February 8, 2012

No-no for Nabby

The Islanders knew they were missing their best defenseman in Travis Hamonic as they got ready to take on the Philadelphia Flyers. A team that already towered over them seemed to get even bigger when Hamonic was replaced by Aaron Ness.

Prior to the game, Andrew MacDonald spoke about needing to "step up" in the absence of Hamonic as far as defense and hitting was concerned. Unfortunately, the Islanders didn't do a great job of that. But that was fine, because their last line of defense stepped up big time.

Evgeni Nabokov looked vintage. He was quick and gobbled up everything that came his way. He gave the Flyers nothing to shoot at, and didn't even need any help from the pipes behind him. In total, he fended off 45 shots - 47 if you count the shootout.

On the other end, the Islanders only managed to take 18 shots, leaving it all up to Nabokov. The Islanders were fortunate that he was as flawless as they come.

Perhaps it was due to bad ice as the Philadelphia 76ers had played the previous night, but there were a number of chances for both teams that were seemingly ruined. The puck stuck to it a lot more than normal, and caused some bad turnovers.

The Islanders didn't test Ilya Bryzgalov nearly enough, and when Dylan Reese got hurt in the second period they seemed very content in dumping the puck deep and changing lines constantly to keep everyone fresh. I can't say I blame them for that either with the way the game was turning.

Nabokov needed to be and was absolutely huge in the third, where the Islanders were out-shot 16-3.

Ness actually looked pretty good in his debut. Nerves were definitely there, but he did some of what he does best and made some nice passes and blocked a few shots. His biggest asset is his speed, and he usually uses that to keep up with opposing forwards, shadow them and throw them off their game rather than checking them. But I thought the couple of tests he had were handled well.

Mark Streit fell victim to the bad ice a few times, and when it came time to make decisions with the puck appeared to move in slow motion. However, he did make some really nice defensive plays, including one late in the third on Jaromir Jagr. Streit finished the game with five blocked shots.

Offensively the Isles had a hard time getting anything going all night, despite some good chances. It was ultimately what caused them to shift their game plan and play for the extra frame. Given the way Bryzgalov has played all year and the way Nabokov has played for the past month, it was probably the best chance to take in order to grab two points. I think at this point, many players would love the chance to go 1-on-1 against Bryzgalov in a shootout. Frans Nielsen and John Tavares definitely liked the idea.

For the Islanders, it was indeed a perfect strategy for a game that was anything but.

All except for Evgeni Nabokov.

More to come later on the Frans Nielsen extension.



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