May 1, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin (60) prepares to take the net after replacing goalie Evgeni Nabokov (not pictured) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Isles X-Factor: Kevin Poulin

Apr 25, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin (60) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Every team relies on more than just one player. In the case of the New York Islanders, John Tavares is the main piece that keeps the wheels spinning on Long Island, but one mustn’t lose sight of reality: the Islanders, like any other team, are deeper than just one player.

That’s right. While the Islanders would seem doomed without their superstar, it wouldn’t be fair to say Tavares is the only reason for the franchise’s turnaround. Other pieces, such as Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey, were arguably just as important (if not more so) to the team’s success down the stretch of the season.

Looking forward to the 2013-14 season, the Islanders are going to need several other pieces to step up in their roles; otherwise, a playoff berth might prove elusive for a second consecutive year. Today, Eyes on Isles continues its “X-Factor” series to take a deeper look at another important piece to a potential Islanders playoff run. Kevin Poulin, the stage is yours.

In case you missed it, here is Vol. 1 – Michael Grabner

Man, oh, man, did the Islanders need a back-up goaltender that could step up for them last season. The season began with a healthy Rick DiPietro riding the pine, but “DP” only proved he was no longer up-to-speed with the professional-level of hockey. Playing only three games through the first half of the season, DiPietro gave Long Island one last look at how far the mighty had fallen, recording zero wins and placing the extra burden on a tiring Evgeni Nabokov.

After Rick was inevitably sent to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Isles goalie prospect Kevin Poulin was called up to take his place. Unfortunately, Poulin didn’t seem to be the answer behind Nabokov either, posting a .893 SV% and a 3.02 GAA in 5 appearances. With no other choice, the Islanders had to ride Nabokov to complete fatigue by the time the postseason arrived. The veteran goaltender returned the favor by not being at his best in the playoffs, which was highly predictable considering his workload during the lockout-shortened season and not in any way indicative of his true talent.

One off-season later, the Islanders find themselves in the same predicament. Nabokov remains New York’s starting goaltender, and Poulin returns to assume his back-up duties. This season, however, ‘KP’ becomes a vital piece to this team’s success.

Last season should have been more than enough evidence for the Islanders to realize their need for a reliable back-up goaltender. In seven joint starts, the two Islanders back-up goalies combined for one regular season victory, and it may have been the most important victory of them all. Had Poulin not been able to get it done on April 2nd against the Winnipeg Jets, the Islanders would have missed the playoffs.

There’s no time to panic, though, Isles fans. Most of us should be encouraged with Poulin’s final 5 appearances (including playoffs) of 2013. Even in a losing effort against Philadelphia, where a win would have pushed the Islanders into 6th, Poulin held his own, allowing only two goals on thirty shots. When 2013-14 starts up, the Islanders will have to see more of that if they hope to reach the playoffs again. He must hold down the fort on Nabokov’s days of rest, otherwise, the Islanders are going to find themselves leaning on “Nabby” more often than they should have to.

The ‘Poulin Wall’ will be a true “x-factor” for the Islanders in 2013-14.

How important is Kevin Poulin to the Islanders success in 2013-14?

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Tags: Kevin Poulin New York Islanders NHL Offseason X-factor

  • joepro2112

    It’s not like anyone, including Snow, should be comfortable, going into the season, with merely a plan of allowing Poulin (or Nilsson) to be Nabby’s backup in the playoffs, because IMO I don’t believe either one of those has had the opportunity to have a large enough sample size to show that they can excel consistently over a large number of NHL games to the extent that either could confidently be counted on for playoff wins. Not to mention the possibility of someone getting injured, or if any of them perform poorly.
    Even if the plan would be to give Poulin that opportunity this season, there is no guarantee that Poulin will be the (back-up) answer, but I guess we’ll never know unless Poulin plays a fair number of games.
    But what will be the plan (during the season) if that doesn’t work out as hoped as time progresses?
    And, as we know, Nabby (another year older) will definitely need to be played less going into the playoffs (as well as likely not starting every playoff game) in order for him to be successful.
    Although it would be great to see Poulin and/or Nilsson really step up their game and show that they can consistently win a number of NHL games, and unless Snow has a crystal ball and can predict that either Poulin or Nilsson will definitely show that they are capable of winning enough NHL games to provide a sufficient amount of confidence to be comfortable resorting to using them in playoff games, I would hope to think that Snow is just waiting things out and will be looking to address this with someone who has some successful playoff experience.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      It’s a very fair concern, joepro. We really have no idea whether or not Poulin and/or Nilsson are ready to take the reigns as a backup goaltender for the New York Islanders. Right now, there also doesn’t appear to be a Plan B. However, I was happy to see Poulin play like “the Poulin Wall” during his final 5 appearances in 2013.

      I would think the Islanders will give Poulin several starts early on in the season, and if he cannot get it done, then the Islanders move to the next guy. I would also expect the Islanders to invite one or two goaltenders to training camp, if not for added competition for the younger goalies. If Poulin and/or Nilsson cannot beat out the veteran goaltenders in training camp, then back to Bridgeport they go. If they can, then great.

      Goaltending is a concern for the Islanders in 2013-14. Although I think the demise of Nabokov has been greatly exaggerated, I have to agree that the team could be doomed if Nabby falls. Again, it makes it that much more vital for Poulin to become an NHL-calibre goalie this year.

      Thanks for reading.

      • joepro2112

        While hopefully we are all pleasantly surprised by better than anticipated play on Poulin and/or Nilsson’s part (which can’t nor should not be expected to automatically occur if one were to be prudent), and hopefully Nabby will again play as well as he did during the past regular season, which may or may not happen, I can’t see how keeping things as is would be considered a plan for success, nor can I see how Snow would erroneously choose to not do anything. So, considering that, along with what you mentioned above about Snow inviting one or two to training camp (Thomas, Bryz, Theodore, Hedberg?), that things will become clearer once they see which UFAs gets invited to camp and who shows up and how well they and Poulin & Nilsson perform. I just hope that, based on last year, that it does not wind up transpiring to be a Nabby/Poulin or Nabby/Nilsson tandem by the time the end of this coming season rolls around unless Poulin or Nilsson will show tremendous performance by that point. Too much resting on “hope” to be apprehensive about and be comfortable with. So, I will just have to “hope” that Snow has a plan regarding the goaltending that will result in giving the team a better chance for continued and more success.

        • Chris Triantafilis

          I think, as a whole, the New York Islanders are a better hockey team than they were last season. The goalie situation is a concern, but it shouldn’t be any worse than last season. Of course, that comes with “hope,” as you mentioned, but I think we have to “hope” for everything, in a way. I don’t necessarily think the Islanders goaltending situation will keep them from reaching the playoffs, but I think they will need better goaltending from both goalies if they plan on taking the next step – a playoff series victory.

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