James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Kipper hits the 300 win mark

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Time passes in funny ways. Certain events that happened 10, 20 years ago can feel disturbingly fresh (especially as you get older). At the same time, other similarly spaced moments seem more like ancient history than a contemporary occurrence.


Personally speaking, it’s almost hard to believe that the Calgary Flames made their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004. Blame it on the lockout and all that changed after it if you’d like, but it almost feels like Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff’s captivating run to just short of a championship was mummified in an Egyptian tomb or carved in some prehistoric cave.


Obviously, neither franchise player has gone anywhere, but they’ve been bumped down the league-wide totem pole for such a long time that it’s easy to forget that they’ve been collecting the kind of numbers that allow them to knock on history’s door. That's especially true for Kipper because Iginla has at least been a very productive first-line forward.


Iginla is making his way toward being the Flames’ franchise all-everything when it comes to scoring, but it seems like Kipper’s work was slipping under the radar. (Struggling mightily for a season or two and missing the playoffs here and there will do that.)



Hopefully last night’s milestone moment will provide us with a little perspective on what Kiprusoff has done for the Flames (and some might say, Finnish goaltending), then.


Kipper made 34 saves while fellow Finn Olli Jokinen generated a hat trick and an assist as the Flames topped the San Jose Sharks 4-3. It was an especially profound way for Kipper to cross that barrier for a few reasons:


  • Kiprusoff became the first Finnish goalie to win 300 NHL games.
  • Again, a fellow Finn helped him immensely.
  • Kiprusoff accomplished the task against the Sharks, aka the team that drafted him in the fifth round in 2005.
  • He became No. 27 of the all-time list for goalie wins in the process.



The rankings get a little more interesting when you look at one of the active guys ahead of him: Evgeni Nabokov. As you may remember, the Sharks decided that Nabby was the superior goalie in what seemed like a netminder factory and traded Kipper in 2003. (San Jose also traded Johan Hedberg and Vesa Toskala, who for all their warts still made a lot of money as goalies, with Hedberg producing solid work to this day.)


Nabokov is currently tied at No. 22 with notoriously angry New York Islanders great Billy Smith at 305 wins. It brings up an interesting question: who will finish with more wins in his career: Nabokov or Kiprusoff?


Last season, it seemed like the race wouldn’t be particularly fair with Nabokov in the KHL. Now that Nabby’s back and playing well, it’s a very fair fight. They’re even close age-wise, as Nabokov is 36 years old while Kiprusoff is 35.


(My instinct is to say “Kipper” because he’s in a more stable situation, but what if Nabokov finds the right fit with a contender?)


Anyway, it must have been really cool for Kipper to hit that milestone against the team that drafted (and then traded) him. In fact, that might just be the sporting equivalent to getting engaged in front of your ex-girlfriend.



In my mind, the big story was Kipper hitting 300. Still, it was pretty stunning that Olli Jokinen earned his first hat trick in three years (plus an assist). Jokinen now has seven points in his last four games, pushing his season total to 45 in 54 games with an appealing 40 PIM. He tends to take a nice amount of shots, too, as he fired 155 SOG so far.


He's currently available in a nice amount of leagues, so don't sleep on him. I'd say that a mysterious amount of his success has to do with the natural boost that comes with a contract year, but all that does is make him more likely to maintain his great work. (Well, unless GM Jay Feaster decides to sign him to a new deal, that is.)



From the “ruh roh” files, Henrik Sedin hurt his ankle on Tuesday night and wore a boot on Wednesday. He actually played on it the night of that game and the Vancouver Canucks list him as day-to-day, but his iron man streak could be in danger.



Five games is still a very small sample, but give red-hot Oilers forward Sam Gagner some credit: he’s making the most of all the momentum pushing at his back right now. The former first-round pick scored both of Edmonton’s goals in a 4-2 loss last night, including a beauty of a breakaway tally.


Gagner now has a ridiculous eight goals and seven assists for 15 points in the last five games. Sure, eight of those came in the first contest, but that still leaves seven in his last four, which is just one short of a two-point-per-game average. Hopefully you added him on or around that historic night, because he’s been pure gold so far.


Again, he’s likely to regress, but what if he upgrades his potential from his previous 40-ish point expectations to 60 or more per season? That’s what makes this situation so fun to watch.



Want to know the one thing hotter than Gagner right now, though? Try the Detroit Red Wings at home. They’ve now won 18 consecutive games at Joe Louis Arena, putting them two behind the all-time NHL record. The Red Wings play their next five games at home and nine of their next 11 in Detroit. If there's ever a time to randomly pick up a shaky goalie like Joey MacDonald or Ty Conklin, a run like this might just be it.


(This also makes Jimmy Howard's absence more palatable ... unless they lose a lot. Speaking of that, some say he might be able to play this weekend.)



The Buffalo Sabres pounded the Boston Bruins 6-0, giving Ryan Miller a 36-save shutout in the process. Plenty of PIM’s piled up, as Shawn Thornton logged 22, Milan Lucic had 17 and Adam McQuad produced 16 for Boston. Patrick Kaleta had a goal and 17 PIM’s of his own.


Lucic was already a no-brainer but Thornton might be worth one-day adds for PIMs in the remaining Boston-Buffalo games. In case you were wondering, they are:


Boston at Buffalo (Feb. 24)

Buffalo at Boston (March 8)

Buffalo at Boston (April 7)


The most interesting question might be how the Bruins handle that April 7 game. Will they drop the gloves on an epic level right before the playoffs? That might be the one time the B’s actually back down from a brawl. (Anyway …)



Martin Brodeur twisted his ankle on Tuesday, but the Devils don’t seem worried. Hedberg might get the nod, though … Jose Theodore should be good to go tonight, although word is that Scott Clemmensen will play instead … Chris Pronger visited the Flyers but is nowhere close to playing anytime soon … Ville Leino actually showed some signs of life on Wednesday, putting up two assists including a beauty of a spinning dish … Keep an eye on updates for Mikko Koivu because there are rumors he might return tonight. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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