Mistakes happen, so it’s senseless to get overwrought about Nikolai Khabibulin’s all-thumbs bungling on the winning goal by David Moss in the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place Saturday.
Of more concern for me, with the caveat it’s still very early, is that GM Steve Tambellini’s big off-season signing hasn’t been very good at stopping pucks so far as a member of the Oilers.
I know, WTF Brownlee? It’s been ONE game for crying out loud. True that, although I’m looking at pre-season as well as Saturday, and the concerns I’ve voiced about Khabibulin still nag me.
After shutting out an AHL team disguised in Florida Panthers uniforms 4-0 with 18 saves in his first pre-season appearance, Khabibulin has allowed 12 goals on the 72 shots he’s faced since then, including four on 21 shots against Calgary.
That, by any measure and even if it’s early, is atrocious. No?
Puck stops here
"It’s unfortunate the way we lost, especially after coming back from being down," Khabibulin said of his last-minute faux pas on a loose puck. "In reality, it is one game."
Even with the shutout against the Panthers, Khabibulin finished pre-season with a 2.96 goals-against average and .884 saves percentage in 162 minutes through three appearances.
No worries, insisted many. A guy like Khabibulin will be ready when the puck drops with points on the line. He’s a veteran. A Stanley Cup winner. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. Yes, he does. That’s still the case.
"Exhibition, I never take it into consideration," Khabibulin said. "Quite honestly, I don’t even know what my stats are in exhibition. It’s never on any hockey cards. You’ll never find it in any hockey books."
While I’m not going to harp on the fact Khabibulin’s saves-percentage through one game that matters is .810 — I roll my eyes when numbers guys cherry-pick stats to make their case — I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he has to be better than he has been. Sooner rather than later.
"We know he’s a good player," coach Pat Quinn said today when Jim Matheson of The Journal asked about Khabibulin after practice.
"He’s working his way to get his timing like all of our players are. There are a lot of guys who are trying to find their game right now. He’s good. He’s working hard at it."
Fine. Good. Results, please.
Around the room
— Forward Marc Pouliot skated for the first time since being put on the shelf after three pre-season appearances with an inflamed pubic bone, also known as pubitis.
"A lot of treatments. I feel good," Pouliot said. "I’m day-to-day. Hopefully, by the end of the week."
Pouliot won’t be ready to play against Dallas Tuesday, but he could be available for the rematch with the Flames Thursday or for Saturday’s tilt against the Montreal Canadiens.
By the way, for the benefit of whoever it was who was arguing with Jonathan Willis and I about whether Pouliot was a "decent size" based on his vitals of six-foot-one and 195 pounds, an update.
Pouliot is playing this season at 205 pounds and he’s actually closer to six-foot-two than six-foot-one. While I’m not going to argue Pouliot plays a robust game, he most certainly is a "decent size" compared to his NHL peers. Now, let’s move on. Nothing to see here.
— Captain Ethan Moreau didn’t skate today. The ankle that was bothering him before the season-opener flared up again and kept him off the blades today. No firm word on his status for Tuesday.
— Steve Staios was packing a lot of ice on his right knee after practice today, the result of being hit by a shot. Staios expects to be fine to play against the Stars.
— Former University of Alberta Golden Bear Aaron Sorochan is the back-up to Devan Dubnyk with the Springfield Falcons to start the season. Sorochan saw his first action in a 6-2 loss to Providence Sunday, spelling off Dubnyk in the third period.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.