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.