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Timing is key

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

He is usually a rock. He can usually be counted on to win games and often even steal wins.

But Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has struggled somewhat in his last three appearances, letting in a few very uncharacteristic soft goals.

It began last Wednesday night when the Flames were defeated by the division-leading Vancouver Canucks in which Kiprusoff let in a soft one at a crucial time of the game. He allowed a pair of easy goals in the shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings at home just two days later. And most recently, in Carolina on Tuesday night, Kiprusoff was pulled from his net after allowing four goals on just eight shots.

“Kipper is obviously a very good goaltender but right now he’s fighting it,” Sutter told the Calgary Sun after the 6-5 shootout loss to the Hurricanes Tuesday night.

“Too many easy goals, it’s bothersome.”

Maybe what Kiprusoff needs is to rest which is something the 34-year old rarely sees. The Flames had Wednesday off as they traveled from Carolina to the nation’s capital. It is quite possible that Henrik Karlsson, who came on in relief of Kiprusoff in Carolina, stopping 19 of 20 shots he faced, will start against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.

Kiprusoff has played in 36 games so far this season. Only two goaltenders in the league have started in more. His 16 wins had him tied for 11th among NHL goalies as of Wednesday afternoon.

Unfortunately, his numbers are not sitting anywhere close to the top of the list.  He’s on pace for his lowest win total since he was a part-timer in 2003-04. His season is looking even worse than last year’s 35, which marked the first time since the lockout his Flames have missed the playoffs.

In his defence, he is not getting as much support as he should be. Yes, his last few goals have been soft, but where is the help? Kiprusoff has faced the ninth-most shots of any goaltender this year. With that stat and a few shaky goals, his numbers are in the basement. His 2.73 goals-against average slots him in 29th, and his .901 save percentage doesn’t even rank in the top 30.

The question is, will he snap out of this? The bigger question is, how soon?

With time closing in for the Flames hope of catching up and securing a playoff berth, how long can this slump go on for?

Former NHL goaltender and now Hockey Night in Canada analyst, Kelly Hrudey, expressed his confidence in Kiprusoff after Tuesday night’s loss to Carolina.

“I can’t imagine the last time he can remember thinking this way,” said Hrudey. “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.

Hrudey continued, “I’m not concerned at all. 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.”

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