Flames Watch: Will the real Kiprusoff please stand up

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Two of the league’s worst goaltenders faced one another Tuesday at the Saddledome. Statistically speaking.

Dallas’s Marty Turco, he of the 43rd (and worst) save percentage in the NHL, outplayed Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff, he of the 33rd best save percentage, by a 3-1 score.

Is it too harsh to refer to Turco and Kiprusoff as among the worst goalies in the league? Of course it is. Factor in all they’ve accomplished the past six or seven years and the two certainly rank among the top half dozen goalies.

Keep in mind the Stars have been without two-way stars Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtinen and Brenden Morrow for a large chunk of the season and it makes Turco’s .872 save percentage more understandable. Not acceptable, he’d tell you, but understandable.

As for Kiprusoff, his save percentage has been falling – and his goals-against average rising – each of the past four seasons since arriving in Calgary in 2003. He’s not the same Miikka Kiprusoff who led the Flames to within a phantom goal of the Stanley Cup in 2004 or won a Vezina Trophy in 2006.

I’ve heard the Flames apologists defend Kiprusoff all season long. I’ve heard them say he’s a big reason for Calgary’s run up the standings. I’ve heard the reports that he has played well in games where he gave up five or six goals. I’ve heard he’s not getting help from his defensemen in clearing rebounds.

And I don’t disagree with the apologists, for the most part. The Flames have had a few hot streaks and Kipper has been a star along the way. But the odd softie here and there has been the difference in a few games as well.

Against the Stars, Kiprusoff gave up a couple of fat rebounds that led to the opening and winning goals. Once a craftsman in controlling or re-directing rebounds, Kiprusoff is struggling in that department this season.

Flames fans shouldn’t be too worried though. Kipper won’t be 33rd in save percentage much longer. He traditionally is stronger in the second half. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the top 10 by March. And if that really happens, the Flames are in for a bull market.

This column also appears in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

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