Kevin SchultzWith 41 saves from Evgeni Nabokov, the Islanders put a damper on Columbus’ playoff hopes at the Coliseum this afternoon with a shutout win. For Nabokov, it was his third shutout of the year and he was named first start of the game. In a post-game interview with MSG’s Peter Ruttgaizer, he reminded those in attendance that he was feeling good by telling the Coliseum crowd “I still got it!” before telling the same to the assembled media in the Isles hallway.
Maybe today was a bit of public posturing by the 38-year old unrestricted free agent to be or maybe it was some of his trademark personality.
Regardless of the reason, Nabokov brought to the forefront an off-season question for the Islanders; do they stick with the safety blanket that has been effective but not amazing between the pipes or do they move on to someone else?
Goaltending has not been the Islanders strong suit this year by any stretch of the imagination. The team, prior to today’s 41-save shutout, had a NHL-worst .888 save percentage, which is the best metric of goaltender evaluation. Nabokov had a personal mark of .898 prior to the game, which was better than Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson but well below this year’s NHL average of .913.
So do the Islanders bring Nabokov back as a starter or backup? You’d certainly have to hope they don’t choose the former and pursue a better option either via trade (the unhappy James Reimer from Toronto?) or an unrestricted free agent.
The re-sign Nabokov campaign started in earnest at the Coliseum this afternoon, but it doesn’t make sense in anything more than a backup role. After three seasons, it’s time to move on.
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Of course there was a whole hockey game played, the result of which matters now in determining the Islanders draft pick at the end of the year, should they choose to not give it to Buffalo for the Thomas Vanek trade.
Cal Clutterbuck started the scoring seven minutes into the first period. After Johan Sundstrom tried a wraparound, the puck came loose in the slot where Clutterbuck picked it up and zipped it into the net past Sergei Bobrovsky. The Islanders would add another to their lead just prior to the second intermission, as Travis Hamonic pulled off his best Mark Streit and skated right through the Columbus defense, which has got to be some of the worst penalty killing of the year:
From there, the Islanders entered the third with the “dreaded two-goal lead,” but chose to hold onto this one against a Columbus team that looked like the just didn’t have their legs. The Islanders also retired their black third jerseys today, ending with a 7-12-5 record in those unis.
Next up for the Islanders is a road trip that goes through Carolina on Tuesday and Tampa Bay on Thursday. They return home on Saturday to host the Devils.