CAUGHT IN THE NETS
DID BOLTS FANS GET JIPPED?
OK, let's get this straight. Chicago coach Trent Yawney decided not to start former Lightning netminder Nikolai Khabibulin in his first and only trip back to Tampa on Friday night because he didn't want to start him in back-to-back games? He employed backup Craig Anderson and saved Khabibulin for the next night's performance against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers?
We understand not wanting to use Khabibulin back-to-back (although a case might be made to use the game's highest-paid goalie as much as possible, but we digress). Still, coaches generally use their top goalie against the best team and use their backup against the weaker opponent. Was Yawney afraid Khabibulin would be overcome with emotion at the homecoming and unable to perform? It doesn't say much for Khabibulin's focus if that's the case, and given that he's played better of late, it hardly seems a likely rationale.
Or was Yawney simply exerting his power as a coach in a meaningless gesture? Well done. Yawney really showed those 20,000 paying fans that lost the only opportunity this season to see their former hero play. Oh well, they're only fans. Apparently, Yawney, whose underachieving Blackhawks remain in 13th in the West and nine points out of a playoff spot, didn't get the memo that this is entertainment. For the record, Chicago lost to Tampa in a shootout after Anderson allowed Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards to score and lost to the Panthers, 5-4, with the "rested" Khabibulin in net.