As good teammates will do, and as you’d expect, the Edmonton Oilers came to the defence of Nikolai Khabibulin after Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Too bad they weren’t so inclined while the game was being played, but I digress . . .
Why is Khabibulin, who got lit up for four goals on eight shots in a 7-1 loss to Carolina Tuesday and six more on 34 shots against the Red Wings, not getting roasted in the prints and on the airwaves like he is between the pipes?
Not only is that not happening, Khabibulin has been hailed by some as team MVP, as the only reason the Oilers have been remotely competitive from time-to-time this season. I’m not making it up.
With Thursday’s stellar performance — an .824 saves percentage after batting .500 against the Hurricanes — Khabibulin is 4-8-1 with a saves percentage of .890 and a 3.64 goals-against average.
Those are MVP numbers? In what league?
Did I fall down the stairs and hit my head?
The Oilers were covering Khabibulin’s backside better than he’s covered the net after the loss.
"That’s two in a row we didn’t help out our goalie at all," Ryan Whitney told reporters after the game. "I guess it’s a good thing we get to play tomorrow night. Just get right back at it."
Said Colin Fraser: "What was it 35 shots on net? Were any of those goals soft? I don’t think so. The first two or three were right in our slot. That’s not a goalies fault they’re shooting from there."
With the excuse-making and spin we’re getting, I’m surprised Sportsnet even ran the graphics listing Khabibulin’s sad-sack stats before the game. And wasn’t Thursday the second or third game in a row Khabibulin has been singled out for one of those advertiser sponsored "play-of-the-game" type highlights?
Play-by-play man Kevin Quinn and sidekick Louie DeBrusk did their parts in this one. Aside from the play of the game routine, which they may or may not have had a part in, Quinn dutifully threw some Jimmy Howard "SHUTOUT" facts our way in the first 20 seconds of the third period, setting the stage for Dustin Penner.
On one obvious level I get the spin by the team. It doesn’t help the situation to tell the truth. Hoping another team loses a goaltender to injury, natural disaster or whatever it takes so the phone rings won’t matter even if it happens if you’ve just crapped on Khabibulin publicly.
That’s not smart. And it’s bad form. I get it. I’ve got no real beef with players like Whitney and Fraser accentuating the positive after a second straight lopsided loss. Like I said, that’s what teammates do. That said, it’s getting just a bit thick in here when it comes to the whole sell job, isn’t it?
Do the Oilers and their TV folks think fans of the team are drooling fools? They must, because they keep pitching and what we keep hearing about Khabibulin doesn’t jibe with what we see.
It’s not even close.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.