Nothing better than waking up in the middle of March with the Islanders in the playoff hunt. That’s right. The Islanders won 2-0 over the Tampa Bay lightning last night, keeping them three points out of eighth-place, and four points out of sixth. Love it when our own fans say “well, they beat a bad Tampa team,” because, although meant to be an insult, good teams are supposed to beat the bad ones.
The Islanders took care of business against the Lightning, who have five wins in their last twenty games, which should be celebrated by an Islanders team that is looking to separate themselves from the basement, not used as a back-handed compliment by their fans. If the Islanders lost this one, all hell would have broken loose on the Island, but instead, the playoff hunt is back on, a change from being cancelled following their 6-1 loss to the Penguins on Sunday night.
Anyways, Travis Hamonic said after the game, “That’s the closest to a full-60 [minute] game we’ve played in a long time, maybe this year,” and that’s because it was. Fans watched a complete team effort.
Nabokov made 18 saves for his second shutout of the season, while the Islanders received goals from John Tavares and Brad Boyes to win their first game in regulation, and second game of the season, where this team scored two goals or less. All four lines played remarkably well. The NHL’s third-highest scoring offense was kept off the scoreboard, with Stamkos being held to 3 shots on net.
Back to Nabokov: Nabby made six saves in each period to keep this game scoreless, and then to keep the Islanders ahead for the game. Some may say eighteen saves isn’t much for a shutout, and it’s not, but many of Nabby’s saves were spectacular. I mean, I stayed home last night, and I’m pretty sure I was chanting “Nabby” every time for every one of his saves. He was unreal, and fully-deserved the “First Star of the Game” honor in Tampa.
No coincidences, either. Nabby earned his second shutout of the season after he was rested for three days and twenty minutes after starting seven games straight, including back-to-back nights where he was shelled by the Penguins in the latter game. Nabby looks better on rest, which stresses the importance of allowing Kevin Poulin to get on the ice every once in a while. I thought that was the purpose of having him here instead of DiPietro.
After Poulin’s only outing of the season where he lost to the Hurricanes and allowed three goals, Nabokov had been played relentlessly. Nabby saw seven starts in a 13-day span. Nabby allowed 23 goals in those seven starts.
I’m not saying he played bad, because Nabby did have several strong games including his performance against the Rangers, but you could tell Nabokov was not making all of the saves he was supposed to make.
In games following Nabokov being rested or pulled, the Islanders are 3-0 this season, allowing six goals in those three games. Nabokov has faced 87 shots in those three games, and has saved 81 of those shots for a .931 save percentage.
If this team is going to make the playoffs, it’s going to take the full team to get there. That means Kevin Poulin will have to enter the rotation in net on occasion. The Isles are 4-1-2 in their past seven games, the only game without a point taking place in the Pittsburgh debacle. That first goal in Pittsburgh told a tale of a tired goaltender.
I understand being hesitant to play your young goaltender against a hot Pittsburgh team. Look at thwta happened to Anders Nilsson last season for a perfect example. Capuano and the rest of the coaching staff needs to ensure their top-goalie gets the rest needed, though, which means getting Poulin the start against less-explosive teams earlier on. Nabby is best on some rest.
Plus: Isles hold Tampa, with Stamkos, St.Louis, to 18 shots
Minus: Kyle Okposo cannot stay on his feet.
Plus: Isles win with some rest to some of their top guys. Josh Bailey (17:07) had more ice time than John Tavares.(16:58).
Minus: The refusal of some Islanders to get the puck deep, John Tavares included.
Plus: Very strong game for Hamonic and MacDonald.
Minus: Only defensive flub I can recall was Martinek’s flub at the blue-line, leading to an odd-man rush the other way.
Plus: Marty Reasoner’s move on that short breakaway
Minus: Despite playing a very good game, I am now convinced Marty Reasoner will never score again.
Plus: Ullstrom skated wit authority last night.
Minus: Ullstrom has a groin injury and will miss the next 3-4 weeks.
Plus: On a night where everyone was complaining about losing PA Parenteau, Brad Boyes scored a goal and added an assist. Isles won 2-0, Avs lost 5-3.
Plus: Thomas Hickey has not finished a game with a minus since February 11th.
Minus: Josh Bailey with 0 shots.
Plus: Perfect on special teams last night.
Minus: The refs hate calling penalties against opposing teams of the Isles.
Plus: John Tavares was the only player to beat the goalie last night. That was #17, catching up to Stamkos’ 20 goals on the year.
The Isles are now at NHL-.500 again with a record of 12-12-3. Now three points out of the playoffs, and one point behind the Rangers for 9th, the Islanders should not focus on the standings. As long as the Islanders keep earning points, they will catch up to the falling teams.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.
Filed Under: New York Islanders
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