Thursday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning seemed like an easy win for Chicago. The last time the Blackhawks and Lightning met, Tampa Bay was shut out. This game, however, was different.
The Hawks gave up five goals in regulation and one last goal in overtime to give Tampa Bay the win. They trailed in the first period for the first time this season and gave up a goal on their own power play. It was a pretty devastating game if that’s the only angle you take.
On the other side of things, Patrick Kane sums it up best when he says “We pretty much controlled the game. We had a lot of shots on net, had a lot of chances and a couple more we could have had that maybe we didn’t catch a break on.”
Kane is right; the Blackhawks controlled the majority of the game. They skated harder and faster, had more shots on goal and put up five goals themselves. In fact, once they regained the lead in the second period, they maintained it well through the third. So why did they lose?
My thought? Nikolai Khabibulin was in the net for Chicago. You may recall that Khabibulin was the goaltender for the Lightning the year they won the Stanley Cup, 2003-04. Martin St. Louis, the only remaining player from those days of glory, attributes the Cup win to Khabibulin, claiming that he was what carried the team through the seven-game series against the Calgary Flames.
Now, I’m not saying that Khabibulin threw the game in favor of the Lightning. He himself is seeking another ring, but this was only his second time in the net this season. Despite missing the critical last save in overtime, he still had some impressive saves throughout the game. Now do I think he is a bit old and outdated for the Blackhawks? Yes. He is 40 years old, making him the oldest guy on the roster by four years.
In addition, he hasn’t spent nearly as much time in the net this season as Corey Crawford has. Besides that, Chicago fans adore Crawford. In fact, the fans I was watching the game with on Thursday were chanting for Crawford to get in the net.
That all being said, I think Khabibulin was a great goalie for his time, but the Blackhawks should be seriously searching for another goalie to save them from occurrences similar to last night.