Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Over/Under Preview-Nikolai Khabibulin

By Brian Kinkade

Feb 25, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (35) against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in overtime. The Blackhawks set an NHL record for scoring at least one point in 19 consecutive games to open a season. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

First off, let’s give a nice welcome back to the Chicago Blackhawks, to Nikolai Khabibulin.  

When Nikolai first signed with the Hawks, back in 2005, he became the highest paid goaltender, in the NHL.  With that, he also received the “honor” of being the Hawks savior, as the (much quieter, then) fan base looked to him, to lead the organization out of the Dark Ages.

In a way, he did.

He was the starting goaltender when the Hawks found their way back to the post-season, for the first time since 2002, and for the first time with this current core of superstars, in 2009.

After the playoff run, in 2009, Nikolai signed with the Edmonton Oilers, and played 4 sub-par, injury plagued seasons, with the seemingly constantly rebuilding Oilers franchise.

Now, Nik’ has once again signed with the Blackhawks to play goaltender, except this time, the circumstances are much different.

At age 40, and having dealt with several injuries, in recent years, Nikolai’s days as an elite starting goaltender, in the NHL, are very much in the past, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t and won’t be a contributor to an elite Hawks team.

This is Khabibulin’s first contract signed, with the intent of being a backup goaltender.  He was once an elite, and durable goaltender in the NHL, but is no longer.

He is however, still a very talented, and very experienced goaltender.

His main job will be to give Corey Crawford a breather here and there, throughout the 82-game season.  Due to his 17 years of experience in the NHL, he will also be able to impart copious amounts of wisdom, and advice to the still young Crawford, who also may be a budding elite goaltender, in the league, just as Khabibulin once was.

Injuries, and workload issues will not be an issue with Khabi’, this season, as he will likely get a rather light work load.  With the lighter work load, lingering injuries shouldn’t get as many opportunities to build, as they recently did, with Nikolai, in Edmonton, and with the light work load, he should be well-rested and ready to go, when called upon.

I predict:

Games Played-25    Wins-Between 15 and 20    Goals Against Average-2.40    Save Percntage-0.910-0.915%

Nothing flashy, and nothing to exciting.  Just enough solid goaltending to give the Hawks a very solid amount of victories, while Crawford is getting some rest.  Hopefully the Hawks aren’t missing a lot with Khabibulin in net, over Crawford.

Nikolai was always a class-act and a good teammate, in his previous stint with the Hawks.  That may be a big reason why Hawks General Manager, Stan Bowman signed him.  A good veteran teammate will still help the young Hawks core, even after winning 2 Stanley Cups, since 2010.

If Khabi’ can win a cup, with the Hawks, even as a backup goaltender, it will be a nice way to finish what he started, and tried to do in 2005, with the Hawks.

It would certainly be a nice sentiment.

What do you predict for Nikolai Khabibulin?