I’ll admit, as of late, I have been highly critical and judgmental of No. 2 netminder for the Chicago Blackhawks, Nikolai Khabibulin. But in all honesty, it hasn’t been without good reason and sound logic.
Despite a decent start into the first period against the Ottawa Senators, Khabibulin gave up three goals in no more than three minutes in the second period. His departure for the bench, yielding Corey Crawford to the rescue and a hat trick from Jonathan Toews gave the Hawks the win over the Senators.
Given his performance Tuesday night and the previous attempt at goaltending against the Tampa Bay Lightning the week before definitely called for criticism from more than just myself.
That being said, I found myself quite abashed as I was reading through the day’s headlines about the Hawks. I came across a multiplicity of sources commenting on how despite Khabibulin’s performance, his team has supported and defended him.
Coach Joel Quenneville came right out and stated the obvious, saying Khabibulin “has to be better than that.” While I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment, I am more impressed with what Khabibulin’s teammates had to say. Like for instance the No. 1 netminder and $36-million man himself, Crawford, who was no stranger to being pulled from the net, particularly two seasons ago.
Crawford said, “This is a team game. We don’t place the blame on anyone individually. That stuff happens. There were some tough bounces and some tough plays.”
Crawford has a point. The Hawks lagged in the first part of the game, only gaining control later on. Crawford continued regarding Khabibulin saying, “we all know what he can do. He’ll play some good games for us and win some good ones for us this year.”
Hopefully Crawford can deliver on these promises.
The Captain, Toews, echoed Crawford’s sentiments saying that, “we didn’t play well enough in the first half. Corey coming in made us realize we have to be better in front of our goaltender, and putting it on Khabby is unfair.”
If you are anything like me, than you probably felt like you were being reprimanded by a parent saying, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” It is fairly unique how the Blackhawks step up to defend each other on and off the ice. It is important to note that an object is only as strong as its weakest point. The same can be said of sports teams. And the fact that Khabibulin has a team behind him when he is, let’s be honest, one of the weakest members of the roster says a lot about the character of the team.
Hopefully, Khabibulin pulls through his age-induced rut and finds his second wind, but in the meantime, he is ridiculously fortunate to have a team like the Blackhawks to back him up.