Miikka Kiprusoff

Kiprusoff’s start tonight might be last in Calgary

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Miikka Kiprusoff, 36, isn’t hiding the fact that he might retire at the end of the 2013 campaign. If this is his final season, it’s an unfortunate way to end his career.

The Calgary Flames are focused on getting younger as they close out their fourth consecutive season without a playoff berth, but this campaign has also been rough for Kiprusoff specifically. He has a 3.60 GAA and .872 save percentage in 21 starts, which puts him at the bottom of both categories among goaltenders that qualify.

Lately he has even lost the starting job to Joey MacDonald, who the Calgary Flames originally picked up on waivers.

“Mac (Joey MacDonald) has been red-hot,” Kiprusoff reasoned in a Calgary Herald report. “He’s playing so well. They don’t want to change the goalie that’s playing that well. But I’m getting my chance (tonight) and I’ll try to do my best.”

The Finnish goaltender is starting against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. After this match, Calgary will play in their last home game on Friday and given how the netminding duties have been allocated lately, it’s very possible that this will be Kiprusoff’s final start in the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Regardless of what happens, if he decides to hang up his skates this summer Kiprusoff will be bringing an end to a storied career.

He was a late bloomer, not really finding his way in the NHL until his breakout 2003-04 campaign. He led the Calgary Flames into the playoffs that season and, as the sixth seed, took them as far as Game 7 of the finals. That’s as close as he ever got to winning the Stanley Cup.

Even still, he’s been a workhorse and ranks 23rd in the NHL all-time list with 317 wins. He had a career-high 10 shutouts in 2005-06 en route to winning the Vezina Trophy.

“Was he perfect? No. Nobody is,” former goaltending coach David Marcoux said. “But he brought it all to his hockey club and was accountable to his teammates. You ask anybody from 2003 to today ‘Do you trust Miikka Kiprusoff?’ and the answer would be unanimous.”

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.