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04 April 2007

Nabokov key to Sharks' Stanley Cup hopes...

Rewind back to May of 2006 and Evegeni Nabokov's story is completely different from now.

After a few sensational starts in the first half of the season, Evgeni Nabokov's play began to physically deteriorate.
At the all-star break, he boasted mediocre numbers for a goalie of his calibre...his .892 SPCT% and 2.95 goals-against average were HUGE dissapointments.

Lucky for the Sharks, they had a guy named Vesa Toskala to save the season.

His pre all-star game numbers were even shakier than Nabokov's, his inconsistent play cost his dearly in the numbers category.
A glaring .883 SPCT% and 3.12 GAA kept him on the bench.

However, he turned it around in the second half, his strong play netted him the no. 1 job down the playoff stretch and heading into the 2006-2007 season.
He proved to be durable and reliable, starting the 19 of the team's 26 games down the stretch and posted awesome numbers.

Toskala won over fans' hearts, heck he won over mine too.

Evgeni Nabokov shouldn't have been happy, but he was after signing a five-year $25 million deal, just as Vesa Toskala stole the starting job from him.

Injuries and inconsistency led to the Russian-born goaltender's worst season ever, he finished off with a 16-19-7 record, hardly spectacular, to go along with a 3.10 GAA and .885 SPCT.

The Sharks ended up being eliminated by the fairy-tale Oilers in the Western Conference semi-finals but Toskala was not to blame.

Trade rumours dogged Nabokov entering the new campaign, a report here, a report there...there was even a rumour he was to be dealt to the Bruins in November.
Wilson was doing everything he could to get rid of the hefty salary that was dragging down his team's free cap space.


Vesa Toskala started well but not well enough to hold onto the no.1 job.
He was VERY streaky and never seemed to be able to post consistent numbers game-in-and game out like he did in the second stanza of the previous season.

Evgeni Nabokov meanwhile, waited patiently.

The wait paid off for Nabby, Toskala went down with an injury and in he came.
And when Toskala returned, he did not show the same spunk he had earlier in the season.

Ever since he's taken over the no. 1 job, Nabokov's put up a spectacular show for Sharks fans...

He's been consistent all year long, that was something that hurt him last season, and his 2.25 GAA and .914 SPCT clearly show it.

He also has 7 shutouts, 4 of which he posted in the second half.

I recently asked Sharks fans a question...who should start in the playoffs?

Sure Nabokov is looking like Brodeur now, but you can't forget about Toskala.
Despite the fact he went down with an injury, he's been able to keep up respectable numbers...

The answer was unanimous.

Sharks fans agree...Evgeni Nabokov is the number one guy, he's hot right now and you play him.
Ehh ehh! No buts!

Nabokov is playing awesome now and that's what your team would love to have, heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, a hot, confident goalie.

And should Nabokov fail, Toskala's always there to help.

It would be sad, however, to see him fall like that after a great season...

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge

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