Give the man this much:
He sure knows how to make an exit.
As endings go, maybe not quite up there with Bogart and Claude Rains strolling into the Casablanca fog at the “beginning of a beautiful friendship”as The End flashes up on the screen in unbeatable black-and-white, but for here, for now, it’ll do.
We wondered what Miikka Kiprusoff would, could do, for an encore after his 36-save heroics had taken down the playoff-desperate Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
The answer: Another showstopper.
With chants of “Kip-PER! Kip-PER!” echoing around the Scotiabank Saddledome and Harvey the Hound down on his paying homage at the conclusion, Kiprusoff didn’t disappoint, his 33 saves enough to hold off the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 in Calgary’s final home date of another disappointing campaign.
“Yeah, it was a little bit (emotional),’’ admitted Kiprusoff, expected to announce his retirement at season’s close with one year left on his current contract. “After First Star, I had to come quickly out. It was an unbelieveable feeling.
“You look at some other Canadian cities and it can be a tough time for goalies. The crowd can be tough for them. But I’ve been lucky. I’ve a feeling they’re always behind me and that’s huge for a goalie.’’
At game’s end, before the rest of his teammates gathered near centre to salute the crowd, they waited for Kiprusoff to bask in the applause, acknowledge the adulation, alone.
Apropos, for such a singular talent.
“That was really nice. I told them ‘You’re not giving me any options after that.’ It was a nice last game ...’’ Pause. “... of the season.’’
If ever there was a tip-off that this was, indeed, it, owner Murray Edwards was busy taking keepsake snapshots of a young fan beaming beside No. 34 as the media mob squeezed through the dressing room door like toothpaste coming out of a tube, each and every one in search of Kiprusoff.
“I felt good,’’ said Kiprusoff of his performance. “That team, it’s not easy. They have a lot of skill.’’
When asked if any of his pals had been hard at work campaigning the 36-year-old to return for one final season, Kiprusoff shook his head.
“No, actually they want me to go.’’
Yeah. Sure. As if.
“Ah, they know I’m not going to talk about it much. They’ve been nice that way.’’
Still, this night had the distinct feel of farewell about it. Goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk was dabbing wet eyes with a handkerchief as he spoke of the two seasons he’s spent tutoring the flexible Finn.
“I LOVE watching him,’’ murmurred Malarchuk. “I LOVE working with him. For me, he’s the best. The very best. I said he was still Top 5 in the league? Tonight, he’s Top 1. Last game, he’s Top 1.
“My hero. I’m so proud of the guy.
“So I’m a little misty about it. Yeah, I am. I’m a goalie, he’s a goalie, okay? If I had his talent ... his talent and my personality? I’d be a frickin’ movie star. It’s been a tough year for him, but these last two games he brought his level up to the top. The very top. He’s still The Mystery. Not to me. Not to people who know him a bit. To everybody else, though. That’s why he where he wears a mask. And it’s fitting. The Mystery. He doesn’t give up anything unless you’re in his inner circle.
Give the man this much: