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|19 октября 2006
Offensive upgrade helping Khabibulin // Chicago Tribune
By Bob Foltman
DALLAS -- There is no question that without stellar play from goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, the Hawks would not be 4-2 and looking for their third straight victory Friday against the Stars.
But it's amazing what a little offense can do.
Khabibulin won player of the game honors for Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the Canadiens and for the 3-1 triumph over the Predators on Oct. 12.
But if you compare Khabibulin's five games this season with his first five last season, there isn't a dramatic difference.
The goals-against is slightly better—3.22 to 3.39. The save percentage is better—.895 to just .866. Making the save percentage even better is the fact that Khabibulin has faced 169 shots through his first five games compared with 127, an average of 8.4 more shots per game.
The biggest difference is in the margin of error Khabibulin has this season. Through six games last season, the Hawks scored just 17 goals compared with 25 this season. So while he has allowed just one fewer goal than at the same point last season, his record is 4-1 instead of 2-3.
"Nik is a smart guy," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said. "In training camp he could see we had much more skill and he knew we were going to score more goals."
It also helps that in the last five games the Hawks have scored first, giving Khabibulin an added comfort zone.
Khabibulin could have the night off Friday against the Stars and play Saturday at home against St. Louis.
The theory behind that lineup, as opposed to playing your No. 1 against the stronger team, is that even with Khabibulin in goal, Friday's game in Dallas is at best a 50-50 proposition while Saturday's home game against a weaker team is one the Hawks should win and need to win.
That's why there may be no point wasting Khabibulin in Dallas.
Khabibulin said that after what he went through last season, the worst since his rookie season in Winnipeg, he no longer fears anything.
"Last year was so bad for me personally … it can't be any worse," he said. "It's like I'm not afraid of [failure] anymore."
He's also healthier. Knee and groin injuries added to Khabibulin's problems last season.
"He looks healthy, that's the big thing," defenseman Adrian Aucoin said. "A lot of guys came in fresh [last season] and tried to do a lot, and once injuries kicked in it's tough to get back on the horse. It's nice to see him do what he does."
The Hawks jetted down to Texas occupying the rarified air of first place in the Central Division, ahead of both Detroit and Nashville.
If they are to give those two a run for the entire season, Khabibulin will need to keep doing what he has done so far—allowing at least one less goal than the other goaltender.
"I don't look at anything other than W's," Yawney said. "Goaltenders
in this league pride themselves on wins."
5 октября. Голкипер «Чикаго» Николай Хабибулин: Я
не отказал Третьяку // "Советский Спорт"
17 сентября. Khabibulin's goal: Stop puck, suffering
5 октября. Голкипер «Чикаго» Николай Хабибулин: Я не отказал Третьяку // "Советский Спорт"
17 сентября. Khabibulin's goal: Stop puck, suffering // Chicago Tribune