Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
|17 сентября 2006
Khabibulin's goal: Stop puck, suffering // Chicago Tribune
Khabibulin leaves trying season behind, looks ahead to success
By Bob Foltman
Pressure comes in many forms and from many directions. For an NHL goaltender, the pressure is unrelenting, unlike any faced at any other position in sports.
Perhaps only a quarterback can relate to the demands on a goaltender. But more often than not, quarterbacks are asked to just manage games so running backs and the defenses can win them.
So external pressure is sufficient without adding internal pressure. But that's basically impossible. There is personal pride, the desire to be considered among the game's elite, the responsibility of leading your teammates.
Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin knows it all too well.
"When you come to a new team and you get a big contract, you want to be 'the guy,'" Khabibulin said. "Sometimes it doesn't work that way."
Last season Khabibulin was "the guy," in a way. He was "the guy" many blame for the Hawks' awful season.
Fair or not, that's what happens when you sign the richest contract in team history, are the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL and end the year with a goals-against average (3.35) ranked 44th of 51 and a save percentage (88.6) ranked 43rd.
"The goalie has to stop the puck," Khabibulin said. "I didn't do a very good job of that last year."
It's safe to say that if he doesn't do it better this season, the Hawks will once again have a long summer. And questions will be asked whether Khabibulin's 2004 Stanley Cup victory with Tampa Bay was more an aberration than the work of a goaltender in the same class as a Martin Brodeur or a Patrick Roy.
"I think every athlete has something to prove every year," Khabibulin said. "I want to prove that last year is last year, and it's done."
The Hawks did little to help Khabibulin last season. They failed to score enough to provide any margin for error, and they took too many penalties that left him facing one power play after another, including many two-man advantages.
"We were playing three-on-five almost every game," he said. "That doesn't help the results. Sooner or later you're going to get scored on, and it was hard for us to score."
It became a vicious cycle. The lack of scoring put pressure on Khabibulin to be perfect, and when he wasn't, it deflated the rest of the team.
While there may be questions about Khabibulin from the outside, there are none, at least publicly, from those who share the dressing room.
"I expect what I think everyone expects, for him to be great," captain Adrian Aucoin said. "He wants to be the best, and there is nothing like a guy who goes out every day wanting to be the best."
Being great now is different from being great back when Khabibulin and the Lightning won the Cup. Then, allowing anything more than two goals a game was considered subpar. In the new, offense-friendly NHL, allowing two or three goals a game is pretty good.
"With the new rules, it's impossible not to have goals scored against you," Aucoin said. "That means we have to score goals."
The Hawks are hoping that more offense gives Khabibulin more of a cushion, which will allow him to relax and just play his game.
"When you're a team that can score some goals, it makes the goaltender's job that much easier," coach Trent Yawney said.
But there will still be nights when Khabibulin will be asked to win a game himself, to justify the $6.75 million contract and to prove he's among the elite.
"I want to put last season behind me," Khabibulin said. "It wasn't much fun. I'm just looking forward."
14 марта. No excuses from struggling Khabibulin //
4 ноября. Голкипер «Чикаго» Николай Хабибулин: Меня
замучили нелепые голы // "Советский Спорт"
14 марта. No excuses from struggling Khabibulin // Chicago Press
4 ноября. Голкипер «Чикаго» Николай Хабибулин: Меня замучили нелепые голы // "Советский Спорт"