Legendary Tampa Bay Lightning Players: Nikolai Khabibulin

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIDecember 23, 2011

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 7:  Nikolai Khabibulin #35 of the Tampa Bay Lightning eyes the puck to his right as teammate Dan Boyle #22 defends the crease against Dave Lowry #10 of the Calgary Flames in Game seven of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 7, 2004 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. The Lightning defeated the Flames 2-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Author's Note: This is part of a five-part series detailing players who dazzled with their play and presence while lacing up the skates for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Some are currently on the roster, while others play elsewhere or have retired.  Dave Andreychuk, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Steven Stamkos are also covered in the series.

Being a Tampa Bay Lightning fan is not the easiest task in the world right now. 

After a deep run in the playoffs last season that ended in a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals to eventual champions Boston, hopes were high headed into this season.  With much of the roster intact, there was little reason to expect much of a drop-off.

Unfortunately, the 2011-2012 season has not gone to plan for Tampa Bay so far, as their 14-17-2 record puts them in a distant 4th place in the Southeast Division.

In order to brighten the spirits of downtrodden Lightning fans, I present Nikolai Khabibulin, one of the greatest individuals ever play for the team, who gave fans plenty of reasons to cheer.

Khabibulin spent only only four seasons in Tampa Bay (2000-2004), but oh, what a magnificent performances he put together between the pipes!  Two of those four seasons saw him earn an All-Star game berth. 

The 2004 season forever etched his name into the list of all-time Lightning greats, as his dominating play in goal helped lead the Lightning to their first and only Stanley Cup Championship. 

His play was a major reason why the Bolts were able to capture Lord Stanley's Cup, as he posted a stellar .933 save percentage and an absolutely ridiculous 1.71 goals against average in the playoffs. 

"The Bulin Wall" also notched five shutouts.

The NHL would not see another postseason goaltending performance that dominant until Boston's Tim Thomas turned in one of the greatest postseasons ever in guiding the Bruins to the Cup in 2011.

Given the Lightning's current goaltending woes, which are the number one contributor to the team's poor record this season, Tampa Bay fans can only recall the Khabibulin era with fondness and longing.