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Zubov Finally Slowed Down In Norris Race
From www.euroreport.com page
Sergei Zubov has finally been stopped, at least for now.
But don't look for any tight-checking players or coaches with brilliant game plans from the opposition taking bows, for the foe that has put the clamps on Zubov for the time being is actually Lady Luck. This time, she's come up bad for the Stars and their top two-way defenseman.
After barely missing a shift during the first five months of the season, Zubov was placed on injured reserve last Tuesday to rest a herniated disc in his neck that has been bothering him for a while. If all goes well in an examination early this week, Zubov could be back on the ice by the weekend to resume a race most thought he'd never be a part of in the first place.
Over the first 60 games of the season, it became evident that Zubov, considered an early season dark horse at best for the Norris Trophy, was instead proving to be a thoroughbred in the race for the title of NHL's best defenseman. And a very strong, steady one at that.
Despite the season-long touting of players such as Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrцm, St. Louis' Chris Pronger, and Rob Blake of the Los Angeles Kings, it is none other than Zubov who was quietly leading the pack in nearly every statistical category among defenders before heading to the injured list.
When he last stepped off the ice, Zubov was pacing NHL defensemen in points (47), and in power play assists (22). Further, he was tied for second among all players in power play points (26), and tied for eighth overall in the league in assists (39). He was also a very Norris-like plus-21, and did not miss a game in the first 60 before the neck problems finally caught up to him.
Perhaps the most amazing set of statistics concerning Zubov may be that he had been on the ice for 47 of the Stars 59 power play goals (80%), and 102 of the teams 184 total goals (55%).
How big is his contribution to the power play? In two games without Zubov, the Stars have zero power play goals in 10 chances.
Beyond the personal numbers, however, it is those of the team that Zubov says he is most pleased about. Before he sat down, the Stars ranked first in wins (38), points (85), winning percentage (.712), and road points (43), while they are were second in goals scored (184).
Defensively, Zubov has helped tighten up an already solid unit, one that has allowed one or fewer goals in a game 27 times this season. With Zubov in the lineup, the Stars owned the second best goals against average in the NHL (1.97), and held opponents to just 21.9 shots per game, the lowest in the NHL.
All this from a team that, outside of Mike Modano and Ed Belfour, has few marquee names that dazzle opponents. One look at the above numbers and it's not hard to see that, perhaps, Zubov's name should be added to Dallas' marquee, although he'll never be the one to suggest it.
"We have a great team here," Zubov told the EuroReport following a recent 2-2 tie in Chicago, his last game before sitting down. "We play very aggressive. Lots of forechecking and few mistakes in the neutral zone."
Zubov's development into a consistent two-way player has as much to do with Dallas' stay at the top of the NHL standings this season [they are still tied for the top spot with 85 points] as anything else. Considering his NHL's past, this is somewhat of a surprise to more than a few hockey folks who saw Zubov as a brilliant yet inconsistent player.
In previous NHL campaigns with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, Zubov showed flashes of that brilliance and posted respectable numbers, especially in 1993-94, his rookie season with the Rangers. That year, he totaled 12 goals and 89 points, and he balanced the offensive brilliance by finishing a very un-rookie-like plus-20.
In August 1995, Zubov was traded to Pittsburgh, along with Petr Nedved, for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson. After moderate success [11 + 55= 66 in 64 games], his stay with the Penguins was over less than one year later, when he was dealt to Dallas for Kevin Hatcher.
Zubov arrived in Dallas safely, but his game kept going south. In fact, his first season with Dallas was, statistically speaking, his worst ever. In 78 games, he totaled just 30 assists and 43 points, a paltry .55 points-per-game average.
Chalk it up as a transition year in which Zubov had to fit into a team which lacked the offensive firepower of his previous two clubs, in addition to adapting to the Western Conference style of play. However, it is apparent that Zubov is a quick learner, having overcome all obstacles -- except for that pesky disc -- this season.
"When I came here, I tried to adapt as quickly as I could," said Zubov. "I think things have worked out pretty good because I can still play my same game."
Two seasons removed from his worst campaign as a pro, Zubov has apparently hit full-stride. Or has he?
At 27, he is just hitting his athletic prime. All that stands between Zubov and those marquee lights is proving he can play at his present level on a consistent basis. A Norris Trophy would be a great first step in establishing just that.
But just as he has quietly maintained his perch above all other defensemen this season, likewise he quietly shrugs off any notions of personal achievement, including the Norris.
"I've never really thought about it," Zubov said when it was suggested he might be the NHL's top blueliner this season. "I'm just trying to keep my game going. I think the best thing for my success is to get through the playoffs. I'm looking forward to that both personally and for the team".
That team is arguably the number one contender for this year's Stanley Cup. And, whether he likes it or not, that team's best all-around defenseman is just as solid a candidate for the Norris Trophy, injury or no injury.
©1998 Glenwood Associates, Inc. and The Pro Hockey EuroReport
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15 сентября. Stars' Zubov may benefit from rules changes - The Dallas Morning News
6 декабря. Сергей Зубов - "Так кто же отправил меня в "Ак Барс" // "Спорт-Экспресс"
23 июня. Сергей Зубов: "В блокаде нахожусь уже два года" - Спорт-Экспресс.
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