Nikolai Khabibulin

Blackhawks bring back Nikolai Khabibulin


With Ray Emery headed back to Philadelphia, the Chicago Blackhawks found their new backup via a retread as well. Nikolai Khabibulin signed a one-year deal with the team, according to’s Tracey Myers.

The financial terms aren’t clear yet, but one can just about guarantee that “The Bulin Wall” took a massive cut from the $3.75 million he earned in 2013. Update: his agent Jay Grossman indicates it’s $2 million, although some of that is based on incentives.

While it’s reasonable to worry how well the 40-year-old can back Corey Crawford, Khabibulin seems to up his game when his contract is about to expire, last season included.

Obviously a lot of variables can influence these numbers, but it’s still amusing to compare and contrast his contract year work to the season he endured before. Here’s a chronology:


1997-98: 70 games played, .900 save percentage
1998-99: 63 GP, .923 save percentage

Tampa Bay

2002-03: 65 GP, .911 save percentage
2003-04: 55 GP, .910 save percentage … however, he won the Stanley Cup and had a .933 save percentage in the playoffs


2007-08: 50 GP, .909 save percentage
2008-09: 42 GP, .919 save percentage (stole fellow contract year beneficiary Cristobal Huet’s job)


2011-12: 40 GP, .910 save percentage
2013: 12 GP, .923 save percentage

Again, those numbers could be purely coincidental, and he’s had other strong seasons in his career.

Still, if Blackhawks fans want a reason to feel better about the team signing an aging goalie who experienced some personal issues during his time with Edmonton, his work in contract years might help.

Kane scores OT-winner, caps Islanders’ bumpy start in Brooklyn

Patrick Kane

On paper, it’s the perfect way to kick off meaningful hockey in Brooklyn, as the New York Islanders faced the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

In reality, there were some highs and lows, culminating with Patrick Kane scoring a power-play overtime-winner to give Chicago a 3-2 (OT) win.

The Barclays Center crowd was going to be a big part of the story one way or another, but even by building-opening standards, the audience made some waves.

Indeed, Kane was greeted with some jeers during his first road appearance of the 2015-16 season, though he didn’t sound surprised.

(There were other controversial chants, apparently.)

Speaking of the crowd, it may not have been the greatest turnout:

ESPN goes way, way in depth on how the change of locale was received, by the way.

It wasn’t a perfect night inside the rink, either, as there weren’t exactly rave reviews about ice quality. New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple compared the ice to a “slushy” and “soup,” with an anonymous Islander (or Islanders) describing the conditions as “awful.”

Kane was pretty diplomatic about it, for what it’s worth.


So, no, it was not a perfect night for the Islanders.

They probably envisioned a teeming, perfectly mannered crowd. Management likely expected Jaroslav Halak to be in net, too.

Sometimes breaking ground is often about overcoming those early stumbles, though, and maybe the best review is to parallel the on-ice results: the Isles at least got a point out of it.

Let’s not forget that there are some cool perks that come with this situation, even if the specifics may vary.

If you want even more information/photos/etc., you’d probably do well to check out #IslesOpeningNight.

Columbus collapse: Rangers spoil Blue Jackets’ opener

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For a little more than a minute, Brandon Saad was going to be the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opener. Instead, his power-play goal merely got the ball rolling on a flabbergasting finish.

The New York Rangers scored three goals in 1:17 of game time to manage a 4-2 win.

They’ve now spoiled home openers for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets to begin their 2015-16 season.

It might be easiest just to show you when the goals were scored, noting that the third period began with a 1-1 tie.

Brandon Saad power-play goal: 16:10 into third period (2-1 Columbus)
Oscar Lindberg: 17:24 (2-2 tie)
Kevin Hayes: 17:41 (3-2 Rangers)
Mats Zuccarello: 18:41 (4-2 Rangers)

Yikes. Zuccarello scored two of the Rangers’ goals, while a beauty by Cam Atkinson is likely long forgotten.