Kiprusoff's play brings back 2004 memories
The Flames are on a roll, collecting 11 of 14 possible points heading into Thursday's home game against Chicago with a chance to erase bad memories from the Hawks elimination of the Flames from last year's playoffs.
To see why, you needn't look much further than goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. No. 34 has rekindled memories of his 2003-04 glory days, when he set the NHL's modern-era goals-against average record (1.69) and led the Flames to within a game of the Stanley Cup.
"This is the best I've seen him play in a while," defenseman Robyn Regehr said.
"The best I've seen him, other than '04," center Craig Conroy told the Calgary Herald. "Probably the best I've seen him play since he came here."
Kiprusoff was simply spectacular during the Flames' recent three-game road trip through Montreal, Buffalo and Toronto, going 2-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA and.969 save percentage.
His play over the last six games has also polished up his seasonal stats — 2.36 GAA, 0.923 save percentage and 11-5-2 — and brought the Flames (12-5-2) up to 10th overall in team stinginess.
It's safe to say that other teams have noticed.
"One of our best games of the year," groused New York Rangers coach John Tortorella after Kiprusoff's 32-save performance in a 3-1 win on Nov. 7. "The difference was Kiprusoff."
"I think you could say we dominated much of the game," grumbled Toronto counterpart Ron Wilson, after watching Kiprusoff slam the door with 38 saves in a 5-2 win Saturday at Air Canada Centre, "but there was too much (Jarome) Iginla and too much Kiprusoff.
"It's frustrating to generate that much offence and only score two goals."
While the unflappable Finn has been at his acrobatic best, with post-to-post, highlight-reel stops, at least one former NHL netminder believes the major change with Kiprusoff has occurred upstairs.
"I think Miikka has been discouraged, the last couple of years, by the way the team has played. You could see by his body language that it was getting to him," said John Garrett, a longtime TV analyst for Rogers Sportsnet.
"There were times last year where the team was playing poorly and they were giving up so many good scoring chances, that it would get to affect him.
"Now, I think he's back to playing like he did (five years ago), where it's him against everybody else," added Garrett. "The Toronto game, I've never seen any goalie bumped more than he was in that game, with no goaltender interference calls, and yet he was fantastic, as he was the entire trip.
"(Coach) Brent (Sutter) can get them to establish systems because their goaltending's so good."
Not that the Flames are particularly impressed, mind you, with their own play in front of their red-hot goaltender.
Shots allowed during Kiprusoff's recent 4-0-1 run? Try 31, 33, 25, 33 and 40, for an average of more than 32 per night.
"He's managed to keep us in there. The other night, Toronto had just about double the shots that we did (40-22). But we don't want him to work that hard," Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester told NHL.com. "At times, we've had breakdowns, and been unable to even get out of our own end, it seems. If we can simplify things, not turn the pucks over in neutral zone, play more in the other team's end, obviously we're not going to give up as many shots."
Added fellow blueliner Adam Pardy: "We've got to do our job. He's been outstanding, but we've got to start playing better, taking away shots. We're not going to get away with this every night."