Early in a soon to be offence-filled game, Ottawa Senators forward Kyle Turris zipped a shot that dislodged Chicago Blackhawks netminder Nikolai Khabibulin’s mask. Neither team had scored yet, but soon the floodgates would crack.
The Bulin Wall — and by “wall,” we of course mean giant sieve — would be quick to fall apart like shoddy hockey gear.
Poor Khabibulin raised his arm to signal that he had an equipment issue but had to face a shot from defenceman Erik Karlsson with a loose mask before the official whistled the play dead.
Not sure if it was Turris’s zinger to the face of the Khabibulin that shook him up early in the game, but Corey Crawford’s 2013-14 backup has been no Ray Emery. After surrendering four goals on 22 shots, Khabibulin was yanked halfway through Tuesday’s game. The well-worked Crawford came into the game, and the Blackhawks salvaged a 6-5 victory.
In three games of action, the 40-year-old Khabibulin has given up 12 goals. His 4.74 GAA and .818 save percentage are problematic.
Prior to the game, head coach Joel Quenneville said his veteran backup was "a big part" of what Chicago was trying to accomplish this season.
Sixty minutes later, Coach Q's tune changed.
“I don’t know if it’s confidence or what it is, but we’ll see,” Quenneville told reporters of the goaltending situation. “We got a few days off here. Let’s get back to a day off and visit with it.”
Khabibulin did not speak to the media after the game.
Khabibulin is not their only option. The Blackhawks shrewdly signed Finnish pro standout Antti Raanta, 24, last season. Plying his trade with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, Raanta has posted an impressive 5-1-0 record with a 2.40 GAA and .926 save percentage. He seems to be adapting to North America's style of play nicely and could see his first NHL game sooner than expected.