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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.

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-CT

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