SUN Hockey Pool

Stats show Kipper top goalie in Flames history

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:49 PM ET

There aren’t many who would argue against the idea Miikka Kiprusoff is the greatest goalie ever to slide a Calgary Flames jersey over his upper-body armour.

But in case you’re one of those people who need statistics to sway your opinion, these final two games of the NHL regular-season provide just the opportunity for the 34-year-old backstop to convince you.

Kiprusoff’s next victory will be his 262nd as a Flame, putting him side by side with Mike Vernon on the franchise’s all-time-wins list.

If he starts and wins both games this week, the flexible Finn will own that honour solo after just six-and-a-half seasons of work.

And what a workload he’s had during his tenure in the Stampede City.

Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver was his 70th start of the year, a benchmark he’s reached in all six of his full seasons here.

Looking ageless and tireless against the Avs, Kiprusoff treated Flames fans to one of his highlight-saturated performances.

To those who witnessed it in person, there was discussion the second period might have been the most impressive 20-minute sampling of his career.

Anyone watching at home armed with a PVR likely revisited some of his unbelievable stops just to take a closer look in slow-motion.

Even some of his teammates were left wondering how in the world he rejected some of the golden opportunities provided the Avalanche by a Flames squad that was clearly not at its best in front of the goaltender.

“From the bench, some of those looked like they were in,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano.

“He made some big saves right to the end of the game.”

That’s pretty much been the theme of Kiprusoff’s career, which took off in Calgary after former GM Darryl Sutter brought him over in a deal with the San Jose Sharks, where he was buried on the depth chart. Parting with a second-round draft pick that turned into defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the move will easily be remembered as Sutter’s best in his time leading the franchise.

In the eyes of many, the bendy netminder is the biggest factor in the Flames franchise’s expectations and achievements since he joined them during the 2003-04 season.

There’s no doubt he was the catalyst for the run all the way to the Stanley Cup final in his first year wearing the Flaming C on his chest.

Despite the fact they’re in danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight year,

it’s hard to imagine the team without him accomplishing its goal of another opportunity to win it all.

“He doesn’t have too many bad games a year. It’s pretty amazing with the amount of workload he plays a year — playing 70 games every year,” said countryman and teammate Olli Jokinen.

“He might have maybe a couple of games he would take back, but most of the nights, he gives us a chance to win.

“He’s the biggest reason why this team is where this team has been the last five, six years since he got here.

“He’s one of those goalies every team would want to have in their net.”

Unless Kiprusoff and his current club mutually agree to part ways before his no-movement clause expires after next season, he’ll only add to his franchise benchmark and further cement his status as the greatest goalie to strap the pads on for the Calgary Flames.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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