Everyone following the NHL knows the Chicago Blackhawks signed Cristobal Huet to a big free agent contract ($22.5M for four years) this summer so we’ve all been waiting to see what GM Dale Tallon was going to do with Nikolai Khabibulin (last year of a $27M four-year deal). The Hawks couldn’t possibly support $12+M on two goalies, could they? Khabibulin cleared waivers earlier in the season so Tenders Lounge was expecting to see a trade or possibly a loan to a team in the Russian league.
The goalie stories out of Chicago have grown over the past couple weeks as Huet’s play has been good (3-2-1, 2.45GAA, .916%) but Khabibulin’s has been great (4-1-3, 2.20GAA, .927%, 1 SO). Earlier this week I sat down to watch Khabibulin and the Hawks play the Bruins. First let me say that Tim Thomas was great in net for the B’s. But Khabibulin was clearly the star of the game, even in a shootout loss, making one of the best saves of the season on Marc Savard in OT. Apologies to Khabibulin as I could not find a photo of that save and chose to use a shot of P.J. Axelsson during the shootout. Tenders Lounge has a policy of never showing a goalie being scored on but technically this photo was taken just before Axelsson netted the game-winner.
Alternatively you can watch the save from the NHL YouTube Highlight video by forwarding to the 5:00 mark of this video:
UPDATE: Mason had a successful NHL debut last night, making 22 saves and getting the win in a 5-4 victory over the Oilers. He needs to buy Manny Malhotra a beer for knocking in the game-winner with 69 seconds left in the third and allowing Mason to avoid going to OT in his first NHL game. All I can make out in Mason’s mask is the “Mase” nickname on the chin… will have to wait for more photos to see the look he’s bringing to the NHL. He’s wearing #1 now rather than the #35 he wore as an emergency call-up last year.
2008 has been quite a year for 20yr old Steve Mason. He started the year by backstopping the Canadian junior team to a gold medal while winning MVP and Top Goalie honours (after being traded from London to Kitchener mid-tournament), answering an emergency call-up to the Blue Jackets, having knee surgery and then winning the OHL championship (but missing the Memorial Cup because of the injury).
How does the year get better? By making his first NHL start tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, of course. Great news for Mason but is this really good news for the Jackets? Pascal Leclaire’s injured ankle has him in the press box for another week (at least) and Ken Hitchcock apparently feels that Frederik Norrena and Dan LaCosta just aren’t getting the job done. Regardless of who’s filling the backup role, Columbus just isn’t going to make its first playoff appearance this year without another career season from Leclaire because when he’s injured they simply don’t have the same type of lineup the Devils have without Brodeur.
Thanks to @BethanyM85 for her Twitter tip that Mason was getting the nod tonight.
The countdown to Marty Brodeur’s re-writing of the goalie record book had just gotten started when it came to a grinding halt today as the Devils announced that Brodeur would be out 3-4 months after having surgery to repair a torn muscle in his left arm.
Brodeur needs 7 wins to tie Patrick Roy for most career wins (542) and 5 shutouts to tie the career mark set (104) by Terry Sawchuk. The countdown to Roy’s mark looked like the record would be Brodeur’s outright before the end of November. Timing on the shutout mark was a lot tougher to predict (Brodeur has 2 this year in 11 games) but it seemed like it too would fall before the season was finished. Now it looks like Brodeur will still have a really good shot at Roy’s record this season as he should return with more than a month left in the schedule. Can he get 5 shutouts in 15-20 games? If anyone can it would be Brodeur.
The bigger questions are A) how do the Devils make the playoffs without Brodeur and B) what will this do to the goalie picture for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics?
Kevin Weekes certainly has the talent to carry a team but has had some bad luck (in terms of the team in front of him) when he’s had the starter role in his NHL career. Lou Lamoriello always pulls together good talent for the Devils and they seem to be playing beyond expectations so far this year, so I’m looking forward to watching how Weekes responds to this opportunity.
As for the Olympic team, obviously there’s a lot of time between now and then. Brodeur is one of the fiercest competitors in hockey so I would never bet against him. If the recovery goes well then I think the Olympic picture remains the same as it was last week. One thing I know for sure is shooters will be going high glove side when Brodeur comes back in March.
I figured it only fair to link to Damien Cox’s coverage of Brodeur’s injury since he co-wrote Brodeur’s autobiography.
This ain’t your father’s NHL…