by Lisa McRitchie on 11/01/11 at 03:45 PM ET
After serving his jail time this summer and two horrible seasons on a four year deal most Oiler fans, including me, thought that Nikolai Khabibulin would be on an extremely short leash and hoped that Devan Dubnyk would be ready to shoulder most of the weight this season. In fact, many of us looked at situations where Khabibulin could play in the AHL and newly signed goaltender Yann Dannis could play with Dubnyk. The resounding response from Oklahoma City Barons fans was “What makes you think we want him?”
It is strange how things play out sometimes, because Khabibulin has been putting up league leading numbers and has helped take his team to a 7-2-2 start. Stranger still, chants of “Khabi” have been heard at every home game played. It seems that fans have forgiven, at least for now.
For Khabibulin, these must be the good times. With a more skilled, seasoned and healthy team in front of him than previous years, and with a renewed sense of confidence, peace and health Khabibulin is the league leading goaltender with goals against average of 1.12 and a save percentage of 0.960.
These numbers were enough to earn Khabibulin not only the second star of the week ending October 30th, but Khabibulin was just named the third star for the month of October.
This Oilers team still has a lot of learning to do, and a long season to go. The point leading line for the Oilers has a combined 166 games played, and of course many didn’t think that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would play this year with the Oilers. So, having veteran players step up to levels like Khabibulin has is essential to the team’s success and fan’s enjoyment of this season.
We all know that Khabibulin will very likely not be able to keep these numbers up and that ups and downs will be expected through this season but in the meantime it’s nice to have little to complain about.
In other Oilers’ goaltending news, Tyler Bunz who is currently playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers was named the Vaughn CHL goalie of the week. Bunz currently has a goals against average of 0.5 and a save percentage of 0.977.
Watching Bunz progress with the Tigers has been encouraging since so many see Bunz as a goaltender for the Oilers but it will be interesting to see how Finnish goaltender Samu Perhonen develops. Bunz was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL entry draft, and Perhonen was selected in the third round of the 2011 NHL entry draft because the Oilers head of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor and his staff felt very strongly about Perhonen’s talent and skills.
Bunz has also been named to the WHL team roster for the Subway Super Series and is in the running to represent Team Canada at the World Juniors hosted by Edmonton and Calgary this year.
In other Oilers’ news, right winger Ales Hemsky was practicing today in a no contact jersey, but a return to the ice is encouraging. Hopefully Hemsky doesn’t come back too soon, and need to return to the IR.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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