The notion has been floated that Miikka Kiprusoff is on target to break the NHL record of 48 wins in a season. While it’s true he’s on pace for 50, getting there would be detrimental to the long-term health of the Flames season.
Very few goalies have been able to play 75-plus games in a season and still have the physical stamina and/or mental capacity to keep it going another 25 or so the next two months.
Even the great Martin Brodeur couldn’t do it. In the seasons he played 78 and 77 (twice) games, New Jersey bowed out early in the playoffs. True, the Devils did win the Cup when Brodeur played 72 and 73 games, but an extra five games rest can make a difference.
Kiprusoff is on pace for 77 games. Even if he and coach Mike Keenan – known as a bench boss who likes to ride his No. 1 man hard – think that’s a wise idea, they’re wrong.
Patrick Roy never played more than 68 games in a season. Dominik Hasek topped out at 72. Evgeni Nabokov played 77 games last season, then petered out in the post-season.
Kiprusoff played 74, 74 and 76 games each of the past three seasons, then watched his stats deteriorate in first round playoff exits each year. Not completely his fault, for sure, but even the hard-riding Lone Ranger knew he had to hitch Silver to the trough every now and then.
Flames GM Darryl Sutter knows that as well. That’s why he picked up Curtis Joseph down the stretch last season. Cujo played the odd game and provided insurance in the playoffs.
Nothing against Curtis McElhinney, but he’s not the ideal backup going into April. It’s not his fault he’s only had three starts in 45 games.
Watch for Sutter to make a goalie acquisition before the trade deadline. Ottawa whipping boy Martin Gerber makes $3.7 million, but just $850,000 of it after the March 4 deadline. He’ll fit under the team cap, provide experienced emergency relief and will become a UFA on July 1. Joseph and Olaf Kolzig are other candidates.
With the stakes so high to win the division, Kiprusoff will surely play 70-plus games. Ideally, common sense and playoff insurance will snuff out his attempt at 50 wins.
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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