The Flames’ goaltender has been instrumental in Calgary’s five-game winning streak heading into Friday’s game against the visiting Detroit Red Wings (9 p.m. ET). A spine needs support and Kiprusoff is getting more of that on-ice from his teammates than he did in the Flames’ 3-7-2 start prior to this five-game run.
But the Flames’ fortunes rest on their soft-spoken Finnish goaltender’s shoulders. He has given up only one even-strength goal in those five straight victories and collected two shutouts.
His goals-against average was 1.00 and his save percentage was .965 during that stretch.
And Kiprusoff has stepped up at key times as he did in Saturday’s 3-2 comeback win against Vancouver. The Flames were outshot 12-5 in the second period, yet won the period 1-0.
“I’ve been stopping the puck more,” was Kiprusoff’s understatement Thursday.
Leave it to Flames’ goaltending coach Daniel Marcoux to expand on that.
“From a mental standpoint, things are clearer for him,” Marcoux said.
Kiprusoff and Marcoux are videophiles in that they watch a lot of tape of other teams pre-and post-game. Kiprusoff is getting a better handle on the opposition via those sessions.
“Teams have stabilized a little bit more, what they are all about,” Marcoux said. “Prior to a game, we can get a better view of what to expect when we do our pre-scouting.
“Once you get a read on who you are facing and the player tendencies, that builds confidence.”
The video sessions also give Kiprusoff a second opinion, so to speak, on his own performance.
“Even if I get a shutout I watch the game on tape after and you always find a lot of thing to do better,” he said. “When you see the game you played the day before, sometimes it’s puckhandling or rebounds.”
But it takes more than video to be a Vezina Trophy winner, which Kiprusoff was last season.
The 30-year-old from Turku is a fiend for stretching, which accounts for his acrobatic saves and his ability to play 74 games last season.
On a game day, the six-foot-one, 195-pound netminder will spend about three hours stretching – 45 minutes before and after the morning’s game-day skate and the game.
“It’s unbelievable,” Marcoux said. “I call him rubber man.”
The Flames don’t need their star goaltender to go down with a groin injury, which is another reason for his marathon contortion sessions.
“I think I’ve been lucky, knock on wood,” Kiprusoff said while rapping his knuckles on the side of his dressing room stall.
“Before I came to North America, seven years ago, I had a couple of groin injuries and after that, I realized I have to stretch a lot. After the games, I have to do the bikes and stretch.”
With the exception Kiprusoff’s 37-save shutout against Anaheim last Friday, the Flames are starting to cut down on their shots against and are giving their goalie a chance to see the puck.
Kiprusoff says the reason for that is he and the defence are communicating.
“That’s one thing we’ve been working on a lot,” he said.”Between goaltender and defence, you have to talk more. We’ve been doing a better job, but we can still improve on that.”
The Flames aren’t a demonstrative team, but the change winning has wrought in the team’s personality was evident Thursday in more smiles and more relaxed body language during practice.
Head coach Jim Playfair spent time chatting informally with reporters instead of bolting for the coaches’ office.
But he doesn’t think the Flames are out of the woods yet, particularly with Detroit on a nine-game winning streak of its own coming to town.
“As bad as everybody said when we were losing and as good as everyone says we are when we’re winning, I think we’re in the middle somewhere,” Playfair said. “You look at our five-on-five and it’s done a pretty good job of limiting goals and top scoring chances.
“The other side of that is our special teams have to get a lot better.”
Calgary’s power-play ranks 27th in the league and its penalty killing 25th.