Even though he’s got some time to rest and relax during the All-Star break, chances are Miikka Kiprusoff’s mind won’t be entirely off hockey — he’s staring two career milestones in the face.
The 35-year-old Finnish netminder is just two wins away from 300 for his career and one appearance away from becoming Calgary’s all-time leader in games played by a goalie.
The 300-win plateau will be a special one. Only 26 netminders have won that many, four of them active (Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeni Nabokov) — but Kiprusoff will become the first Finnish goalie to accomplish the feat.
[Quick note on the Finnish goalie record: The 2K generation has seen a wave of talented goalies from Finland — Kipper, Niklas Backstrom, Pekka Rinne, Kari Lehtonen Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask — but prior to 2000, pickings were slim. For a long time, the record for most wins by a Finnish goalie was held by the immortal Kari Takko.]
The Flames record for appearances is also intriguing. Kiprusoff will soon break the mark (526 games) held by Mike Vernon. Once that happens, Kipper will be the franchise leader in games played, wins, shutouts and saves.
For some, that’s enough to anoint him as the greatest goalie in team history — but is that selling Vernon a tad short? Remember, Vernon backstopped the Flames not just to their first and only Stanley Cup in 1989…but also their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals (losing in 1986 to Montreal.)
Vernon also played 81 playoff games to Kiprusoff’s 52, recording 43 wins to Kiprusoff’s 24.
Feel free to debate the merits of both Vernon and Kiprusoff in the comments section.
The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.
The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.
“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”
McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.
But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.
That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.
“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”
Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.
Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight
Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.
Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”
The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.
Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.
But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.
“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.
“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”