'Been there, done that' won't apply

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:50 PM ET


 TAMPA -- If you want to drink from Lord Stanley's Cup, supposedly you need a goalie who's won before.

 It's a theory that, at times, appears to be correct.

 But not this year.

 Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and Tampa Bay's Nikolai Khabibulin haven't sipped from hockey's Holy Grail.

 They haven't even claimed a minor-league championship on the way.

 "Everybody has to win it once first," Kiprusoff said.

 "There's some new, young goalies in the league now and not too many who have won the Cup. It's more guys who have just got No. 1 spots."

 These guys also have made history.

 Kiprusoff is the first Finnish goalie to win a playoff game.

 Khabibulin will become the first Russian puckstopper to play a Stanley Cup final.

 One will become the first goaltender from his homeland to win a Cup. And, with it, he has that lifetime tag of being a winner, which, as the joke goes, means he will always find work.

 "I haven't thought about that," Kiprusoff said. "That's too far away, still. It's going to take some hard work. It's what I'm trying to do and I think the whole team's confident we have a good chance. I don't want to start thinking about that.

 "Even getting this far has been a great experience for me and all the young guys. Some of us never played in the playoffs and we've learned a lot and had a good time.

 "We're a way better team than before the season started."

 Better, in large part because of the one they call Kipper.

 Grabbed from San Jose in November, when it was obvious Roman Turek would be lost for an extended period due to knee injury, Kiprusoff has shocked the hockey world.

 With the Sharks, he was third on the depth chart. He quipped his last memory of San Jose was watching a game from the press box.

 In what seems like a whirlwind, Kiprusoff arrived in Calgary, set a modern-day goals- against-average record and -- in the unlikeliest of all turn of events -- backstopped a downtrodden franchise to the final for the first time since 1989.

 "It's been great, the best thing that's happened to me in my hockey life," he said with a smile. "When I came here, I knew it was a good team and our goal was the playoffs but, yeah, being in the Stanley Cup final is great."

 Then, his tone turns serious.

 "It's been a great season so far and now we have one more step to take."

 Rest assured, his teammates are confident Kiprusoff can help them climb that last stair.

 Certainly nothing anyone expected but plausible.

 "This guy's the real deal," said Martin Gelinas. "We'll need him at his best for the next two weeks but he's been doing it since he came here, so there's no reason for him to stop now."

 Especially since nothing seems to faze the 27-year-old twineminder.

 Gelinas thought he played with the coolest goaltender in NHL history, Grant Fuhr, but that belief has been changed this season.

 "Fuhrsie was pretty cool but this guy is something else," he said. "You know he's gonna do is job and you just say 'hi' and leave him alone because he looks like he's in his own little world.

 "That calmness really reflects on everybody. It makes our defence a little calmer and, as a forward, it makes you feel he's gonna stop it. If he can see it, he's gonna stop it.

 "He's probably one of the best goalies I've ever played with."

 "Composed," said No. 3 goalie Brent Krahn, who's watched the playoff run as part of the Black Aces. "Nothing really affects the guy, like he's got ice water running through his veins. That's the kind of performer you need in the playoffs to handle the pressure situations."

 Like he does with almost every puck sent hurtling toward the net, Kiprusoff just shrugs such talk aside.

 "It's just me," he said of his laid-back attitude.

 With four more wins, he'll also be a champion.


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