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Under Pressure: Evgeni Nabokov

Sep 26, 2013, 3:28 PM EDT

Evgeni Nabokov Getty Images

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the New York Islanders we pick… Evgeni Nabokov.

Many people didn’t pay attention to how Nabokov played during the Islanders’ run into and during the playoffs mainly thanks to the extreme poor play of Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury. That’s probably a good thing for the 38-year-old Kazakhstan native because he was as bad, if not worse, than Fleury.

Now that the Islanders have a taste of what the playoffs are like and have a rising superstar in John Tavares to lead the way, it’s on Nabokov’s shoulders to make sure they get to return to the postseason. Fortunately for them, doing his job in the regular season hasn’t been an issue.

The past two seasons with the Islanders, he’s been steady. He hasn’t been a world-beater in goal but he’s done well enough to lock down the job. Last season saw him put up numbers similar to what he had in his final seasons with San Jose. If you’re trying to predict when his game is going to slip away, good luck.

In the postseason, however, it’s always been a different story and last year’s run with the Isles saw him have his worst playoff output in his career. That’s worrisome, but they’re fortunate he puts this stuff behind him quickly.

The Isles have enough talent up front and their defense should be a little better, but it’s up to Nabokov to be strong as they don’t have much help backing him up. If he falters at all, the Islanders will have it tough in the Metropolitan Division.

With teams like the Penguins, Rangers, Flyers, Devils, and Blue Jackets pushing for the postseason, they can’t afford to see him have an off year.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

  1. bcisleman - Sep 26, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Nabby was tremendous in the runup to the playoffs. Its not too much to say that the Isles would not have made the playoffs without his play down the stretch. The problem was that Poulin isn’t an NHL calibre goalie and Cappy knows it. He only played him when he had to and Nabby was worn out going into the playoffs. Losing Streiter and not getting a quality backup for Nabby were the two major holes in Garth Snow’s off-season. He did make efforts at trading for a goalie and he did try to sign Streiter but the holes remain nonetheless.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Sep 26, 2013 at 8:37 PM

      Eventhough a lot of ppl don’t like Tim Thomas (including some teammates it seems) wouldn’t it have made sense to attempt to retain him? I know it’s not ideal having two goaltenders pushing 40, but if the Isles are serious about contending they need someone a little more reliable than Kevin Poulin to spell Nabby. You’d think Garth Snow of all people would know that. Maybe he makes a deal for someone at the deadline if the Isles are in contention… Ryan Miller? Jonas Hiller? Maybe even a young netminder like James Reimer? That is if Bernier takes the #1 job and with Toronto’s cap issues (Reimer an RFA).

      Folks make a stink about the Flyers goaltending and defense but honestly are the Islanders in better shape in those areas? Outside of Visnovsky, MacDonald, and Hamonic, they’re nothing special. Lots of nice prospects but will Reinhart or Donovan make the team?

      • jcmeyer10 - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        Garth Snow knew not to bother because Tim Thomas wants to start. Only way he’d come out of that limbo.

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