NY Islanders News

Eyes On Isles – Islander Season Reviews – #20 Evgeni Nabokov

By Gary Harding

There was a song many moons ago, called “What a Difference a Day Makes”.  For Islanders goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov, the song is retitled to “What a Difference a Year Makes.”

When 2010-2011 ended, we were not sure whether Nabokov would be around at all.  It was a dinner with GM Garth Snow over the summer, that convinced the native of Ust-Kamenogorsk Kazakhstan native that he will get playing time on Long Island.  He said he would get a legitimate chance to get the number one job for the 2011-12 season.

With some injuries to start the season, it did not look positive.  But when the injury bug hit other goaltenders on this squad, the veteran netminder was brought to the forefront, and did not disappoint.

He won his first game on October 15th, against the New York Rangers.  This victory would get Nabokov into good graces with the fans.

On January 14th, against the Buffalo Sabres, Nabokov won his 300th game in the NHL, and ended the season with 312 wins, against 196 losses, 29 ties and 40 overtime losses.  His strong finish allowed him to end the season over 500 with a 19-8-3 record.

But to this young team, he brought a stable presence to the net.  He allowed the defense to worry less about the front of the net, and gave them the freedom to bring the puck up the first zone easily.  He also shows a calm demeanor on the ice, as well as the dressing room.  He was also helpful with his fellow goaltenders.  He exudes a quiet confidence, that grows on the rest of the guys.

For Nabokov, I am giving him a solid B.  Without him, this team would be easily the number 30 team in the league.  At times, his play was singlehandedly moving the Islanders in the upright position.  For this play, he was awarded with a one year 2.75 million dollar contract.  It is a chance to give him the right to be a number one goalie, and restores the faith in him that he missed for the past two season in Russia, and in limbo.

We are going to be covering the draft over the next couple of days.  I will be talking to Ryan Strome on Friday, and we hope to get some info on our pick in the NHL entry draft on Friday.

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