or doing it on a more consistent basis — Rene Bourque falls into this category — the Flames need Kiprusoff to steal victories.

Lots of victories.

Kiprusoff will be the first to admit he must be better, but that won’t be some way of throwing his teammates under the bus.

It’s because he knows the difference he can make on the scoreboard night after night when on top of his game.

He’s done it in the past, even as recently as last season despite the fact Calgary missed the playoffs.

The Flames had best hope he does it again.

Other wise, the road trip which follows this week’s home games against the Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks will be on the road to nowhere.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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