Can Kevin Poulin Pick Up Where Evgeni Nabokov Left Off?

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

On Monday night, the Islanders placed netminder Evgeni Nabokov on injured reserve for the second time this season, turning the net over to Kevin Poulin once again.  

The Islanders have had a problem keeping pucks out of the net this season. They’re currently 29th in the league in goals against per game and 29th in save percentage, both terrible marks. For the first two-plus months of the season Islander goalies struggled in net whether their last name was Nabokov, Poulin or Nilsson. To compound that, injuries to defenders Brian Strait and Lubomir Visnovsky made the defensive corps paper thin. 

nabokov2But when Nabokov and Strait returned from their respective injuries, Nabokov December 14 against Montreal and Strait December 12 against Phoenix, the team’s fortunes changed considerably. Since the 12th the Islanders are 7-4-2, a clear improvement from the previous 13 games where they had gone on a 2-9-2 streak without the two aforementioned players.

Neither Nabokov or Strait is a game changer or, if we’re being honest, a significantly above average NHLer. But they both helped add depth to a team that was playing average or below players at back-three positions.

From Nabokov specifically the Islanders started to get performances reminiscent of the ones he turned in down the stretch last season, which helped the team sneak into the playoffs. Those were in stark contrast to the ones he turned in early this year leading to a below .900 save percentage before he was put on injured reserve the first time in mid-November.

In 10 games between IR stints from December 14 through January 6, Nabokov turned in one shutout and a .924 save percentage, well above the league average of .913. Finally, we got to see what the Islanders could do with an average or better NHL goaltender.

Coincidentally, the Islanders defense got better too and not just from Strait returning. Calvin de Haan was called up and has been a revelation. He’s been solid visually and statistically he’s the Islanders second best defender at getting pucks away from his own net and towards the opposition’s.

Since December 13, the Islanders have allowed an opponent to score more than three goals three times (13 games, in 23% of those games). Prior to that, they had allowed more than three goals 15 (!) times (32 games, in 47% of those games).

Clearly, the defense and goaltending have been much better recently for the Islanders and have helped them on the 7-3 run they are currently on.

But now that Evgeni Nabokov is gone, can Kevin Poulin continue the good times?

One of the big debates this year has been whether the Islanders poor defense has been a result of the defenders, the netminders or both (some folks say it’s the forwards not backchecking, which is absurd because they don’t have more of an impact on defense than the guys who are specifically on the to play defense).

So now, with Nabokov out for a week or two, the team clicking offensively and defensively, we should get a better idea of whether Poulin’s below .900 save percentage is a product of its environment (the defense) or his own abilities.

Poulin wasn’t overly impressive in either of the past two games, coming in relief against Dallas or last night in Toronto. Folks can point to rust or coming in off the bench but when you’re job description is literally backup goaltender, you are supposed to be ready for those sorts of odd situations. As my job description is blogger, I need to be ready to write and rant at a moment’s notice. But anyway, to be fair, two games isn’t enough to judge a player completely (fortunately we’ve had more than two games of Poulin this year with which to judge).

Earlier this year, I posted a chart of goalie save percentages game-by-game while Nabokov was out. The results were not pretty as Poulin and Nilsson combined for above league average save percentage (.915 at the time) in only three of 15 games while Nabokov was hurt. While each game in itself is a small sample that gets majorly skewed by a bounce here or there, over the course of a month or months it should tell us more about what a goalie is capable of. A good goalie will tend to make saves, even tough ones.

Here’s the same chart since Nabokov’s initial IR stint and updated through last night. It’s been adjusted since the league average SVP has dipped to .913:

Date Opp Goalie SVP  Score
11/12 NAS Poulin .970 W 3-1
11/14 LAK Poulin .875 L 3-2
11/16 DET Poulin .864 SOW 5-4
11/19 TOR Poulin .792 L 5-2
11/22 PIT Poulin .882 L 4-3
11/23** PHI Poulin .813 L 5-2
11/23** PHI Nilsson .923 L 5-2
11/27 WPG Poulin .897 L 3-2
11/29 DET Poulin .833 L 5-0
11/30 WSH Nilsson .900 OTL 3-2
12/3 PIT Nilsson .912 OTL 3-2
12/5 STL Nilsson .808 L 5-1
12/7 LAK Poulin .913 L 3-0
12/9 ANA Nilsson .839 L 5-2
12/10 SJS Poulin .958 SOW 3-2
12/12 PHO Poulin .838 L 6-3
12/14 MTL Nabokov .960 OTL 1-0
12/17 TBL Nabokov .944 OTL 3-2
12/20 @NYR Nabokov .875 W 5-3
12/21 ANA Nabokov .867 L 5-3
12/23 @DET Nabokov 1.000 W 3-0
12/28 NJD Nabokov .920 L 2-1
12/29 @MIN Poulin .892 W 5-4
12/31 @BOS Nabokov .921 W 5-3
1/2 CHI Nabokov .949 W 3-2
1/4 CAR Nabokov .900 L 2-3
1/6** DAL Nabokov .875 W 7-3
1/6** DAL Poulin .867 W 7-3
1/7 TOR Poulin .885 W 5-3

During the 9 full games Nabokov played between IR stints, Nabokov had above average marks in 6 of them. I’ve been a big Nabokov detractor over the last year-plus but clearly he played well in recent games.

Now, with the same defense, can Kevin Poulin pull of a similar feat? Or can he at least do better than he did last time Nabokov was out? He’s got an improved defense over last time — more over the same one that Nabokov has had in recent successful games — and now has a couple starts under his belt to “get back in the swing of things” or what have you. Hopefully, this stint as start will go better for Poulin than last time. If it doesn’t the Islanders are due to have Nabokov back within two weeks, who hopefully (fingers crossed) will be able to find similar form to what we saw over the last month.

72 comments
ivo leggi
ivo leggi

Anton Khudobin Single-Handedly Salvaging Carolina Hurricanes' 2013-14 Season!

BY MARK JONES (FEATURED COLUMNIST) ON JANUARY 6, 2014

TonyM
TonyM

             The playoffs this season are a longshot at best. To morgage the future ina trade for a goalie now would be useless. Let Poulin play the remainder of the season and make acquiring a legimate #1 goalie  the #1 priority in the off-season. After seeing Griffin Rheinhart play for Canada in the World Juniors theres no doubt he'll be able to step in and help the Islanders next season. That along with the stedily improving Calvin deHaan will greatly improve the Isle's defense moving forward!

mrcisback
mrcisback

  Cory Schneider would have been the answer to all the Islanders goaltending problems for the next 5 to 7 years. I really think he is a top 5 goaltender in this league. I was so disappointed when the Devils pulled off that trade for him at the 2013 NHL draft. I would try to bring back Mikko Koskinen from Europe and give him another chance.

Anthony Petrozzella
Anthony Petrozzella

No matter how good a goalie is, he has to have a decent defense in front of him.

Starz31
Starz31

This team would be so nasty if we had a real #1 goaltender. Maybe one day.

doc942
doc942

Nothing in sports is as sweet as when the Islanders are playing well, scoring, winning and on a roll.

Anthony Saccone
Anthony Saccone

KP has the athleticism and skill to be a great goalie, but is lacking the poise. As a goalie, you have to be able to stand your ground, be stable on your feet, have the confidence to come out of your crease to cut off angles and lastly not flounder around on the ground like a fish out of water. I think that's been KP's biggest problem besides losing his stick 4x a game. He seems very unsettled in the crease, always making what seems to be unnecessary acrobatic saves. If he would stand up a little longer, come out of the crease a little more and hold onto his stick he will start to see improvements. Make the acrobatic post to post split saves when it's a 2-0 or 2-1.. Not on a slap shot from the blue line. I have faith in KP, and has shown some promise when he is playing with poise, but he needs to be consistent and have more confidence after letting in a goal or two...can he be our number 1? I think he is still 2-3 seasons away from even being Considered. For now, make a trade let him play more in Bridge, if we are out of the playoffs then we give him the experience to finish out the season as starter..

Sam Sam
Sam Sam

This question is off topic but I'm going to Miami to see the Isles play next Tuesday and was wondering if anyone knew which hotel the team stays in?  Also how does one manage to get into a practice/morning skate?  Thanks!

Ari BZ
Ari BZ

I'm not buying what all the Poulin naysayers are saying. These are the same people who said de Haan would NEVER amount to anything in the NHL, yet here he is proving every single one of you wrong. Poulin may not be the answer, but he also might be the answer. Until the end of this season, I am not making any final judgments on him. I still believe in Poulin. 

orange2327
orange2327

Damn we got no help from the hawks tonight and the flyers won too!! Look its gonna be real tough!! The flyers have completely turned things around and the rags find ways too!!! Damn!!

Joey Ferguson
Joey Ferguson

i think KP can hold the fort till nabby returns. just sit carkner as much as possible. need the best d-men possible out there. donovan over carkner when KP plays. id rather lose with a rookie dman on the ice then carkner. everyone bashing donovan.... rookies make rookie mistakes. it takes them time to adjust to the speed of the game. it takes some guys longer then others.... but i say we have 3 solid d pairings now with hamonic de hann. amac strait and hickey donovan/carkner. better d then what poulin had infront of him before. have faith!

Mark Pomerantz
Mark Pomerantz

What makes anyone think koistinen is coming back.....he was pushed out of North America when isles had 5 goalies for 4 spots......seems like he had a bad experience and is now doing well in Europe. This is not a guy who played juniors here.....he was 2 years older when isles drafted him....took his shot....now is in a better place it seems.

Is he bringing Rhanshaki,DiBo and Katic with him when he returns?

Richard Vollmer
Richard Vollmer

KP always looks bewildered; never ready to seize the moment. Most of the time back in the net. Much of the time on his knees. When on his skates he leaves too many holes; arms away from his body, legs open etc. for Pete's sake catch the puck! He has shown virtually no progress.

Nilsson is flawed too but has improved and has an NHL presence about him. These two are behind the rest of the team so neither are the answer for now or next year if ever.

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

It's been more the defense than goaltending.  Poulin can be fine, I think.  As shakey as the goaltending has been in on some nights, it's NEVER been as bad as it was for Toronto the other night.  That was unbelievably bad. 

millhouse
millhouse

Poulin is completley capable, as long as the team in front of him isn't hanging him out to dry like they were earlier in the year.

gowhale
gowhale

Poulin is capable of beating any team on any night, but just not every team on every night.

I guess what I'm saying is he shows flashes of greatness, but no consistency.

Thus ends my earth shattering post.

neeza06
neeza06

no doubt that poulin is not a consistent enough goaltender to be a starter at this point. No other options though so for the islanders to stay hot the answer to this question has to be yes.  We've seen him steal games a play lights out for a game or 2 but if Nabakov is gonna bout out longer then the 7 days he has to stay on the IR we are in trouble. 


Just as important is what are we gonna do for secondary scoring when the white hot top line and pp come a back down to earth a bit.  We are 7-3 in our last 10 (after going 3-14-4 in our prior 21 games with only 1 ROW) and scoring at an unsustainable 3.9 goals per game. I know defense and goaltending where our main problem during that 21 game stretch and the were definitely a glaring problem (3.62 ga/g) our offense was pretty bad as well (1.81 g/g) even with vanek tavares and okposo playing well. If we try to rely on the ups and downs of 1 line the whole year (even if ups are sky high and the downs are still quite productive) this team is gonna struggle again at some point and it wont matter whos in net.  I think with improved defense and goaltending it wont be THAT bad again this season but the team cant even afford to play under .500 hockey for any 10 or so game stretch for the rest of the season.


And before you say the offensive numbers were down because we played from behind too much realize that we played 8 one goal games during that stretch in which we scored 2 goals or less and and only had 1 win in the shootout (getting a total of 6 out 16 possible points in those games) and were held to 1 goal or less in 3 additional games.

Justin Shea
Justin Shea

I like KP. He has the goods. Needs to learn that sometimes less is more with his actions and he has to learn how to keep his head in the game and mitigate the softies - that's probably been said of a lot of prospect net minders though. I don't think someone is necessarily wrong for putting some of the blame on Forwards for defensive problems. Hockey is a team game and D zone coverage involves schemes with all five players. To specifically blame back checking would be wrong...and to deny how poorly constructed the depth at D and G is would also be wrong. However, anyone on the team would be the first to tell you that hockey and D is a team concept and everyone shares the blame when things go south. coverage down low always involves at least one forward and breakouts involve everyone. If a breakout breaks down and the puck is turned over that leads to scoring chances and tired players on the ice. Not to mention, the ability to keep the puck in the oppositions zone is the best D. And the Isles were TERRIBLE at that at the beginning of the season. Bad dumps, bad cycling and no carrying into the zone entries. F lines just looked out of sync and were not able to sustain zone time. The blame needs to go around to all players and coaches..But mostly to  Garth Snow and Charles Wang..they were incapable/unwilling to spend to build a roster that could sustain an injury to a 36 yr old defense man or 38 yr old goalie...you get what you pay for.

cournoyer
cournoyer

Another Jose Theodore.....  yawn . No way this kid is going to lead us to the promised land,  can barely hold on to his stick

Jeff Roland
Jeff Roland

they should velco the damn stick to his hand. ive never seen a goaler lose the stick as much as this guy.


great line from jiggs last night blatantly mocking don cherries boozing alchoholism - "we're waiting for don cherries designated driver to bring us back to the arena".    

Bill Alefeld
Bill Alefeld

simple answer....No. This could put the brakes on the momentum that the Isles have had the last 2 weeks. This team doesn't have room for anymore mistakes if they want to make a legitimate attempt at the playoffs.

shlo
shlo

@Ari BZI posted before that Poulin will be fine with  proper coaching which he desperately needs, so I agree with you, people like to complain . As far as I am concerned, Dunhum as a goalie coach is useless.

since72
since72

@Ari BZ Agreed on Poulin.  The guy has played in 42 NHL games including the playoffs.  He is going to improve.  The only way to improve is to play in games, make some mistakes, and learn from experience.  He may or may not become a number 1 goalie.  He certainly deserves to be here.  However, the free agent market needs to be attacked strongly this Summer for us to contend next season.

since72
since72

@ivo leggi  Sign Vanek, replace A Mac with a capable D man, and sign Hiller or Halak and this will be fun again.  It is up to Mr Wang.  If he is Anita McCambridge, then none of it will happen.  We will know by the trade deadline because Vanek will show us the way.

neeza06
neeza06

@Justin Shea some solid points in your comment. I dont fully agree with all them but none of them are far off IMO.  Especially agree with us not having any sustained O zone pressure outside of line 1 pretty much all year aside from the last 10 games. The goalie situation is definitely on snow. Big mistake leaving an unproven rookie to backup your aging goaltender. Even if he did strike out on Schneider and Bernier as long term goalies how about someone like khudobin or Greiss as a low end option to compete for time with Nabakov (Mason and Bishop didnt get traded for too much either). 


As for defense I agree but im still waiting for someone to come up with a reasonable name that was available this summer. yes our defense was thin but the guys on the back end are the only ones who snow could convince to come here over the past few years (with a lot of headaches in visnovskys case) and this summer was a very thin FA class on D. No one worth it really there. Sometimes the supply just doesnt meet the demand.

Justin Shea
Justin Shea

one other thing - I remember like 3-4 seasons ago KP went on a tear in Bridgeport right around the beginning of January where he reeled off a bunch of games in a row w/ 1GA or less...he is streaky (like most goalies) and I don't think we've seen him get locked in at NHL level yet...hopefully that happens here and now.

Ari BZ
Ari BZ

@cournoyer youre probably one of the people who said de Haan would never play in the nhl...so whatever. I believe in KP!!

shermsx
shermsx

@bb1otc @IslandersPB you're kidding, right? It's completely acceptable to be upset with the direction this team is going.

Don22
Don22

@Jeff RolandHe should get those little clips like we had for our mittens when we were kids.  Clip his stick to his jersey so he doesn't lose it.

REDSpointofview
REDSpointofview

@since72 @Ari BZ  

You can probably narrow down the 2014 UFA goal tenders to just a handful that Snow might be able to sign.  Miller and Hiller will probably cost too much and are rumored to be going to the Blues and Oilers respectively.  That might put Halak, Elliot and Dubnyk on to Snow's radar but the price for Halak and Dubnyk might be too steep for Snow as well.  Nabokov's $3.25 million comes off the books but both Nilsson and Poulin are RFA's and will have to signed or let go.  That basically opens up  a lot of space for Snow to deal with as he might have to sign two or three goalies.  The rest of the crop might look like this... Detroit might let Gustavsson go because his price might go up too high but that would put them in the market for a back up and that same scenario would apply to Scrivens with the Kings, Khudobin with the Hurricanes and Greiss with the Coyotes.  Those last three are back ups and would Snow think any of them capable of becoming a #1???  There still is that wild card in Bryzgalov but the pickings become slim after that.  Here's a full list of available UFA's...

http://www.mynhltraderumors.com/free-agents/2014-nhl-free-agents-unrestricted-goalies/

neeza06
neeza06

@bubbamac19 @ivo leggi I love hiller i want him more then Miller (not that i would mind miller by any means but i have my reasons) but im not fully convinced they let him walk unless he asks for a boat load of money. I definitely at least think rumors of him being traded this year are unfounded nonsense (but you never know). Its hard to pass on signing your franchise experienced goaltender just because you have "depth in your organization" (isles fans knows how that pans out sometimes especially early on in these players careers).  Bottom line is Fasth and Andersen have played great but only in very small samples and Gibson has zero nhl experience.


I still think he ends up somewhere else next year but im not convinced its a forgone conclusion.

Justin Shea
Justin Shea

@neeza06 @Justin Shea seems like we completely agree. I mean, I'm not giving Snow a pass but I would agree that there were very little options this summer on FA market. But, there were goalie options. And our avalanche of losses coincided w/ nabby going down. KP should have been proving him self further in the A with the way rest of team was constructed...they cut too many corners. I will say this D corps is more then this Summer though - it is 2-3 years in making. I like the individual pieces and obv some guys in pipeline but the sum total is less then the parts due to types of players, experience levels etc.. I also say that I think that if the TEAM was playing better in the o zone this could have been somewhat mitigated and the team could have treaded water instead of sinking. They looked ridiculously disorganized and I think even the first line was not sustaining 5 on 5 too much. It's like they had no clue where each other would be. When that happens it is hard to not blame the coaching staff no matter who is really at fault. 

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@shlo @Macacawitz That's obvious.  He's not from Finland.  Finland, a country  of less than 4 million people, roughly the size of Toronto, has the best goaltending instructors in the world.  Finish goaltenders have dedicated coaches from the age of 6.  Look at the number of quality Finnish goaltenders in the league.  It's nothing short of amazing. Since Poulin is from Montreal and not Helsinki, I don't see him succeeding.  It's just my own personal bias. 

Isleguy27
Isleguy27

Dubnyk? That's funny, what in the name of murgatroyed would the Islanders want with him.

since72
since72

@REDSpointofview @since72 @Ari BZ   Looking for a bargain is not the way to win a cup unless you really feel strongly about a guy.  It is ironic that a former NHL goal tender would have this position as a weak link on his team.  They really have to address this if they want to win.  If winning is not the goal, then we won't sign Vanek, and will come into next season with Poulin and Neilson as the tandum.  And we will lose. 

Isleguy27
Isleguy27

@Macacawitz @shlo I beg to differ with your comments about Finnish goalies being so great. There are currently 28 goalies that have 300 or more victories in the NHL, most of which are retired and only 1 of those is from Finland and that is Miikka Kiprusoff. And of the top 30 goalies currently playing, there are only 4 from Finland. That tells me the percentages of successful Finnish goalies in the NHL ain't that great.

shlo
shlo

@Macacawitz With proper coaching Poulin will be good.

Patrick Roy thinks so or even insists so and he knows goaltending.

So, he may be able to rise to the occasion. Our goalie coach is doing much, I don't see any progress. However the potential must be there. No doubt that Finish goalies are good.

shermsx
shermsx

@bb1otc @IslandersPB that doesn't make me a "bad fan" nor does it mean I'm "hating" I'm just fed up with the way this team is ran.