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Greg Wyshynski

If you don't want a chubby goalie, sometimes you go to Finland

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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Here's a news flash: The Calgary Flames are only going as far as Miikka Kiprusoff takes them.

At the beginning of last season, Kiprusoff looked like the only place he'd take them is to the nearest Tim Horton's so they could watch him put down a dozen glazed. Whispers about the goalie being out of shape turned into shouts; EJ Hradek on XM said that Kiprusoff was "a little soft, and he can be in better shape. You start to wonder about that: Is that the reason this guy gets off to slow starts every year?"

(That "water bottle?" Bacon grease. Seriously.)

Last year's slow start saw him with a save percentage under .900 in 13 of his first 17 games, and Calgary lost 11 of them. It was a lousy start that created some early tension between the goalie and coach Mike Keenan. So was a rare off-season visit to Finland by Keenan and new Flames goaltending advisor Jamie McLennan a way to make sure Kipper wasn't drowning himself in pickled herring and sweet breads?

Actually, according to this Finnish newspaper article translated via Flames Insider, Kiprusoff has an explanation for being out of shape last off-season and for returning to train in Turku, Finland:

A year ago he tried something different. He didn't step on ice in Turku but instead travelled early in the summer to Calgary to practice. "I thought last summer I'd try training in Canada. The system didn't work quite as well as I had planned. Training in Calgary in the summer with a small group of guys didn't work, so this summer I decided to stay in Turku to practice."
It says a lot of Kiprusoff's value to his team that since the Flames superstar opted this time not to spend his summer in Calgary, the coaches came to meet him in Finland. Calgary Head Coach Mike Keenan and the newly-named head of goaltending coaches Jamie McLennan came to Turku on Monday. "They wanted to come to say hi to me here. I also asked Mike to take part in the exhibition game as a coach."

Keenan has been saying all summer that all is well between he and his goalie after they had an emotional post-playoffs chat. This would seem to indicate he's right.

Oh, and attention fantasy owners and Curtis McElhinney: Keenan said in a delightfully awkward video interview with Finnish TV (.wmv, via the HF Boards) that he expects Kiprusoff to play close to 70 games. "He's the key to our success," said Keenan, completely discounting the potential contributions of Andre Roy.

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