Season Preview: The Goaltenders
May 5, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalieEvgeni Nabokov
(20) misses the save on a shot by Pittsburgh Penguins left wingChris Kunitz
(not pictured) in overtime in game three of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Pittsburgh won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
With the Islanders’ season less than 24 hours away, with the rosters finalized, we as a fan base and the Islanders as a team are finally ready for Opening Night.
Here at Eyes, season previews have been rolling out by our staff regarding players and the team as a whole. Previews have been posted for the offense, the defense, and the entire team in general.
Right now, we are going to take a look at our goaltending situation. The position was a spot that many Islanders fans wished to see some change in. While change didn’t happen, the Islander’s goaltending, while not ideal, should perform well enough to keep the Islanders right where we want them, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. SO without further adieu, I present to you the Eyes on Isles season preview of the 2013-14 New York Islanders’ goaltenders.
Following the hard-to-swallow loss the Islanders’ suffered in the first round of last season’s playoffs, many fans wanted to see new faces in the position of goaltender. Evgeni Nabokov, who started 41 of 48 games last year in a tremendous regular season, struggled mightily in the playoffs, and some can argue that if he had played to the best of his ability, the Islanders could have pulled of the upset and defeated PIttsburgh.
Whether you’re a fan on Nabokov or not, you have to accept that he is the team’s starting goaltender, and for good reason. Nabokov didn’t have much to work with in a defense that was outplayed by an offensive superpower in Pittsburgh. He struggled, there’s no denying it, but his poor stats weren’t entirely his fault. And let’s not just throw the good from Nabokov away like it never happened. In the last month of the season, Nabokov played brilliantly as he helped propel the team to the playoffs. That wasn’t all thanks do John Tavares, folks.
Nabokov wouldn’t have gotten a new contract had he not been the best goaltending option the Islanders could grab. Garth Snow is a smart GM, and he fully knew what he was doing in signing Nabokov to a one year, 3 million dollar contract this offseason. The Islanders made the right choice in signing him, and we should see a strong season from Evgeni Nabokov.
2013-14 stats: 2.54 GAA, .912 Save Percentage in 55 games played
Just like Evgeni Nabokov, Kevin Poulin wasn’t a name many Islanders fans wanted to see on their Opening Night Programs. He is a player who didn’t see much time last year, and didn’t do too much to impress.
The lack of action Poulin saw is largely due to the fact that Rick DiPietro (Islanders fans, I don’t think you need any briefing on him), was the team’s back-up for a solid portion of the season. While Poulin was up for many games, the team was struggling and still fighting to stay relevant in the playoff chase basically until the last week of the season, and the Islanders needed their starter in net as much as possible.
This season, being the full 82 game season it will be, Poulin is set to make more frequent appearances this year. With Nabokov playing about 55 games, Poulin should be the guy to play the other 27 games assuming all goes well.
As our own Dump and Chase Podcast brilliantly put it in their latest episode, Poulin is the back-up of the present, and Anders Nilsson is the starting goaltender of the future. As we just saw with Ryan Strome, the Islanders are not one to rush prospects after seeing what it could do to the development of the player. The Islanders have seen it too often before, so they will be very special with their serious prospects.
As for Poulin, he should have a decent season backing up Nabokov, one that will give him some valuable NHL experience.
2013-14 stats: 2.85 GAA, .905 Save Percentage in 27 games played
I was really torn on whether or not to put Anders Nilsson on this list of players, but if goaltending holds up, and if Poulin replicates slightly better stats than last year, which he should, Nilsson shouldn’t really see any NHL time this season. After a scary sudden discovery of a vitamin deficiency, which luckily is being treated, Nilsson should be kept in Bridgeport just to be safe. The Islanders are smart and know how to groom their prospects in order to have them playing to their best ability in the NHL, rather than rushing them and watching mediocre to subpar play from highly-touted prospects.
And as always, thanks for being an active reader here at Eyes on Isles. With a full, exciting NHL season ahead of us, our devoted staff will be posting in depth analysis and breaking news as it happens surrounding the Islanders and the NHL. And feel free to give all staff members a follow on twitter, as we all would love to talk hockey with you guys.