Either the good folks here at Matchsticks and Gasoline, cognizant of the recent dismissals of upwards of 80 National Hockey League coaches, have decided to delay my own execution for another week, or they simply forgot to revoke my posting privileges. Either way, I'm still here. So buckle in, grammar police, this is going to hurt.
We are now in the second week of awarding a Flame who did the most good things this week award, and I'm pretty sure this is going to catch on, friends, because if it doesn't, I'm hunting each and every one of you down.
So with that in mind, this edition of player of the week goes to...
Yeah, okay, it's a tie. Like kissing your sister if you're not from Alabama. And we're not from Alabama, are we?
Player #1: Miikka Kiprusoff
Uh, derr. This was sort of an easy choice in part because, maybe outside of Derek Smith, who is kind of THE MAN now and will likely be headlined in this feature in a not too distant Sunday, the Flames skaters were not quite woeful this week, but still kind of a little bit woeful. The Finnish netminder, pictured above allegedly practicing for his post hockey career as an accident injury lawyer, did not have stellar numbers to back up just how good he was this week. And by stellar numbers I mean the Flames couldn't get him an eff'n W.
His efforts against Nashville on Tuesday were, to blasphemously overstate it in the face of soldiers returning home from Iraq, heroic, as he donned the pads of "Vintage Kipper", stonewalling most every Predator chance, poised to steal his team a victory despite their floundering offensive prowess. The kind of performance that first endeared us to that adorable, mushmouthed crease saviour so many years ago, the one that propelled the Flames to heights so high that the bandwagon jumpers are only now starting to fall off.
And he would have gotten away with it two, if not for
you meddling kids my favourite TERRIBLE defenseman, Scott Hannan and his penchant for giving the puck to players who are not on the same team as him. Those 35 shots through 2 periods, the 45 total shots, the numerous in tight situations he so deftly turned away, all diminished by one boneheaded turnover early in the third period.
It was heartbreaking, as though the Flames did not deserve to win the game, Kiprusoff certainly did not deserve to lose.
OK, so full disclosure, I did not see the Tampa game, as I was getting drunk at my staff Christmas party, but I'm willing to bet he was good enough to give the team a chance to win. 4 goals against looks, you know, Roloson-y, but he did get peppered in that one too, and once you get to overtime, things just get downright weird. Plus, for the sake of my article, it helps my case if we assume Kipper played great, and because I'm writing this and you're not, we're just going to officially declare that he was outstanding. So there. Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, isn't it?
Now I know you're all sititng there saying "Hey Loob Dude (which I hate and I wish you'd all stop calling me that), didn't you say this was a tie? Who is the other player of the week? Also, we think you're really handsome, and we're wondering if you like anyone, you know, more than a friend?"
And you're right. There is another player, I'm exceedingly handsome, and I like you. Yes, you. Like, a lot.
Player #2: Leland Irving
Now really, you probably should have seen that coming, and if you didn't, it's probably because much like young Leland here, you were probably focusing on something else.
I'm always very back and forth on Irv. I think he's a phenomenal goaltender and very likely the future gamesaver of this organization, but at this stage of his career I had been hesitant to agree with him getting any starts. At least I was when Lurch Karlsson was only supposed to miss three or four games. My belief was, if any of those games aren't started by Kiprusoff, the Flames are not doing everything they can to win. You don't showcase your depth and your future when you haven't been eliminated from the playoffs yet. But when Hank was diagnosed with a much more sever injury, it really changes things. Now you HAVE to start Irving in some games, because NOT resting Kipper hurts your chances down the road of trying to get into a playoff spot (I know some of you Andy Sutton type experts are already eliminating the Flames from the playoffs, and the numbers are on your side, but you're all cynical pricks and I hate you and it's a story for another day anyway. Like everyday. Seriously, we talk about this everyday. Sunday is our day of rest. We're taking it back)
After watching his first pro game, I can honestly say I'm not worried about playing Irv anymore. To be fair, I always believed he brings more to the table than Karlsson, but that's why he's getting all the important starts in the minors and Hank has to keep that bench warm with his gigantic ass. But man, he was some kind of poised in that crease, wasn't he? At no point did he ever look like the level of competition was over his head. Maybe that's why it's not surprising that Rob Kerr surprised even himself by calling Irving "Kiprusoff" after the kid flashed the leather in the second period. (Or maybe it's because Rob Kerr hasn't figured out what he's doing yet, but again, not being discussed here right now)
It's not unheard of for goalies to come out of nowhere and have an all world debut game before slipping back into mediocrity or worse, and it's entirely possible that Leland Irving ends up being Trevor Kidd. Hopefully with a more centered goatee on his chin, but let's not get nuts. But until he shows that, you hold onto him. I wouldn't have been surprised if the Flames were in the initial stages of shopping for a backup goaltender when the Big Show went down with his injury, but maybe they're hesitating on pressing the button on a trade as long as Irv shows he can get it done. He's earned the opportunity.
He's also earned co-honours with the legendary Miikka Kiprusoff for the equally legendary Al "Wool" Coates coat for being the Flames Who Did Good Things This Week. I guess I could make them share, but hey, it's Christmas. Here's two of them:
2. Miikka Kiprusoff & Leland Irving
Young Guns history time!
December 18th, 1998 - The Saddledome was a'rockin' that night as the Flames, led by prolific scorer and all time Flames great Hnat Domenichelli, and the usual offensive showing of Robyn Regehr, outlasted the powerhouse Ottawa Senators, 2-1. Freddy Brathwaite was impressive in net, making an un-Trefilovlike 35 saves for the victory. Jarome Iginla had 4 shots on net, showing glimpses of the man who would later score 50 goals in a season, and Valeri Bure sucked.
Also, on this day, Bobby Dollas was born. Or at least he was born on a day just like this one. I guess.
Just as a reminder, Calgary was once coached by Greg Gilbert, and those were sad, dark times which we will all need therapy for someday.
See ya next week! (maybe)