Chicago Blackhawks: Increasing Schedule to Make or Break Nikolai Khabibulin’s Season

By Michael Guzman
Nikolai Khabibulin
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy, here we go. Another piece on Nikolai Khabibulin, the Chicago Blackhawks‘ increasingly decrepit backup goaltender who was signed this offseason for too much money regardless of how much it is. So far, Khabibulin has been sparingly used behind starting goaltender Corey Crawford, but the extended test drive to see if Khabibulin can still compete is ending shortly as the Blackhawks’ schedule becomes increasingly grueling.

The circus trip tends to be a measuring stick for where the Blackhawks truly matchup, and that road trip of seven games in eleven days is quickly approaching. That being said, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has reinforced his confidence in Khabibulin most recently telling Comcast SportsNet:

“We like how he’s been practicing. We’re looking to get him in here (soon). The next few weeks we have a lot of games, four or five in a week schedule, so we’ll get him in.”

Well coach, to quote Allen Iverson, “we’re talking about practice.” When it comes to game conditions Khabibulin has been abysmal at best, failing both the eye and statistical tests. In his two losses (which were also his most recent games), Khabibulin has been terrible, allowing 5.90 goals per game and having a save percentage of .760.

That being said, the sample size is still too small for the team to make an informed decision. The seasoned veteran deserves more than being tossed to the wayside on a snap decision. Yet, Quenneville would be wrong to let another awful performance slide and allow Khabibulin to join the team on the circus trip.

Khabibulin will likely start during one of the three games between now and then, against the Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville Predators, and San Jose Sharks. Looking at that schedule, the only start that would not be throwing Khabibulin to the wolves would be on the road at Nashville, who sports the 25th best offense in the league and is 29th in the league in five-on-five goals scored vs. allowed.

Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486

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