Sentencing decision expected this afternoon in Nikolai Khabibulin's extreme DUI trial

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for khabibulindui.jpgThis afternoon will mark a pivotal moment for the Edmonton Oilers and Nikolai Khabibulin’s life in general, as an Arizona judge will pass along the Russian goalie’s prison sentence after he was found guilty of three charges related to an extreme DUI incident.

Here are a few quick facts about the situation, in case you haven’t been following the coverage of the court case.

  • Khabibulin will face at least 30 days in jail by Arizona state law, but could receive a maximum of six months if the judge finds his cause particularly unsympathetic.
  • While we discussed the far-out possibility of the Oilers voiding Khabibulin’s contract, it seems like that is highly unlikely. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson made an interesting comparison to Mike Bell, a troubled forward who honestly is almost a forgotten player even though he’s not that far removed from an up-and-down NHL career.

On the surface, this is a different scenario than the one involving former NHL winger Mark Bell a few years back.

Bell was convicted of drunk driving in 2007 after his rented Toyota Camry rear-ended a pickup truck in California, plowing that vehicle into a telephone pole. The truck driver was injured in the accident over the Labour Day weekend in 2006. Bell was subsequently suspended by the NHL for 15 games.

Bell, who took a breathalyzer that registered .21, was sentenced to six months in jail, but only served six weeks behind bars.

There was personal injury in the Bell accident. Nobody was hurt in Khabibulin’s case.

Of course, a devil’s advocate stance would be that Khabibulin was simply fortunate that no one else was hurt in his scenario. After all, that’s one of the dangers of drunk driviing; you’re not just putting your life (and your passengers’ lives) in jeopardy, but other drivers as well.

  • It would be a surprising turn of events, but you cannot totally rule out the NHL suspending Khabibulin either. As Matheson pointed out, Bell missed 15 games for his transgressions.
  • Chances are, Khabibulin will miss either a portion of training camp, if not the entire proceedings altogether. That’s not exactly great news for a team with a lot of new faces in the first place.
  • Whatever way you slice it, the Oilers’ goalie situation is murky. Khabibulin has back problems and is old. Devan Dubynk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers are unproven if not below average. Martin Gerber is the definition of a journeyman goalie. They might not lack bodies in net, but would you want any of them starting for your NHL team right now?

OK, so that’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the Khabibulin extreme DUI situation. We will keep our eyes open for news on the case and pass along information once word of his sentence surfaces.

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    Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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    You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

    The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

    (Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

    Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

    The penalty element is interesting, though.

    When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

    The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

    via Natural Stat Trick

    It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

    Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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    It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

    Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

    It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

    Judge for yourself in the highlights:

    The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

    If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

    Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

    (Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

    The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

    It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

    Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

    Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

    The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

    Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

    Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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    Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

    Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

    That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

    Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

    Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

    Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

    Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.