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Examining the Calgary Flames goaltenders

by Bill Meltzer

Complete Flames Analysis:
Intro | Goalies | Defense | Forwards
Feature | Numbers | Sked | Roster

Who's No. 1?

Miikka Kiprusoff remains an elite NHL goaltender, even though he “only” finished as runner-up to Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo for the 2006-07 Vezina Trophy after winning the award the previous season.

The Flames know what they’ll get almost every game from the unflappable Finn. He makes the routine saves routinely, comes up with a large percentage of the tough ones and rarely commits too early to the shooter. He gives himself and his club a chance to win on a nightly basis. At 31, he’s in the thick of his goaltending prime.

Throughout the years, Keenan has been quick on the hook with his goaltenders and will often run with the hot hand rather than stick to designated roles. He’s never been a big fan of goaltending statistics as proof of a keeper’s worth, just ask his former Philadelphia charge Bob Froese.

For all the second-guessing Keenan gets about his handling of goaltenders, he’s had plenty who have risen to the occasion under his demanding auspices, including Vezina Trophy winners Pelle Lindbergh, Ron Hextall and Ed Belfour. The latter two had intense dispositions. Kiprusoff lets very few things bother him.

In other words, “Kipper” should do just fine under Keenan. The impending unrestricted free agent has the on-ice ability and the mental toughness to continue to be a workhorse. He also gives Keenan’s club its best chance of a deep playoff run.

Backup plan

The Flames have one the NHL’s top goaltending prospects in 19-year-old Leland Irving, but he will require additional seasoning before he’s ready for the NHL. Barring a preseason roster move to acquire a veteran, prospects Brent Krahn and Curtis McElhinney will battle it out for the right to back up Kiprusoff.

There’s also a chance that McLennan may return. Over the summer, he signed a deal with Russian Super League champions Metallurg Magnitogorsk, but the two have parted ways. In a scenario reminiscent of former NHL goaltender Byron Dafoe’s abortive stint with Avangard Omsk, Metallurg cancelled McLennan’s contract after being unhappy with his play in the preseason. If AHL netminders  Krahn and McElhinney falter at training camp, McLennan could be brought back.

Krahn, the ninth overall pick in 2000, has yet to get into the crease in an NHL game. He played well in the AHL the last two seasons, but suffered a knee injury last season. That’s been an ongoing issue in his career, dating back to his junior days with the Calgary Hitmen. But the 25-year-old bounced back strong down the stretch last year and came to camp healthy.

McElhinney, a sixth-round pick in 2002, performed extremely well for the Knights in the absence of Krahn. The 24-year-old Alberta native posted a 2.13 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and seven shutouts in 57 games played last year.

In the Wings

Leland Irving -- Fresh off a strong performance for Canada in the lopsided Super Series against Russia. …The Flames selected him in the first round (26th overall) of the 2006 Entry Draft. …Served as backup to top Montreal Canadiens prospect Carey Price at the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden. … Is likely to start for Canada at the 2008 WJC if he stays healthy. … Led the entire CHL in wins (34), while posting a stellar 1.86 GAA, .929 save percentage and 11 shutouts for the WHL’s Everett Silvertips in 2006-07.

Matt Keetley  -- The Flames selected the right-handed catching goalie in the fifth round (158th overall) of the 2005 Entry Draft. … Set to make his pro debut this year. ...The 21-year-old is coming off an excellent overage junior season for the defensively stingy WHL champion Medicine Hat Tigers. ... He posted a 2.19 GAA, six shutouts and a .917 save percentage in 55 games played to win WHL First Team All-Star and Eastern Conference goaltender of the year honors. …Topped the 40-win plateau for the second-straight season.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla on goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff (above):

"I've never seen Kipper get nervous. It's a great feeling to go out every game and know he's behind us and will give us a good chance to win if we get him a goal or two."                  

1. If Kiprusoff posts another 40-plus win campaign this year, he’ll move into third-place on the franchise all-time wins list, behind Dan Bouchard and Mike Vernon.

2. Kiprusoff broke single-season club records in 2006-07 for most wins (40), shutouts (10) and games played (74).

3. To date, Kiprusoff is the only Finnish goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy. He’s also one of only three European-trained goaltenders to win the award. Dominik Hasek and the late Pelle Lindbergh were the others.'s 2007-08 Flames Season Preview Package:
Intro | Goalies | Defense | Forwards | Feature | Numbers | Sked | Roster
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