Evgeni Nabokov's Last games with the Sharks?

You wonder on every goal he allows. You wonder on every save he makes. You wonder on every breath Evgeni Nabokov takes.

OK, so that last line might be a Russian song lyric. But you wonder — no, you realize — that Nabokov’s lasting legacy with the Sharks is being defined right here in these Western Conference finals.

So far, it is not going well. Not well enough, at least.

He can’t give up four goals on home ice as he did Tuesday night, allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to flee home with a 2-0 series lead. He didn’t do it alone. The stunned Sharks collectively fell 4-2 in Game 2.

If the Sharks can’t win Friday or Sunday in Chicago, Nabokov may have just played his final game at HP Pavilion. His contract is up at season’s end, or, rather, at postseason’s end, which is coming on quick.

How many more games will he play in that menacing Sharks helmet? Will his final game end this season in heroic fashion with a Stanley Cup or in a familiar sad handshake at the end of a receiving line?

“Obviously it’s not good enough,” Nabokov said of his play.

Nabokov , 34, has had a strong postseason. Blackhawks counterpart Antti Niemi, 26, is having a better one at the moment, stealing this stage in his inaugural playoffs.

Nabokov should have seized this series on his home ice, before a beloved fan base that cheers for him more than any of his teammates in pregame intros. Instead, we’ve seen Niemi -mania.

Niemi’s
supporting cast has been stellar. His defensemen are frustrating the Sharks forwards. His own forwards are causing havoc at the other end of the ice in front of Nabokov.

“He’s made some good saves,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said of Niemi. “But at the same time, his defense has helped him out well. They’re playing sound defense and collapsing at times.”

The Sharks’ overall collapse went like this Tuesday: Nabokov yields three goals before the night is half over, the Blackhawks’ fourth goal is sandwiched between two by Patrick Marleau , and a last-minute scuffle concludes the festivities.

“They’re a young, fast team and they go to the net,” Nabokov said. “It seems they get a lot of pucks deflected. We’ve got to do the same to them.”

http://www.insidebayarea.com/sports/ci_15114926


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