Los Angeles Kings
@ San Jose Sharks
Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009, 7:30 PM PST
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The Sharks are knaves, Evgeni Nabokov chief among them. You might think it odd that I would hate Nabokov more than anyone not named Rob Blake on the Sharks, but I do. Evgeni Nabokov isn't really that good, in that he's probably not top 10 in terms of ability or talent; he's only good because he can play 70 games a season. He's a league average starter, an innings eater, more Derek Lowe than CC Sabathia. Really, try to come up with a better situation than the one Nabokov has had since the lockout:
-He has no real back-up so he gets to play a ton
-The Sharks have been in the top 5 of shots against every year since the lockout (except this one, so far)
-He can suck ass in the playoffs (like he did last year) and no one will point to him because they're too busy blaming Joe Thornton
Nabokov has been the starting goaltender ever since Vesa Toskala was traded (you know, the guy who outplayed Nabokov at times, then got traded to a regular team and proceeded to fall off a cliff) and he has never really done anything to deserve it. Nabokov makes some nice saves because he plays like a weirdo, but who cares if he's going to let in 50-foot wrist shots?
Of course, I understand why Sharks fans love him so much. There is some value in having a guy that can play a ton at a league average rate; saying he should be a Vezina finalist is obvious homerism, but they're Sharks fans so that's to be expected. Sharks fans need to lionize Nabokov because he's the one guy on their team that doesn't have obvious flaws (except that he's a dick*). They can't idolize Joe Thornton because of his playoff pratfalls, Patrick Marleau is the single most awkward guy that ever lived, Dany Heatley killed a guy, Danny Boyle is too new (although you can feel it starting), and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is too young. I guarantee you this, though: if the Sharks don't win the Stanley Cup this year (and I think they will), it'll be because Nabokov isn't good enough.
*One thing you learn quickly as a goaltender is that you never ever ever ever blame a defenseman for a goal. If he tips it in, you say, "Ahh, don't worry about it, we'll get the next one." If he screens you, you tell him so he doesn't do it again but only if he asks you. And you certainly don't ever point out that he should have blocked the shot. You never blame your defenseman because it's mean and it'll hurt his confidence and it'll make him think instead of react the next time a forward bears down on him, but the most important reason you never blame a defenseman is simple: it's because you don't want them blaming you when you fuck up.
If you want to know why I really dislike Nabokov, just think about the type of goaltender he is: athletic goaltender who plays a lot but doesn't have a great save percentage. Remind you of anyone?
Terry Murray has decided to sit Jonathan Quick for this game, instead playing Erik Ersberg. Did Ersberg put a bar of soap in Murray's coffee or something. Imagine you're Ersberg: you've sat on the bench for a full month and now you're finally getting a shot against the best team in the league in their rink. If you win, hooray! You've done what 7 other teams have done this season. If you lose, the loss is your fault, enjoy the bench for another month. Poor little Swede. On the plus side, this goaltending match up is cool because both Ersberg and Nabokov look like little kids: it's like the Beav versus Eddie Haskell.
The Kings as a whole are pretty boned tonight, since we don't match up well with the Sharks on the road. The Sharks outplayed the Flames on Saturday night but were done in by great goaltending on Miika Kiprusoff's part; the Flames outplayed the Kings on Monday night but were done in by great goaltending on Jonathan Quick's part. I see this being a pretty bad start to the Kings' brutal week. If they can win two in the next wekk I'll be happy.
Prediction: Kings lose, 5-2. Please, please let Kopitar score tonight.