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Islanders may have a big question mark in Nabokov

Aug 26, 2013, 11:05 AM EDT

Evgeni Nabokov Getty Images

The New York Islanders last season saw Evgeni Nabokov provide stability to a position that saw endless questions surrounding it last season. After years of watching Rick DiPietro try to lock things down in goal only to see injury throw a wrench into the plans, Nabokov’s steady play led the Islanders back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.

This offseason saw GM Garth Snow opt to bring back Nabokov rather than sniff around at other available netminders because “the team wanted him back.” At 38 years old, his best years are likely behind him. With the Islanders on the rise, is it possible the guy who kept them steady last season will be the one holding them back now? Perhaps.

Nabokov’s two seasons with the Isles have seen him be an average to slightly below-average goalie. Check the numbers:

2011-12:  19-18-3  .914 SV%  2.55 GAA

2012-13:  23-11-7  .910 SV%  2.50 GAA

The goals-against average is OK and while the save percentage might look scary, some of his winningest seasons with the Sharks saw him put up the exact same numbers.

Of course, the Sharks also had issues flaming out in the playoffs earlier than they should have so maybe that’s not the greatest thing to bring up.

As he showed against the Penguins in the playoffs, Nabokov had problems keeping up after the regular season. He stopped shots at a .842 rate (a career postseason low) and if it weren’t for Marc-Andre Fleury‘s struggles, Nabokov’s play would’ve come under more fire.

With performances like this, you have to wonder if a team like the Islanders, who have a superstar in John Tavares, a great goal-scorer in Matt Moulson, budding defensive talent in Travis Hamonic and other great youth either already on the scene or on the way, will see their seasons put in peril by Nabokov’s play.

The team seems to support him and pick him up when he struggles, but at some point that kind of magic goes away. At age 38 and after such disappointing play in the postseason, Garth Snow and gang have to be prepared in case he hit the wall already.

  1. bcisleman - Aug 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Nabby DOES have a good rapport with the boys, no doubt, and he would be effective as a backup or a tandem goalie. He cannot handle being the #1 for a contender and he certainly isn’t up to pace he was working at this past season. Kevin Poulin only played two games down the stretch and Nabby was worn out by the playoffs. Isles need either a proven vet or a youngster ready to take over as the other goalie and Poulin clearly hasn’t been either.

  2. pftfan - Aug 26, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    I’d love to see an update on what Rick DiPietro is up to now. Has he been invited to any team’s camp (NHL or AHL) yet?

    I can’t see teams not giving him a shot just because he had a terrible contract that is now void. It’d be interesting to see where he turns up, but it’s been radio silence since his buyout.

    • bcisleman - Aug 26, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      It isn’t just The Contract. When RDP wasn’t injured, he was awful. If he had been good, no one would have cared about The Contract.

      • pftfan - Aug 26, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        He was 9-9 with a 2.93 GAA in the Bridgeport. Not saying that merits a backup job in the NHL, but there are teams could use depth in the AHL, plus he’s still only 31.

        He didn’t play himself out of professional hockey by any stretch. He just needs to stay healthy for more than 2 months.

      • bcisleman - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        He played himself out of NHL hockey. Consistently came up small. Whether he can rebuild his career in the minors remains to be seen.

  3. islesjb - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Will be very perplexed if Garth goes into the season with the goalie tandem as is. Understandably, no one has a great deal of confidence in Nabby’s ability to play at a high level for an 82 game season.

    Does that mean that they are counting on Poulin to rise to the occasion and play well for 40ish games? His AHL #’s over the past two years haven’t been too inspiring and he has been inconsistent when playing with the big club. Going in with the goalies as is seems like a huge risk and could lead to the team taking a step back instead of another step forward, which we are all hoping for.

  4. multiplemiggs - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    You cant blame his playoff struggles on him starting so much in the regular season. Although it was a shortened season, there were many games mushed together especially in the back end of the schedule and with the team fighting for a playoff spot the last couple of weeks he was over worked. But he needed to be overworked in order for them to get in the playoffs. Poulin was too inconsistent and they needed to march their best guys out there.

  5. multiplemiggs - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Unfortunately DP was so bad last year he had to be sent down to AHL Bridgeport. It wasnt just the contract that was bad, it was his play too. Maybe a fresh start is what he needs but by what we saw from his few starts last year he doesnt have it anymore. As for Poulin, goalies take a good 3-5 years to develop AT LEAST and his development was screwed up by DP being demoted, forcing Poulin to be called up in the middle of his AHL season (AHL did not have lockout as im sure you are aware) to sit on the bench, which I was not a fan of. The DP situation screwed things up in more ways than 1 but as nice a guy he is im glad hes finally gone.

  6. multiplemiggs - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Yea your right about that but the problem for us is that he wasnt even able to be a dependable backup for us and his first game in Bridgeport he let in 4 in the first and got pulled. There was even a game down there where he let up like 7 goals in a blowout I think. We need someone to split the time with Nabby or at least be a dependable backup while Poulin and Nilsson produce in Bridgeport. DP couldnt be that guy but I would like to see him added to someones depth chart bc like you said he could have a few decent years left hes still 31. But I dont know why we havent added a veteran goalie to pair with Nabby in the meantime.

  7. nickathens27 - Aug 26, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    They should’ve been in the running for Ben Bishop from the Senators, Bernier from LA, or Hackett from the Wild. Plenty of young talent was available last season. The Isles should’ve tried to get one of those goalies for Nino.

  8. multiplemiggs - Aug 26, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    well in the end its Wang who signs the checks, Snow cant pull the trigger on deals until given the ok from Wang. He probably wont want to spend big until the move to Brooklyn or the year before

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