Coming into this season, no one had any idea what to expect out of Nikolai Khabibulin. He’s 38 years-old, coming off an injury-filled season, and spent part of the summer in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City prison. If anything, expecting a lot out of Khabibulin was probably expecting too much.
Instead, he’s leading the league. He’s got the best save percentage and goals against average in the league beating out headline-stealing Kings stud Jonathan Quick. To top it all off, the Oilers are winning games with a crew of super young kids, common veterans, and nobodies on defense.
To get any wins at all, Khabibulin’s needed to be brilliant – and he has been. Last night’s 2-1 win over the Capitals to make them no longer undefeated showed Khabibulin’s moxie and skills, something not truly seen since his Stanley Cup-winning days in Tampa Bay.
Will it continue though? It’s hard to believe that it will. Keeping a .964 save percentage for the year is virtually unsustainable and the law of statistics means that a regression to the mean is coming eventually either through returning to average play or just being 38 and having age catch up to him.
For now, Khabibulin is bringing the Oilers something they desperately needed: Confidence. Ride that wave til it crashes you out, Edmonton.
People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.
Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.
Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.
The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.
“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”
If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.
Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.
“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”
Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.
PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice
The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.
Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.
With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.
Trevor Daley, traded to Blackhawks for Sharp & Johns and to #Pens for Scuderi (who was flipped to LA for Ehrhoff) played 28:41 in G4 W.