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« Losing Late Leads Becoming Dangerous Trend for Blackhawks Pirri Gets Line Promotion With Handzuš Ailing »

Blackhawks Fri Oct 25 2013

Bishop Bad for Lightning, Khabi Slightly Worse for Blackhawks

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png Hopefully whatever was in the drinking water in Tampa Bay was sweat out onto the ice last night. Eleven goals after three periods, plus an extra 1 minute, 16 seconds into overtime, made for some exciting and somewhat predictable viewing last night.

The Blackhawks gained another point on the panhandle/mom trip, but leave only with three out of the four potential points spread out on the table for them, no thanks to some iffy goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin. The "Bulin Wall" had a few mouse holes in it last night, after allowing six goals against a high-potent offense, which had Blackhawks fans asking, "Where's Ray Emery?"

First off, all you need to know about Ray Emery is that he's ranked sixtieth in the league in goaltending after two starts. His record is 0-2 and he's allowed eight goals to go along with an .873 goals against average. Khabi has played the same amount of games and has allowed the same amount of goals, but at least has one win. So for those asking, Big Ray's got his own problems in Philly.

The thing with Khabibulin is that some of the shots he stops harken back to the days when he was the net-minder in Tampa for their Cup win in 2004. Other times, unfortunately, he offers up images of former $5.6 million cap hitter Cristobal Huet [shudder].


Sure, some of the blame from last night's 6-5 OT loss can be attributed to bad penalties that put the team a man down, like Michal Rozsíval's Hooking call in the first or Michal Handzuš's Delay of Game late in the third. But most of the other goals got through with what seemed like ease.

The upside to this wild one was the amount of goals that came from the offense. Bryan Bickell scored his third goal in as many games, and Patrick Kane zipped through Ryan Malone and Andrej Sustr like a dart to tie the game at three late in the second. Heck, the Blackhawks even scored two goals in the recently dead third period last night, one thanks to Radko Gudas and Bishop's gaffe that ended up being the equalizer and point-saver.

It was a dizzying combination of sharp offense and pretty bad goaltending by both teams, which eerily was reminiscent of the Game 4 OT Final last season against the Bruins. And as bad and old as Khabibulin looked last night, one has to think he'll rebound from this one and come back a little stronger.

The thing with a backup goaltender is they have to spell the starter on occasion and be somewhat serviceable to get at least a point out of the game. Khabibulin and the Blackhawks got their point last night, albeit with a little luck, but now come back home with three points in their back pocket from this trip. The Minnesota Wild come to town on Saturday and Crawford will be back in net. Old man Khabi will ice everything (hopefully not his glass) and give it another go in a week or so. It was cringe-worthy, and perhaps something to keep an eye on down the road, but for now slightly comical for a team that is 6-1-3.

Speaking of old timers, the Michal Handzuš experiment as second-line center might be winding to an end. With Brandon Pirri beginning to look impressive on the fourth line, a swap of the two would add some speed near the top to help out Kane (minus-6. Oof) and Patrick Sharp. Quenneville's already shown he's been able to move lines around this season to what can work (see Bickell's move to the third line and Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa moving back up to the first line with Jonathan Toews).

It's not as bad or as old as the Bears' defense, but Khabibulin and Handzuš made it interesting last night just as the Bears did in D.C. last Sunday. Three points on the trip will do, even if they were a little hard to swallow.

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