The NHL certainly tends to be a league of parody. Or at least, I’ll continue to believe it is. For that is the only mental justification I can give as to why the Chicago Blackhawks continue to ignore the target that is now squarely on their back, and have now lost the season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 after dropping tonight’s game in Tampa Bay 6-5, once again in overtime.
Certainly, any time 11 goals are scored, the game can be a nearly assured crapshoot. But for the most part, this game was an exception. Ben Bishop, exempt through victory from an embarrassing self-made goal, made 38 saves, and stood on his head despite being peppered all night.
The same cannot be said for Blackhawks backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who got his second loss in his second respective start. 10 years removed from his title with the Lightning, Khabibulin has not looked good to say the least, and an increased workload is not the solution. Despite his dedication, the body is simply no longer there, and the Blackhawks are best served using Khabibulin like they did Cristobal Huet a few years ago — simply grit their teeth and understand that the offense will have to step up.
In AHL Rockford waits Antti Raanta, the 24-year-old Finnish prospect whom the Blackhawks selected to replace now Nashville Predators starter Carter Hutton. However, Raanta has only played in five games and already suffered an injury. Despite being 3-1, Raanta has a 2.88 GAA and a .903 save percentage, so the timing is simply not right.
Starting goaltender Corey Crawford should see an increased workload from last years shortened season, despite all the overtime games that he has had to play in this season. Ideally, the overtimes will stop, and new goaltending coach Steve Weeks can work with Khabibulin to right the ship as soon as possible.
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