Comrade of the Night – Nikolai Khabibulin

The Nyet Minder (cbc.ca)

The 2009-10 season is one the Edmonton Oilers want to forget as soon as humanly possible. Nikolai Khabibulin is no different, thanks to injury problems and off-ice troubles. But, as always when a new season begins, teams are reborn with a clean slate.

If first impressions tell anything, the Oilers and the Bulin Wall have a lot to look forward to in 2010. The 37-year-old nyet-minder from Yekaterinburg stopped all 37 shots he faced as he helped the Oilers shut out the rival Calgary Flames 4-0 on Opening Night. Playing in his first game since last November, Khabibulin looked to be in midseason form from the drop of the puck.

After the Oilers got out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a power-play goal, a penalty to rookie Taylor Hall gave the Flames momentum. The Bulin Wall was in full effect to start the second period, stopping an 8-0 shot run by Calgary dead in its tracks. As the Oilers increased their advantage, the Flames became frustrated with their inability to breach the Bulin Wall, throwing a flurry of pucks on net as regulation winded down.

A fantastic start for Khabby, who was remarkably only named 2nd star of the game by the in-house committee at Rexall Place, behind rookie sensation Jordan Eberle.

Honorable Mention

There wasn’t just one superb performance by a goaltender on Opening Night. Also delivering a great result was 22-year-old Flyers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 29 out of 31 Penguin shots in his first career NHL game, helping the Orange & Black to a 3-2 victory. Bobrovsky made several excellent saves in pressure situations, including holding on to a one-goal advantage down two skaters with a minute to go.

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