Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blueland Guest Goalie: Evgeni Nabokov

Well the move is done and as moves usually are, it was hell. I'm living out of boxes, but I've got the internet so let's get back to some GPD Summer programming!

Someone who has been faced with the challenges of moving this summer is former goalie for the San Jose Sharks, Evgeni Nabokov. After spending 9 seasons with the Sharks, at the end of the 2009-10 season, the Sharks announced they would not be renewing Nabby's contract. Nabby signed with Ska St. Petersburg of the KHL. Pack your bags Nabby, you are going home!

I've always been a big Nabby fan. He's a great goalie and a lot of fun to watch.

He has the most intense stare.

He also has one of the most bad-assed masks in the NHL.

He also does one of my favorite goalie stretches, what I call "the lean." Ironically, so does his replacement with the Sharks, Antero Niittymaki.

Evgeni Viktorovich Nabokov was born in Ust-Kamenogorsk SSR, Soviet Union on July 25, 1975.

Guarding the crease runs in Nabby's family. His father, Viktor, was also a goalie. Evgeni decided at age 6 to play the position not only because of his dad, but because he felt secure guarding the net.

Evgeni played for his hometeam before joining Dynamo in Moscow. In the C-Pool of the 1994 World Championship, Nabokov played three games for Kazakhstan.

In the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Nabby was taken in the 9th round, 219th overall by San Jose. The Sharks had never even seen Nabokov play and were more interested in his dad. San Jose Heads Scout Tim Burke saw Nabokov on an advertisement during his trip to Russia while Burke went to scout another player. Nabby only knew he got drafted when a few days later he read it in a newspaper.

After being drafted, Nabokov remained in Russia and posted good numbers with Moscow Dynamo, but was pretty much forgotten by the NHL until being seen by a Sharks representative at a tournament in Finland in 1997.

Nabby spent 3 season in the AHL with the Sharks (then) farm team, the Kentucky Thoroughblades. One bit of fun, though he was drafted as Evgeni Nabakov, it is said that he changed his name to "John" because he was afraid that North American fans would not be able to pronounce his real name. When asked about it, Nabby said:

No, it is not true. I have never tried to change my name. I always had my birth name. There was a nickname though. I don't know if it was a tradition or what. But I was nicknamed 'John.' But then it was all changed very quickly. But yes, at one time John was my nickname.

On January 1, 2000, Nabby made his NHL debut for the Sharks when he took over for injured goalie, Steve Shields in Nashville. A few weeks later on January 19, Nabokov started his first NHL game against the Colorado Avalanche. On the other end of the ice, legend Patrick Roy! Nabby stopped all 39 shots for a 0-0 tie.

In the second game of the 2000-01 season, Steve Shields hurt his ankle, leaving San Jose without a number one goalie. The Sharks had Miikka Kiprusoff in the AHL and considered him to the future of the franchise. Surprisingly, they did NOT to call up Miikka as the starter, they wanted him to stay in the AHL so he could get more experience. So, they gave the starting position to Nabokov, and he ran away with it. That season he won the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) He also played in the 2001 All Star Game and took San Jose to the playoffs.

Unfortunately (kind of) Nabby helped the Sharks get to the playoffs every season of his 9 with San Jose except for 2 seasons. They just can't seem to go any farther than that. Siting cap room, the Sharks decided to go with a cheaper goalie.

Some fun facts about Nabby:
  • Nabby wears the number 20 in honor of Russian goal tending legent, Vladislav Tretiak.
  • On March 10, 2002, Nabby became the first NHL netminder to score a power play goal. This goal also made him the first European goalie to score a goal during a game. Nabby said:
"I (saw) him coming, I was going to give it to him, but after that I see the defensemen split so I was just like, 'I'm going to go for it,' and it went in...I'm going to lie if I say it wasn't exciting," He said he had practiced the shot "hundreds of times" but never come close to making it at any level.

So do svidaniya Nabby! Good luck in Mother Russia.



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