Kipper and the silver lining

So, I have been working on some detailed calculations regarding goaltending, and a goalie's metric,which I hope to complete before the seasons beginning but I thought I would start with this: Why I still have slight hope for Miikka Kiprusoff.

Now, before I get into the numbers, I would like to state that I believe and have always believed that the goaltenders position is subject to many team and coaching factors which cannot be captured when looking at sv%, even strength sv%, or even sv%n. I also do agree that when looking for a quick metric to rate goaltenders by sv% is the most fitting. However, as you will see in the example below, there is often misleading information hidden in the years end sv%. I think that although Miikka's performance has dropped off the last couple of years, the "what have you done for me lately?" mentality, and the idea that Kiprusoff is a below average goalie is not considering the whole picture.

I am here to say that Miikka Kiprusoff's ceiling is not his record last season, which was this:

GP - 76, W - 45, L - 24, OTL - 5, SO - 4, GA - 209, SA - 2155, SV% - .903, GAA - 2.84, MP - 4418

But instead, should look more like this, or slightly better:

GP - 76, W - 45, L - 24, OTL - 5, SO - 4, GA - 189, SA - 2155, SV% - .912, GAA - 2.57, MP - 4418

Here is why I assert this claim: The stinky 7 games from last season which sunk Kipper's season:


Oct.9  Loss - 6-0 Van (Kipper 6GA) 23 shots – 0 ppga - 60min

Oct.11  Loss - 5-4 Van (Kipper 5GA) 34 shots – 0 ppga - 60min

Nov.6   Win - 7-6 NSH (Kipper 6GA) 29 shots – 2ppga 2shga - 60min

Nov. 9  Loss - 6-1 Chi (Kipper 6GA) 27 shots – 2 ppg - 60min

Nov. 13  Loss - 6-1 SJ (Kipper 4GA) 46shots – 4 ppg - 20min

Mar 1st  Loss - 8-6 TB (Kipper 6 GA) 32 shots –  3ppga - 40min

Mar14th  Loss - 8-6 Tor (Kipper 6 GA )30shots –  2 ppga - 42min

In these 7 games Miikka was slaughtered, as was the entire Flames team, giving up an average of 31.58 SA, 45 goals (of which Kipper surrendered 39) 15 special teams goals against and both goalies had a save percentage of a stomach turning .796!

The one thing that you will notice is Mike Keenan's tendency to stick with Kiprusoff regardless of how he was playing. In the seven games he was pulled only 3 times. On four occasions he played the entire game even though he allowed 23 goals in those four games. Was their no faith in the backup? Was there a grudge being exercised? Who knows?  The point is this, Kipper and the team were being sent a message early in season. Only once did Keenan pull Kiprusoff prior to 5 goals against, and in most cases 6 was his magic number, which I doubt will be the case under Brent Sutter. I would point this out as a serious mis-handling of the goaltender on Keenans part at the very least, and very likely a team implosion - of which Kiprusoff should not be singled out for.

Two scenarios interest me from this:

Had Kipper kept his season's statistical performances in those 7 games (which was not steller) his season's record would look like this: (this has recalculated his stats @ .903 sv% in those 7 games vs an ~ .796)

GP - 76, W - 45+?, L - 19+?, OTL - 5, SO - 4, GA - 189, SA - 2155, SV% - .912, GAA - 2.57, MP - 4418

And had he not played those 7 games at all, his season's stats appear like this:

GP - 69, W - 44, L - 19, OTL - 5, SO - 4, GA - 170, SA - 1979, SV% - .914, GAA - 2.21, MP - 4076


I believe this raises an interesting question: How well could have Miikka Kiprusoff played had he been managed better by Mike Keenan? Now, I fully understand that if you went through the league and took the worst games any goalie played off the books, it would be very favourable for that goalie. I do think though, this is an extreme example where the Flames played 6 or 7 games by my memory where they were terrible and goaltending was not to be forgiven, but hardly to be blamed.

Side note - Keenan is also a coach who has a long standing reputation for destroying goaltenders. Roberto Luongo, who many believe is the best in the league, had some of his worst years under Keenan in 01-02 and 02-03 with a huge turn around in 03-04 after Keenan resigned. He has publicly stated that he hated playing for Keenan.

What this means, is that outside of these seven games and including all other high scoring affairs against the Flames, Kiprusoff faired quite well. A .914 sv% is just one-one thousandth less than Steve Mason's vezina finalist .915% or good for about 20th in the league, where .918 is good for 8th. A 2.21 GAA would be good for second in the league behind only Thomas @ 2.10 and ahead of Mason @ 2.29. He also would have continued to easily lead the league in wins if these seven games were stricken from the record, (which makes sense because they were mostly horrific blow-outs.)

In conclusion, a more appropraitely managed Miikka Kiprusoff shows the potential to perhaps return to Vezina candidate form given the right circumstances. Will he? I don't know, likely not. Is it fair to do this analysis? I don't know, perhaps not. One thing I do know, is that Kipper shouldn't be given the shaft due to seven lousy games by the entire team and coach.

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