Habby, Nabby try to bounce back

How Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeni Nabokov respond to adversity this postseason will determine their reputation.

Updated: May 13, 2004, 3:00 PM ET
By By Jim Wilkie | NHL Insider
Though they lost only one game apiece with their respective Game 2s this week, the increasing pressure of the conference finals has brought about more questions and concerns about Tampa Bay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and San Jose netminder Evgeni Nabokov than at any time this playoff season.

Evgeni Nabokov
The Flames might have figured out Evgeni Nabokov.
Both had been cruising along, playing in those zones that great goaltenders find when every puck looks like a beach ball and the ones they can't see somehow end up in their equipment anyway. Even the near-great goalies venture into that zone occasionally, but they can't sustain it as long as the legends who make their names in the spring.

How Khabibulin and Nabokov deal with their first experiences with adversity this postseason will determine whether either can elevate himself to the class of the past playoff greats. They will either put their names alongside Roy, Richter and Brodeur or join the likes of Kelly Hrudey and Kirk McLean on the longer list of those who couldn't sparkle long enough.


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