January 26, 2011

Poulin Looks Sharp as Isles Fall to Pens; Nabokov Suspended

Evgeni who?

For those wondering what Kevin Poulin may have thought about the Evgeni Nabokov claim, the 20 year old let his play do the talking Tuesday night against the Penguins.

Poulin looked sharp all game, particularly early on. That was a big plus considering he has had slow starts every time he has been in a game as a starter. A lot of debate has been going on about Poulin the last couple of days, with many wanting him to go back to the AHL to get the playing and development time he needs. That was the number one motive behind the Nabokov claim.

With Nabokov refusing to report and Nathan Lawson out a week or two with a knee injury, Poulin will get some extra chances to prove that his time is now. Tuesday he certainly made a statement as he had what I would have to day was his most solid effort.

The rest of the Islanders weren't to shabby either, but unfortunately their effort wasn't enough to topple the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin-less Pens.

It took all of 49 minutes for the Penguins to finally solve Poulin as Craig Adams would put a rebound past Poulin.

For the Isles, it was their 10th straight loss to the Penguins on the road.

Unfortunately, we had yet another game with some pretty poor officiating on both sides of the puck. Some could say that they were letting the boys play, and it certainly appeared like it at times. However, the few calls that were made were very questionable. Fortunately, it didn't seem to cost anyone.

In all honesty, aside from Poulin there was no one in particular who really stood out to me. Michael Grabner played pretty well and made some nice plays there, but it's the stuff he's been doing for the last month or so. It's great to see him keep that up and get the puck towards the net any way that he can.

The defense looks shaky at times. I'm a big fan of Travis Hamonic, but lately he has looked a bit weak to me. He had a nice fight 26 seconds into the game with Tyler Kennedy. But defensively, you can tell that he is very young. He'll get there though.

Overall, the team has a hard time shooting off of a pass. I notice quite frequently that the Islanders will pass the puck around at the point, and they will hesitate to shoot. Despite the fact that it wasn't very accurate, this is one thing I miss that James Wisniewski provided. He had his fare share of hesitations, but sometimes was not afraid to just rip a hard slap shot. A lot of the guys are hesitant to do that, and often have weak attempts or just have the shots easily blocked as they allow the defense to get set for the shot. The urgency is something that they need to continue to work on.

The Islanders return home for a Wednesday night match-up with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes have been playing some decent hockey of late, and have been one of those up and down bubble teams looking for a playoff birth. They are 9th right now, just one point behind the Atlanta Thrashers. I'm looking forward to seeing them live as I will be in the press box for the game (weather permitting).

NABOKOV SUSPENDED: As expected, the Islanders suspended Nabokov after failing to report on the 2nd flight that the team set-up for him this weekend. It appears that he will not have a change of heart. So, as I mentioned earlier, Poulin has the chance for the time being to prove that he is capable of playing in the NHL.

In the end, the Isles made the right move here with Nabokov. I was on the fence about whether or not it was worth it, but the guy left his team in the KHL and expected to fly through waivers unclaimed. The Isles need a goalie.

I will be a little annoyed if the next few weeks come and go and the Isles don't attempt to add another goalie, because essentially what this whole fiasco tells us is that they are admitting that they jumped the gun on dealing Dwayne Roloson and that they still need another solid option for the remainder of this year and possibly next season.

Either way, it remains to be seen how long this saga will go on. With sources claiming the Isles are likely to "toll" the contract into next season, the Isles have all the leverage here. The All-Star break will begin after tonight's game, but it appears as though there will be no more calls from Garth Snow based on his comments from last night. Any change of heart will have to come from Nabokov and his agent.

The moral of this story? Don't think you can't find greener pastures in the KHL, have a poor showing, and expect to be able to easily just join a contender because it's convenient for you, and don't say you will report wherever you are claimed because you want "visibility for next season" and then refuse to report to the team that claimed you. While the league and the NHLPA are looking at the situation, something tells me the NHL is in support of the Isles because this sends a message to those who are willing to turn down decent offers from contenders in order to sign contracts in the KHL and expect to re-appear.



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