That title is certainly wrong when it comes to the grand scheme of things, but it’s a little nuts to toss Nikolai Khabibulin and the Oilers penalty-kill under the bus one game in.
Let’s start with Nikolai Khabibulin’s gaffe. After a lackluster preseason, Khabibulin’s season opener could hardly have gone worse. In a game where the Oilers outshot the Flames 34-to-21, Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves and Khabibulin made only 17. The last goal against was particularly brutal, with Kiprusoff gift-wrapping the puck for Flames forward David Moss with less than a minute left in a 3-3 hockey game.
As everyone here knows, I’m not a believer in Khabibulin; his track record in three of the last four years, along with his propensity towards lower body injuries are the two biggest reasons I’d hoped the Oielrs had pursued someone else.
That said, if you are one of those who believe in the Bulin wall, one game shouldn’t change your mind. After one game, for example, Martin Brodeur has a GAA in excess of 5.00 and a .815 SV% (I know because he’s on my fantasy team). Players have good games and bad games, and while I’m still not a believer in Khabibulin I can honestly say that a 50-save effort in a 1-0 win wouldn’t have changed my mind on him either. Give it ten games, then we’ll talk about what he’s done.
Similarly, I don’t believe in the penalty kill, which went two-for-four on the night, but again it’s too early to change anyone’s mind either way. I maintain that this team needed to bring somebody in, and I don’t think Kelly Buchberger has the coaching chops to propel this unit to even averagish results with the current personnel.
But my message today is that one game is essentially meaningless in evaluating these trends. The evaluation of both the Oilers’ goaltender and special teams will take some time, and if you were a believer during the offseason there’s no reason to change your stripes now.