Nikolai Khabibulin started the year on fire. He went 7-0-2, posting a 0.964 SV% and two shutouts over his first nine games.
Over the same span, Devan Dubnyk played in six games, winning two and losing four to go along with his 0.909 SV%.
With those sort of starts, Khabibulin should have had an insurmountable lead on Dubnyk. Last night, however, Dubnyk’s save percentage on the season eclipsed Khabibulin’s, 0.912 to 0.911.
How could this have happened? It’s simple, really: Dubnyk continued to play like an NHL goaltender, while Khabibulin started playing like a minor-leaguer.
Since his miraculous start, Khabibulin has posted a 0.896 SV%. The Oilers have been terrible with him in net since that time – winning just five games, losing 19 in regulation and four more in overtime. Needless to say, a 5-19-4 record torpedoes any team’s hope of climbing out of the basement with lethal effectiveness.
With Dubnyk in net, however, the Oilers have been a near-0.500 team since his start. They’ve gone 14-13-2. Dubnyk’s posted a 0.912 SV%, which while not Earth-shattering is a very respectable number for a guy in a 1A or 1B role on a tandem.
Still, there’s a small segment of people who feel the Oilers are better off with Khabibulin. Fortunately, it’s getting smaller by the day as the evidence obliterates any rationale for supporting his continued presence between the Oilers’ pipes. They typically say things like “the team feels more confident with Khabibulin in net” or “Khabibulin’s a proven winner.”
It’s total garbage. Aside from the occasional puck-handling gaffe, Dubnyk is Khabibulin’s superior in virtually every way on the ice, and the team’s record the last few years reflects that. Even with Khabibulin’s miracle run, the Oilers are 22-51-10 the last two seasons with him in net. They’re 28-30-10 with Dubnyk over that same span.
I used to think the coaching staff should give Dubnyk two-thirds of the starts, just to find out what they really have there. I no longer believe that. Dubnyk should be starting four out of every five games at least as long as the other option is Nikolai Khabibulin.
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