Ottawa Senators’ Kaspars Daugavins scores first career NHL goal

Monday, October 31st, 2011

OTTAWA – For a while the Ottawa Senators felt like they were playing a road game in their own building.

But a key goal by Kaspars Daugavins quited the Maple Leaf fans at Scotiabank Place as the Senators hung on against their provincial rivals.

Daugavins’ first career goal stood as the winner as the Senators won their sixth straight game, 3-2 over Toronto on Sunday.

It’s the Senators’ longest winning streak since April 2010.

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Ilya Bryzgalov and Nikolai Khabibulin’s reversal of fortunes

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Via Ken Baker –

It’s a tale of two Russians.

One’s a comeback story starring Edmonton’s 38-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin, who, after a lackluster 2010-11 season and then a summer in which he spent 15 days in an Arizona jail on a driving-under-the-influence charge, was not expected to do great things this year.

The other is a tragicomedy featuring Philly’s 31-year-old Ilya Bryzgalov, who spent his summer counting the zeros on his $51 million contract and being heralded as the next best Flyers goalie since Ron Hextall.

But, like any good piece of literature, these two tales have begun with a shocking plot twist: Bryzgalov’s early-season performance has been a Broad Street bust, while Khabibulin has boomed in Oil Town.

Khabibulin has thrived in every one of the above categories. Shots are disappearing into Khabibulin’s body, leaving few second-chance opportunities and he’s challenging shooters at the top of crease and moving laterally very well.

The Khabibulin success story goes back to him executing basic fundamentals, starting with him seeing — or visually “tracking” — the puck in a way that Bryzgalov has not done on a regular basis.

Philly’s capable goalie coach Jeff Reese (who, coincidentally, coached Khabibulin when he won the Cup for Tampa Bay in 2004) might want to run his goalie through simple drills that will force Bryzgalov to keep his eyes on the puck. Quick passing back and forth around the goal mouth, screen set-up situations and rapid-fire shooting drills are among the possible solutions to get a goalie tracking the puck more effectively.

In goaltending, your body follows where your eyes go. By getting his puck-tracking skills back in order, the 6-foot-3 Bryzgalov can get back to moving and blocking and challenging in the same way Khabibulin has performed this season.

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Nikolai Khabibulin may be returning to his old form

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Via John Kreiser –

Nikolai Khabibulin has been reminding NHL shooters that he used to be one of the League’s premier goaltenders.

Khabibulin and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers had a miserable season in 2010-11 — they finished last overall for the second straight season, and he went 10-32-4 with a 3.40 goals-against average and a save percentage of just .890.

But the Oilers, one of the NHL’s youngest teams, have won six of their first 10 games, and their 38-year-old goaltender is a big reason for the early success.

Khabibulin allowed just three goals this past week in beating Vancouver (3-2) and Washington (2-1). Through six starts, he’s 4-0-2 with a GAA of just 0.97 and a save percentage of .964 — six goals allowed on 175 shots. He looks like the goaltender who earned the nickname “The Bulin Wall” while leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, rather than the one who was 17-41-6 in his first two seasons with the Oilers.

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Mikael Samuelsson’s Top 5 Goals in a Vancouver Canucks unifrom

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Via The Vancouver Sun Sports Blog – Pass it to Bullis

The dude could play, and he scored some meaningful goals in a Canucks uniform. Here are his five best.

He was recently traded to the Florida Panthers.

———————- 5 ———————-

This goal features two elements I can always, always get behind. The first is wizardous sedinerie, as Henrik Sedin threads this puck to Daniel at the side of the net, and Daniel pulls it around his check and goes cross-crease to Samuelsson. The second element is a ridiculous goal celebration. If you can’t get behind Samuelsson’s robo-dad fist pumps, you have no soul.

———————- 4 ———————-

Samuelsson went off in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, scoring seven huge goals in five games versus the Los Angeles Kings. This was one of his best, an off-balance one-timer on a Sedin rush to put the Canucks up 4-1 in a game 5 they would win 7-2. His post-goal roar is the shout of a happy man.

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Puck Daddy chats with Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin

Friday, October 28th, 2011

via Yahoo’s Puck Daddy

Has there been a more surprising resurgence in the NHL this season than that of Nikolai Khabibulin(notes)?

Last year saw the Edmonton Oilers goaltender playing in the shadow of his DUI charges from Feb. 2010, for which he’d eventually spend 15 days in an Arizona detention facility. He played 47 games for the Oilers in 2010-11, going 10-32-4 with an .890 save percentage in an injury-plagued year.

Before this season, it appeared the 38-year-old goalie’s status as a No. 1 goaltender was at an end, with 25-year-old former first-rounder Devan Dubnyk(notes) ready to take over. But The Bulin Wall has been sturdy in the opening month of the 2011-12 season: He’s 4-0-2 with a great 0.97 goals against average and a .965 save percentage, leading the NHL in both numbers after Thursday night’s win over the Washington Capitals.

“Going into the season I don’t think we had a clear distinction who the No. 1 goaltender would be and who the No. 2 would be,” Khabibulin told Puck Daddy this week, prior to the Capitals game. “We both knew there would be enough chances to play. I thought that whoever plays best and the team keeps winning, that goaltender would be the starter. The coaches would play whoever is winning. I think this system will continue throughout the season.”

Coming up, Nikolai Khabibulin on the Oilers’ young stars, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins(notes); Edmonton as a desirable place to play; the future of the Phoenix Coyotes; the return of the Winnipeg Jets; old goalies like Tim Thomas(notes); and whether the NHL protects its netminders.

Q. You were a starter for a very long time. Did it feel strange that you would have to prove yourself a lot again?

KHABIBULIN: I think as a goaltender, as a player, you always have to prove yourself. And of course in this situation it was a little bit difficult because Dubnyk is a pretty good goaltender and he will only get better. But at the same time I am not trying to prove anything to anyone, I am just trying to play my game, show my game and enjoy it. I am trying to play my best game every time and if it turns out great, then it’s good. If not, then at least I know that I gave it all I had.

The Oilers has to be one of the youngest teams in the League. What is it like for an older player to be amongst so many young players? Is it difficult to find something in common with them?

The age difference is not a big deal at all.

Also this offseason we added more veterans like Ryan Smyth(notes), Andy Sutton(notes), Eric Belanger(notes). But yes, we didn’t have that many veterans last year. It was like a kindergarten in a good way [laughing]. But this year there are more of us, older guys, but it’s always easy to find something in common with the younger players. I think they look up to us more but we are all learning from each other.

At the same time when you have so many young players on your team, you just feel rejuvenated, you feel a lot of energy by playing with them. We try to help them as much as we can, and they are helping us whether they know it or not.

Is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for real? A lot of Canadian media paint him as the next Messiah.

I think he is still getting used to the NHL and there will be more things he will have to get used to. It is very difficult to play in the NHL as a 18 or 19 year old. Of course, if he has a consistent season it will only be great. But I think it is difficult to count on that.

What he has shown in the few games that he has played, and a lot of players who are drafted high usually are very, very good, he surprised me a lot, and he is still surprising me, speaking as a defensive player being a goaltender, he is so good in the defensive zone and playing defense. You can really rely on him in the defensive zone, whereas usually young forwards need to learn how to play in their own zone. He pays a lot of attention to his defensive game, and it is great.

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Nikolai Khabibulin’s Netminding Making All The Noise

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Via ESPN’s Cross Checks Blog

A tip of the old blocker to veteran netminder Nikolai Khabibulin, whose career looked to be in shambles both physically and emotionally after last season. The veteran netminder was hampered by ongoing back issues, then was arrested for extreme drunken driving in the Phoenix area while rehabbing in February 2010.

Khabibulin ultimately was sentenced to 30 days in Arizona’s famous “Tent City” jail. (He was released after spending two weeks there.) At the time, we suggested the league should have stepped in and added its own penalty to Khabibulin for having endangered the lives of not just himself but also anyone who happened to be on the streets at the time he was driving with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal maximum in Arizona. The league chose not to go that route, and those close to Khabibulin told us we had been unfair in our criticism; he paid his penance, and the worst penalty was the shame of having his teenage daughter read about the incident and the fallout. Khabibulin said as much to reporters when he reported for training camp in Edmonton.

Was there a better way for Khabibulin to show he is rehabilitated than by producing the kind of goaltending he had showed in Tampa Bay, where he became the first Russian-trained netminder to win a Stanley Cup in 2004, or in Chicago, where he helped a young Hawks team to a surprise berth in the Western Conference finals in 2009? So far, so good for Khabibulin and the youthful Oilers, who are trying to accelerate a painful rebuild process.

The Bulin Wall was on display again Tuesday, as the Oilers chased Roberto Luongo with three early goals, then hung on for a 3-2 victory over Vancouver with Khabibulin making 35 saves. He is now 3-0-2 with a .963 save percentage and a minuscule 0.97 goals-against average. At age 38, Khabibulin has given himself and the Oilers a new, unexpected boost early on this season.

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Video: Kaspars Daugavins makes 2011-12 NHL Debut for Ottawa Senators

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Last night, Kaspars Daugavins appeared in his second career NHL game with the Ottawa Senators. He was called up on October 24 due to the injury to Daniel Alfredsson. The Latvian native played 15:25 in the Senators’ 3-2 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes. He made his first NHL appearance his on January 14, 2010 in a 2-0 Ottawa win against the New York Rangers.

Here is Daugavins on Sens TV before the game:

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Tim Erixon Settling In With New York Rangers

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

via The Rangers Tribune

Marc Staal’s post-concussion headaches, leading to his absence from the lineup, have taken a major blow to the Ranger defense. Your blue-line will never be the same without its best player, and that’s a pretty simple concept to grasp if you ask me. In Staal’s absence, though, opportunities have arose for others players on this team to show that they belong. This has been the case for defenseman Tim Erixon, who is coming along nicely and looking more and more comfortable out on the ice each game.

Last night’s match was the ultimate test for the Swedish-raised rookie. Going back to the city where he was drafted to play against the team that was forced to trade him last summer brought along enough emotional ties as is, but Erixon faced added adversity when the boos rained down from the crowd each time he touched the puck. Erixon handled the situation like a true professional, which is a microcosm of the steps he’s taken in his game since opening weekend.

“I heard (the boos), but I didn’t really think about it. I just tried to go out there and play my game. Oh yeah, I heard it, but I don’t really care about it. They didn’t bother me.”

It may sound odd, but the best compliment to get as a rookie defenseman is from your goaltender, not the coach, and Erixon earned high praise from Henrik Lundqvist after last night’s game…

“I thought Tim was really solid with all that booing every time he touched the puck. He’s calm as a kid, and I don’t think he gets that worked up, which is good for a defenseman. He stays really calm, and that’s his game. He looks relaxed. It’s a great thing to have a young defenseman that doesn’t get bothered by anything. I was impressed by him tonight.”

Erixon was nervous to start the season, and that’s why he was not the same player we saw in the prospects tournament in early September. Since then, though, he’s begun to settle in and calm his game down. On my list of the Rangers’ best defensemen to this point, Erixon is right up there behind Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. No more turnovers, no more missed coverages and he’s showing his offensive side more often as well.

There’s no guaruntee that he will remain with the team once Marc Staal and Mike Sauer return, but Tim has definitely caught the attention of head coach John Tortorella with his developing play…

“I thought (Erixon) handled himself tremendously. With everything around him, I thought he handled himself very, very well.”

Personally, two of either Woywitka, Eminger or Del Zotto should get the ixnay before Erixon does once Staal and Sauer are back in the lineup. For some reason, I think Torts may feel the same way. Just a gut thing, really.

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Nikolai Khabibulin steps up for Edmonton Oilers

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Via Jim Jamieson – The Province

With everybody expecting the Oilers’ young guns to be scoring their way out of trouble this season, not many saw the resurgence of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin leading the team to early season respectability.

The Oilers are right where they left off last season in terms of producing goals. A little worse, actually – they’ve got the worst goals per game average in the NHL (1.71), as opposed to ranking 28th last season when they finished last for the second straight year.

But it hasn’t mattered so far for the Oilers, who had a decent 3-2-2 record heading into Monday’s game here with Vancouver – thanks to Khabibulin, who boasted the top goals against average in the league (0.72).

Why the turnaround for the 38-year-old Russian goalie, who was so disappointing after Oilers GM Steve Tambellini signed signed him two seasons ago to a four-year deal that averages $3.75 million per season?

Turns out it’s a few things, not the least of which is the Oilers’ new-look defence, which features three new players with size who can box out opposing forwards and block shots: Andy Sutton (6-foot-6, 245 lbs.) Cory Potter (6-foot-3, 206 lbs.) and Cam Barker (6-foot-3, 220 lbs.). The new, improved play in the Oilers’ end has both Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk breathing easier.

“We’re more committed to defence and we’ve got more bigger bodies back there,” Khabibulin said before the Oilers faced off with the Canucks. “For the past four games I was able to find pucks pretty well and if I didn’t it seemed like it was blocked. It definitely helps in front of the net. Guys like (Andy) Sutton, he blocks tons of shots, he’s a big guy, from a goalie’s perspective it’s great to have a guy like that.”

Last season Khabibulin’s numbers were near career worst – 3.40 GAA and .890 save percentage – and things didn’t get any better when head coach Tom Renney chose to start last year’s back-up Dubnyk in the season opener. If Renney was looking for a response, he got one.

“It puts a little bit of pressure and I think healthy competition is good,” said Khabibulin, who’s surrendered just three goals in his first four games. “We’re getting along pretty well. He’s a good guy and easy to work with. In the end it benefits the team.”

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