Miikka Kiprusoff is a victim of his own success.
After all, his recent struggles wouldn’t be front-page news if not for Kiprusoff’s seemingly superhuman performances for the bulk of his tenure with the Calgary Flames.
“This is just so new to all of us — watching Kiprusoff finally look normal and go through stretches where he’s not the best player on the ice in most games,” said Kelly Hrudey, who tended twine in the NHL for 15 seasons
and is now an analyst for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada telecasts.
“And it’s probably pretty new for him, because
I can’t imagine the last time he can remember thinking this way. Right now, whether it’s three or four games, he’s the weak link. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but he’s such a strong guy mentally that you know he’ll come through it, and we probably won’t even remember this blip in a couple or three weeks.”
Flames fans are crossing their fingers that it’s not too late by then.
The former Vezina Trophy winner has been uncharacteristically shaky over the past three games, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for a team that is running out of time to climb back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Kiprusoff surrendered a questionable marker at a bad time in last Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat to the division-leading Vancouver Canucks and served up a couple more softies two nights later in a 5-4 shootout setback against the Detroit Red Wings.
During Tuesday’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tobacco Row, the 34-year-old Finn was yanked after surrendering four goals on just eight shots.
Former NHL netminder and current Sportsnet analyst John Garrett saw the “lowlights” of the Flames’ loss to the Hurricanes and admitted Kiprusoff didn’t look like his stingy old self.
“I don’t know whether it’s the plight of the Flames — you know, they can’t score for a while, and then when they do score, they don’t get the goaltending — but to me, it’s almost like he’s trying to do too much,” Garrett said. “He’s usually so calm and so poised and just so cool, — to the point you think he’s immune to the nerves that most goalies get every now and then where you’re the guy and you’re trying to get the team turned around and you’re trying to do too much instead of just trying to do the job at hand.
“Sometimes, you’re trying to do too much. And to me, that’s what it looks like.”
Kiprusoff certainly isn’t the only big-name, big-ticket netminder to struggle this season.
Just like Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury shrugged off an awful start and is now putting up better numbers, most insiders figure it’s just a matter of time — and not a long time — before Kiprusoff is back at the top of his game.
“(Kiprusoff) has been around long enough, so I’m sure he’ll get it back in control,” Garrett said. “He’s played so many games, and he’s been at such a high level for so long, it’s not like he’s just going to lose it.”
“I’m not concerned at all,” agreed Hrudey. “We’ve been watching his body of work for a lot of years, and we know how he competes and how he’ll get back, in short order, to his regular stature.
“The only problem is, with the situation the Flames find themselves in, the timing couldn’t be worse.”