The Isles roared back last night. We all know what every Islander fan was thinking when they went down 3-2. “UGH! I cannot believe this! Again they play Pittsburgh tough and again they fall short!” But last night was different.
The Penguins showed the Islanders very little respect by thinking this was the best time to start their back up goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, for the first time in 2 weeks. Zatkoff was making his 2nd career start, after being blitzed by the Panthers for 6 goals. Maybe that was just first game, rookie jitters? The Pens had to see what they had in him, and why not start him against the Isles? After all, they are not in the same class as the Penguins…yet.
The Isles started out making him look like Billy Smith. He was hardly tested in the first 2 periods. Heck, he was hardly tested period. The Penguins had almost double the shots the Islanders did last night. The Isles were outshot 42-25. But, the Isles were not to be taken lightly. When Josh Bailey dove to poke the puck behind the Pittsburgh netminder, you could hear the roars of approval and excitement across Islanders Nation. Pittsburgh put up a valiant effort to tie the game late, but Evgeni Nabokov and the Islanders stood tall.
So, what happens now? Well they have 2 crucial Metro division games coming up against struggling teams. The Flyers and The Rangers have been nothing short of atrocious this season. This is a great opportunity for the Isles to capitalize on the weaker teams in the division.
The Isles have not started poorly, despite the anger from fans that they did not start 10-0-0. 4-3-3 is not a bad start. They are right in the thick of the race for the Metropolitan Division crown. If you want poor starts, look at the Isles next 2 opponents.
Tonight, we will see Kevin Poulin in net for the first time since his 3-2 loss to Chicago. The Isles have to figure out if Poulin will be a serviceable goalie of the future, a backup or a minor league goalie at best. Today will be the start of figuring that out. If he plays well, there is an excellent chance we seem him more in the future. If he plays poorly, Bridgeport may not be far behind.
The Isles can really build on last night’s win and start picking up some steam. We will see shortly how they perform on the 2nd night of this back to back. A win could go a long to way towards building momentum and avoiding the yearly November swoon.