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Nikolai Ivanovich Khabibulin ( ; born January 13, 1973) is a Russianmarker professional ice hockey goaltender, who is currently signed to the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League (NHL). He has previously played for the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks. He is often known by his nickname "The Bulin Wall". Other nicknames include "The Nyet Minder" and "The First Tsar".

Khabibulin's abilities have been recognized with four appearances in the NHL All-Star Game and two Olympic medals. He became the first Russian goalie ever to win the Stanley Cup in 2004, winning the title with the Lightning.

Playing career

Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes

He was selected in the ninth round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets. In the 1993–94 season Nikolai played with the touring Russian Penguins and by the start of the NHL season in 1994 was playing in the NHL. In 1996, he moved with the Jets to Phoenix, Arizonamarker, where they became the Coyotes. In his three seasons in Phoenix, he played in seventy games twice and in sixty games the third season, a heavy workload for a goaltender. Although the Coyotes made the playoffs each of these years, some claimed that this heavy workload led Khabibulin to be fatigued for the playoffs, contributing to the team's failure to make it to the second round of the playoffs.

After the 1998–99 season, Nikolai became embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the Coyotes, and ended up holding out for an entire season. During this year, he played for the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the International Hockey League (IHL), earning the league's MVP trophy.

Tampa Bay Lightning

On March 5, 2001, Khabibulin was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mike Johnson, Paul Mara, Ruslan Zainullin and NY Islanders' 2nd round choice (previously acquired, Phoenix selected Matthew Spiller). He quickly signed a contract with Tampa Bay and by the next season, he re-emerged as a premier goaltender. Joined by superstars Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards, Khabibulin helped lead the Lightning back to the playoffs in 2003 (their first appearance since 1996) and then to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2004 – the first championship in franchise history. Khabibulin recorded 5 shutouts in 23 playoff games, including 3 shutouts in the first-round match-up against the New York Islanders (tied for an NHL record for most shutouts in a playoff round). Unlike his time in Phoenix, Khabibulin could enjoy extended rest when needed due to the skill of his backup, John Grahame.

During the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Khabibulin was one of many Russian players to return to their homeland. From November 2004, he played for Ak Bars Kazan in Kazanmarker.

Chicago Blackhawks

Khabibulin with the Blackhawks in 2008
As the NHLPA ratified a new CBA, Khabibulin became a free agent when play was set to resume. Coming off his Stanley Cup win the previous NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks signed him to a four-year, $27 million deal, making him the highest paid goalie in the league. But injuries and inconsistent play have plagued him during his tenure in Chicago. In his first season with the Blackhawks, he recorded a 3.35 goals-against-average – the highest of his career since his rookie season in Winnipeg – and Chicago finished second last in the Western Conference.

In July 2008, the Blackhawks signed goaltender Cristobal Huet, previously of the Washington Capitals. The signing of Huet was thought to have effectively displaced Khabibulin as the starting goalie, especially given he was put on waivers on September 29, 2008, but cleared. In light of Huet and Khabibulin's combined salaries (Huet was signed to a contract averaging $5.6 million per season), it was speculated Khabibulin would be traded to provide cap space. However, he spent the entire season with the team, playing in 42 games, and by the start of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs had retrenched himself as starting goaltender. Khabibulin and the Blackhawks defeated the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks to progress to the Western Conference Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. During the third game of the series, Khabibulin surrendered three goals in one period, after shutting out the Red Wings in the previous period. He was replaced by Cristobal Huet for the third period due to a lower body injury. Khabibulin missed the remaining three games of the series because of the injury.

Edmonton Oilers

On July 1, 2009, he signed a 4 year deal worth $15 million with the Edmonton Oilers, replacing Dwayne Roloson as the Oilers' starting goaltender.

International play

Khabibulin at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Khabibulin made his international debut with the Soviet Unionmarker at the 1991 European Junior Championships. He appeared in the 1992 World Junior Championships the next year and won a gold medal with the CIS, appearing in six games. Khabibulin and the national team had begun the tournament as the Soviet Union, but the state was dissolved following the round robin on New Year's Day, thus they proceeded to compete as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

That same year, Khabibulin appeared in the 1992 Winter Olympics with the CIS as the third goaltender. Controversy arose after the CIS captured the gold medal when legendary Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov kept a medal for himself (coaches and management are not awarded medals in Olympic hockey) instead of allowing Khabibulin to have one, as Khabibulin had not played a game in the tournament. This is speculated to be the reason for Khabibulin boycotting the Russian team in later international tournaments. Ten years later, at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake Citymarker, Khabibulin was finally awarded his 1992 Olympic gold medal in a private locker room ceremony with teammates and the Russian Hockey Federation.

After his second season with the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL, Khabibulin competed with Russia in the 1996 World Cup. He appeared in 2 games.

At the 2002 Winter Olympics, in which the 1992 gold medal conflict was resolved, Khabibulin established himself as the national team's starting goaltender. He helped Russia to a bronze medal while appearing in 6 games. He appeared again in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turinmarker, but had previously been overtaken as Russia's starting goalie by the San Jose Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov. Khabibulin did not play a game in either tournament as Russia failed to medal.

Awards



Career statistics

Regular season

Season Team League GP W L T/OTL MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1989–90 Avtomobilist Sverdlovsk USSR 1 3 0 0 0.00
1991–92 HC CSKA Moscow CIS 2 34 2 0 3.53 --
1992–93 HC CSKA Moscow IHL 13 491 27 3.30
1993–94 HC CSKA Moscow IHL 46 2625 116 3 2.65
1993–94 Russian Penguins IHL 12 2 7 2 639 47 0 4.41 .873
1994–95 Springfield Falcons AHL 23 9 9 3 1241 80 0 3.87 .874
1994–95 Winnipeg Jets NHL 26 8 9 4 1339 76 0 3.40 .895
1995–96 Winnipeg Jets NHL 53 26 20 3 2914 152 2 3.13 .908
1996–97 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 72 30 33 6 4091 193 7 2.83 .908
1997–98 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 70 30 28 10 4026 184 4 2.74 .900
1998–99 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 63 32 23 7 3657 130 8 2.13 .920
1999–00 Long Beach Ice Dogs IHL 33 21 11 1 1936 59 5 1.83 .930
2000–01 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 2 1 1 0 123 6 0 2.93 .913
2001–02 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 70 24 32 10 3896 153 7 2.36 .920
2002–03 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 65 30 22 11 3787 156 4 2.47 .911
2003–04 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 55 28 19 7 3274 127 3 2.33 .910
2004–05 Ak Bars Kazan RSL 24 16 5 3 1457 40 5 1.65 --
2005–06 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 50 17 26 6 2815 157 0 3.35 .886
2006–07 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 60 25 26 5 3425 163 1 2.86 .902
2007–08 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 50 23 20 6 2891 127 2 2.63 .909
2008–09 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 42 25 8 7 2467 96 3 2.33 .919
NHL Totals 678 299 267 85 38705 1720 41 2.67 .908
*Beginning in the 2005–06 NHL season, regular season games could no longer end in a tie.

Playoffs

Season Team League GP W L MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1993–94 HC CSKA Moscow IHL 3 193 11 3.41
1995–96 Winnipeg Jets NHL 6 2 4 359 19 0 3.17 .911
1996–97 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 7 3 4 426 15 1 2.11 .932
1997–98 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 4 2 1 185 13 0 4.21 .877
1998–99 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 7 3 4 449 18 0 2.40 .924
1999–00 Long Beach Ice Dogs IHL 5 2 3 321 15 0 2.80 --
2002–03 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 10 5 5 644 26 0 2.42 .913
2003–04 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 23 16 7 1401 40 5 1.71 .933
2004–05 Ak Bars Kazan RSL 2 0 2 118 6 0 3.05 --
2008–09 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 15 8 6 881 43 0 2.93 .898
NHL Totals 72 39 31 4345 174 6 2.40 .917

International statistics

Year Team Event Place   GP W L T / OT MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1992 CIS WJC 6 6 0 0 289 7 2 1.45 .907
1992 Unified Team Oly 0
1993 Russia WJC 6th 6 2 3 1 340 15 1 2.65 .917
1996 Russia WCH SF 2 0 2 0 100 10 0 6.00
2002 Russia Oly 6 3 2 1 359 14 1 2.34 .930

References

  1. Nikolai Khabibulin (1994-present)


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