Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN (Local), NBCSN (US), TSN (Anglo), RDS2 (Franco), WIND-AM 560
Obey The Cowgod: Flames Nation
Tonight will be one of the more unique experiences on West Madison in recent vintage. Aside from the game having literally zero meaning between the long-since eliminated Flames and the home-ice holding Hawks, the game will also like be the final display of one of the marquee-named, if not great goalies of the last decade.
By all accounts, tonight will be Miikka Kiprusoff’s final game in the NHL, as he’s all but officially announced that he will be retiring at the conclusion of the Flames’ season which is tonight for them. Kiprusoff still has another year left on his deal, and the Flames likely would have liked to have been able to trade him, but he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t going to uproot his family and report to a new team despite not having a no-trade clause. Given the fixture he’s been for the franchise, Jay Feaster respectfully did not call that bluff, and Kipper will ride of into whatever sunset a predictably disappointing season from the Flames will provide.
Personally, I have always enjoyed watching Kiprusoff play, even in his backup days in San Jose way back when. From the skulls on his mask, to his icy demeanor, to his acrobatic style, his emergence as a premiere goaltender made the Flames fun to watch, particularly in their unlikely run to the Finals in 2004, only to be felled by the Lightning in 7 games. That track record, including his Vezina and Jennings trophies in 2006, legitimized the Hawks’ first playoff series victory in ages in 2009, and made the improbable 5-goal comeback game that following November that much sweeter. The fact that the Hawks were pulling off these feats against a bona-fide and decorated NHL netminder made a statement, especially since there was always the possibility that even in eventual defeat, there was always the chance that Kipper could snatch it right away with a flash of the glove hand.
Kiprusoff likely won’t be a Hall of Famer, but most certainly will be enshrined in the Hall of the Very Good For A Long Time, though missing out on that enshrinement can more than be attributed to Mike Keenan and Darryl Sutter grinding him into dust out of a sheer lack of a suitable backup. Prior to this season, Kiprusoff has started 70 or more games in seven straight seasons, which is absolutely unheard of in the modern era. Once Fatso finally hangs up his sans-a-belt breezers and girdle or Ryan Miller retreats to his basement to listen to A.F.I. alone in the dark, the last of the true workhorse goalies will finally be gone.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, let’s get a couple things out of the way really quickly. First, with the President’s Trophy being presented to Jonathan Toews tonight by Bill Daly, feel free to boo the shit out Bill Daly, but know that whatever Toews treatment of the trophy is has absolutely zero causal relationship with the final outcome of this hockey season. The gesture of ignoring it is one that sends the correct message via subtext, but is ultimately hollow and meaningless. Alexander Ovechkin treated it much like he treats the defensive zone, and the Caps were still first round casualties. Secondly, if you believe there is an actual curse attributed to winning the President’s Trophy, then you are a fucking moron. Jonathan Willis very clearly laid out myriad reasons why it’s advantageous to have won it, and we needn’t get into all of them here. But rest assured having home ice throughout the playoffs is a net positive, especially for a team that has gone 2-3 in series without home-ice under Joel Quenneville, but 4-0 with it.
For the largely immaterial on-ice product tonight, the Hawks will be icing their usual skaters, which includes Corey Crawford in net. Michal Handzus will get a look between the Patricks after showing some good chemistry with them against the defensively clueless Oilers on Wednesday. There were murmurs from the morning skate that Zus could find himself there come next week, which despite the initial cringe factor isn’t the worst thing in the world if it gets Dave Bolland the hell away from Patrick Kane and back to a checking role. If Toews and Bolland slot in at 1 and 3 down the middle drawing the more difficult assignments (top checking and top scoring lines respectively), it could provide the soft hammock for a second line with Handzus on it to not suck. But we shall see.
With the Black Aces now called up and apparently ready to go tomorrow in West East St. Louis, tonight will be the Hawk regulars’ last assignment of not getting killed. Doing that should be prioritized over giving Kiprusoff one last ass paddling as he walks out the door, but they’re not mutually exclusive. Let’s go Hawks.