Evgeni Nabokov is no longer a Shark, but he's playing with a ton of bite. (Photo: Dinur Blum/flickr)
Evgeni Nabokov made 45 saves and stopped Daniel Briere and Wayne Simmonds in the shootout to steal a win for the Islanders, 1-0, in a game that saw virtually no offense from the white jerseys.
I professed my dislike for the Russian goalie earlier this evening, just after puck drop. Call me sensitive or crazy or just plain dumb, but a (big) part of me can’t help but be bitter over earlier events. Yeah, I know. Still, he seems to have swallowed his pride and donned the orange and blue (for the time being, anyway). Garth Snow seems to think Nabokov will stay here longer, and after his performance tonight I can definitely see a couple more years being offered on the table. It’s only up to the netminder whether he will take it or not.
Let’s set up the story, shall we? Over three periods, the Islanders amassed a grand total of 18 shots on goal. Eighteen. Meanwhile, the Flyers were all over the offense AND the defense, throwing everything they could and more at Nabokov, who flashed pads and glove with ease. Not to be outdone, Andrew MacDonald and call-up Aaron Ness also had strong showings, picking up the slack after Dylan Reese went down with a left knee injury. The Isles announced via Twitter that Reese will be re-evaluated tomorrow. I’m sure the team is hoping and praying that it’s nothing serious, as the blueline’s already been thinned enough and Reese had been playing very well since his call-up from Bridgeport.
There were some close calls- Scott Hartnell, Max Talbot, Jaromir Jagr and top scorer Claude Giroux each tried their hand, as well as Briere in regulation, but there was absolutely no room given by either the D or Nabokov. And when the D started to scramble, their last line of defense proved to be the cooler head, keeping calm and getting at least a piece of every shot. It came down to the shootout, which Frans Nielsen (he of the Royal Backhand) and John Tavares each made good on, finally giving their goalie some support.
I wish the offense could have stepped up more, especially considering- surprise!- Ilya Bryzgalov was in net. He was barely tested in this one (though he did make a few good saves to keep the game scoreless), and benefited immensely from the Isles’s lack of offensive aggression. (Seriously. The best play of the night was with a few seconds left in OT. Josh Bailey charged through the neutral zone, all but ran over the Flyer defending him (I believe it was Matt Carle), made a beautiful move to cut in front of the net and tried to stuff it past Bryzgalov. I would LOVE to see more of that, but I also have to give credit- the Bailey line has been the most energetic line for the Isles as of late, and it’s great to see that kind of persistence from a kid I’d given up for dead not too long ago. Still, this game could have been a lot different had Nabokov been solved in regulation. The offense cannot bank on their depleted D and goaltender to steal points in every game. We were lucky “Nabby” had the kind of night he did to begin with.
Shootouts are honestly the bane of my existence when it comes to winning a game, but I can be happy for the two points. With this win, New York has 52 points, good for 11th in the Eastern Conference (still nine points out of a playoff spot). There’s a ways to go, but… hey, we can still dream. On to a three-game homestand, starting with Montreal on Thursday night. Let’s go, Isles!