Nikolai Khabibulin: Edmonton Oilers Goalie Is NHL’s Biggest Surprise

Via Adam Graham – Bleacher Report

If I asked you who the best goaltending duo in the NHL was, what would your answer be?

Would it be Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider in Vancouver? Perhaps it’s Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in Boston. How about Martin Brodeur and the resurging Johan Hedberg in New Jersey?

All of those are good guesses, but through the first month of the 2011-2012 season, the best goaltending has come from Edmonton.

That’s right, the Edmonton Oilers. The team that finished tied for 28th in goals allowed last season and had their top goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, spend time in jail and on house arrest over the summer due to his impaired driving charges.

The play of Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk is by far biggest surprise of the young NHL season so far, even more surprising than the Oilers’ 7-2-2 start.

After all, you could have guessed this young Oilers squad would have a lot of energy early on and might show signs of improvement. It added Ryan Smyth and drafted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the offseason and its other young forwards like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are a year older and should be a year better.

There were signs that the offense would be there, but nothing to suggest the defence and especially the goaltending would be this good. The play of Khabibulin was the weakest of many weak links for the Oilers last season. He had the most losses of any NHL goaltender in just 47 games and he also posted an ugly 3.40 goals against average, which was the worst among goalies that played more than 30 games.

However, this season both Khabibulin and Dubnyk have goals against averages of less than 2.00 through the month of October and Khabibulin has amazingly stopped 96 percent of the shots he’s faced.

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