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Rambler's Top100

14 декабря 2001 года.
Khabibulin proves better than ever Lightning goalie is back among elite. // St. Petersburg Times

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Nikolai Khabibulin is back. Not that it wasn't self-evident with his stats speaking so loudly for themselves. 

But Khabibulin had never said he has returned to the form that three seasons ago in Phoenix made him one of the NHL's elite goaltenders -- until now. 

"I think, possibly, yes," Khabibulin said. "I'm feeling pretty normal." 

If normal is a 1.86 goals-against average (third in the league), and a .940 save percentage with five shutouts (both second), then the assessment is accurate. 

If, however, you saw Khabibulin in his Coyote prime -- like Lightning left wing Juha Ylonen and defenseman Stan Neckar, both of whom played in Phoenix -- the critique falls short. 

"I think he's doing even better," Ylonen said. "He was great in Phoenix, but he's been just amazing here. I think he's the best goaltender in the league. Right now, he's No. 1." 

"He's back playing at the same level he was playing before," Neckar said. 

That the Bulin Wall has been reconstructed, and with such attention to detail, is no surprise to goaltenders coach Jeff Reese. He noted Khabibulin came into training camp in excellent shape, which only hastened the sharpening of his skills. 

Khabibulin is remarkable at staying square to the action, and there may not be any better goaltender side to side or with his glove hand. 

"His positioning is so good, there are no empty-net goals, so to speak," Reese said. "It has to be a terrific shot. They have to earn it." 

"I don't know if I'm surprised or not," Khabibulin said. "I mean, I wasn't expecting anything. I knew I'd get back, but I wasn't really setting a time frame. I just tried to work hard in the summer and training camp and games. I always knew every game I play it's going to get better and better." 

No one really knew what to expect when the Lightning traded for Khabibulin's rights and signed him in March to the richest deal in team history: three-plus years worth $14.75-million with incentives and an option year that could bump it to $23.25-million. 

The 28-year-old had not played in the NHL since 1998-99 because of a contract dispute with the Coyotes. He played 33 games for IHL Long Beach the season after but had not played anywhere since. 

Khabibulin read newspaper stories that called him greedy for his holdout, and others that said he never would regain his form. That, he admitted grudgingly, makes his success a little sweeter. 

"The biggest thing for me was people saying that I missed so much time that I couldn't come back that far; that I couldn't play anymore basically," he said. 

"He goes very quietly about it, and doesn't say very much about it," coach John Tortorella said. "But I think he's got that desire to prove those people wrong. He's been a great teammate and that's the key." 
Khabibulin was one of the first eight players named to the Russian Olympic team. Thanks to the wonders of fan voting, however, he is not guaranteed a spot on the World All-Star team. 

Detroit's Dominik Hasek is dominating with 46,620 votes. Khabibulin is ninth with 5,087, even though Hasek's stats -- a 2.41 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and three shutouts -- are not nearly as good. 

Khabibulin also is inexplicably behind Carolina's Arturs Irbe and Pittsburgh's Johan Hedberg. 
The league could name Khabibulin to the team, but the native of Sverdlovsk in central Russia said he is not worried about playing in the Feb. 2 game in Los Angeles, especially with the Olympic tournament to start about two weeks later. 

"It would be good," he said of the All-Star Game. "But at the same time, I don't really think about it. If it happens, it happens. If not, I'll take the break." 

Страничка Николая Хабибулина на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


11 октября. Показатели Хабибулина продолжают подать. 

7 октября. Воробьев помог Хабибулину одержать первую победу в составе «Блэкхаукс». 

23 сентября. Хабибулин пока не показывает свой лучшей игры. 

5 августа. Хабибулин перебирается в Чикаго. 

29 марта. Хабибулин и Лекавалиер в центре внимания прессы Тампы. 

2 февраля. Николай Хабибулин: "Думать в воротах - непозволительная роскошь" - Спорт-Экспресс

22 ноября. Афанасенков против Хабибулина // "Спорт-Экспресс"

23 октября. Хабибулин и Каспарайтис - в "Ак Барсе" - "Спорт-Экспресс"


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