Evgeni Nabokov Makes KHL Debut, Promptly Gives Up Five Goals

Thirty NHL teams passed on the opportunity to add Evgeni Nabokov's services this past offseason, so the aging former San Jose Shark decided to head back to his native land to play some hockey.

Nabokov signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL back on July 6. Thursday, he made his debut with SKA as they took on Dinamo Riga. It's safe to say that Nabby probably wasn't expecting his KHL debut to go this way.

The stats: five goals on 33 shots, taking the loss.

He's given up five goals in his career before, of course, but Nabokov's play in his first ever KHL game is less than flattering for a few reasons. First off, the quality of play in the KHL is lower than the NHL, obviously.

(Sure, there's NHL talent over there -- Maxim Afinogenov and Denis Grebeshkov play with SKA this season as well. But Riga is basically just the of the Latvian Olympic Team with some lesser players mixed in, which is to say, not an impressive club.)

But just look at some of those goals. Okay, the first Riga goal was gorgeous and the second one might not have been his fault if you're feeling generous. But in the third period, with his team holding a lead, that third Riga goal is just terrible -- a dribbler through the five hole. The go-ahead goal and Riga's eventual OT game winner were no beauts either.

We'd like to give Nabokov the benefit of the doubt, however, so we've come up with a few reasons why he might have performed so poorly in his KHL debut.

  • Bon Jovi pumping through the arena PA after the game's fourth goal reminded him of the New Jersey Devils, which then reminded him of his buddy Ilya Kovalchuk. And thinking about Kovalchuk is enough to get anybody off of their game.
  • The BP logo on the ice behind his goal just makes him so angry. Evgeni just loves the environment so much.
  • The blue SKA jerseys and the being in Russia thing remind him of playing in the Olympics, and everybody knows he's supposed to disappoint in the Olympics.

Hopefully Nabokov can dust himself off and prove to those 30 NHL teams that he's still a good 'tender. Just one game, right man?

Thanks to Yahoo!'s Dimitry Chesnokov for uploading the highlights to YouTube.

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