Nabby Earns Shutout; Forwards Scoring Goals and Sharing Minutes

That’s what I’ve been asking for. Thirty-five saves later, and I can finally say Nabby stole a hockey game for the New York Islanders in 2013.

I’m not saying Nabby hasn’t had a few good performances this year, but most of them came on the losing side of things. A goalie duel, which lasted deep into the second period, finally went Nabokov’s way, as the Islanders scored once, then twice, then four times to break a scoreless tie that lasted just under 38 minutes into this one.

You can argue that the offense had another good game (8-1-1 when this team scores at least 3 goals), but Nabby held the Islanders in it with 22 saves through the first two frames, and 13 more saves in the third. I’m not taking this one away from Nabokov.  He made some big saves early, without allowing any soft goals that could suck the life right out of this team. He earned the shutout, coincidentally, during the first game without Rick DiPietro on the bench.

In other news, the Islanders failed to score a goal in the first period for the sixth straight game. What should be a problem for the Islanders, hasn’t been over this stretch. The Islanders are 4-2 in these games, and have still managed to score at least four goals in the latter two periods of all four of the wins. Remarkable.

It just shows how explosive the Islanders offense can be, and  how they can beat you in so many different ways.

Capuano, who asked that the defense get involved more on offense just a few games ago, watched Mark Streit score a goal on a tap-in right next to the crease. That marks the second time in as many games that the Islanders have scored game-winning goals off of pinching-defensemen. And guess who created that goal? Marty Reasoner. Go figure.

Only one minute later, Christian Ehrhoff floated a pass across the blue-line. Well, the rest of the NHL doesn’t seem to know why that’s such a bad idea, but Isles fans do! Michael Grabner intercepted the puck and he was off to the races. This time, Grabner had enough speed to slow down, allow Ryan Miller to make his move, shake-off Christian Ehrhoff, and score easily for his 7th on the year.

The third period was going to be a huge one for the Islanders. Two points on the line, and a two-goal lead, the Islanders needed their positive side to show up. Fortunately, the third started off with the John Tavares show. JT simply outplayed Andrej Sekera behind the net, found himself in front of Ryan Miller, and picked his spot for his NHL-leading 12th goal of the season.

To cap it off, the Islanders 4th-line scored a power-play goal. Colin McDonald put the puck past Ryan Miller in the final minute of this one. Cizikas would get the assist, rewarding the Isles checking-line after playing an incredible game.

It’s great that the Islanders are starting to see some offense, although a bit late into games, from other forwards. For a team that only saw 3 goals from their regular 4th-liners through the entire 2011-12 season, the Islanders have scored 5 this year.

Interestingly enough, the Islanders won this one without their top forwards dominating the ice time. Marty Reasoner played 16:05, behind only Nielsen and Tavares. Matt Martin played 15:52 for the fourth-most ice time for Isles forwards. Grabner continued his success while playing around 15 minutes, and each of Moulson and Boyes played less that 14:30 in this one.

Yes, the Islanders are starting to trust more of their players, which can only be better for this team in the long run. Isles fans should be excited that their team is winning games despite John Tavares only playing 17 minutes, rather than the 23 minutes we are used to seeing.

Oh, and Kyle Okposo played 11:18 in this one. Only Colin McDonald, Casey Cizikas, and Joe Finley played less in this one, and they were also much bigger factors in this one than Okposo was.

Plus/Minus

Plus: You really have to love this 4th-line. They make so much out of their little bit of time each game. Casey Cizikas, Colin McDonald, and Matt Martin have been wearing opponents down in the offensive zone. It’s great to watch CC battle in the corners, and continue cycling the puck down low along with his line-mates.
Plus: Martin with another six hits.
Plus: Reasoner playing better as a second-line centre. Oh boy.
Plus: Evgeni Nabokov skating over to Ryan Miller, just to say “hi”. Miller dropped his gloves in front of his net, and things eventually settled down.
Minus: The Sabres running Nabby late in this one, especially after all the hoopla with Miller last season.
Minus: The Sabres getting all sad when Martin was shoved into Miller at the end of this one.
Plus: Martin taking on two guys, and winning, in the scrum to end the game.
Plus: Jack Capuano showing some fire at the end, yelling over at the Buffalo bench. Actually had to be restrained by Doug Weight.
Minus: Another quiet game from Kyle Okposo and Keith Aucoin.
Minus: Josh Bailey not scoring goals. I would say his one shot was a pretty good one, but he just cannot seem to beat the goalie. Some concern that the Isles drafted two slow-starters in KO and JB.
Plus: Joe Finley face-washing Patrick Kaleta for being a pest all game. Finley has looked like the mean defenseman that we have been craving these past two games.
Plus: The Isles killing all six of their penalties, and Nabby making 10 saves on the power-play.
Plus: Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald finally settling down a little bit, blocking 4 shots each, and registering a +1 apiece.

The Islanders come home to face the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. This is the start to an Islanders 7-game home-stand. Should be a huge stay for the Isles. Kevin Poulin makes his season debut, as does Radek Martinek, who is in for Joe Finley.

Follow @ChrisTriants

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About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants

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