Two years ago, Evgeni Nabokov did not want to join the New York Islanders when he was claimed off waivers after a failed attempt to sign with the Detroit Red Wings. In 2013, he is happy enough on Long Island to be discussing an extension, and has his Islanders team heading for a playoff berth. With only 12 games left to play, the Islanders have the same number of points as the New York Rangers but currently sit ninth because the Rangers have a game in hand.
The Islanders have an 11-5-2 record on the road this season, and have been have been fortunate to go 3-0 in shootouts to gain extra points in the standings. Nabokov has had an up-and-down season but continues to show that when he brings his best game he can stand tall against many of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The veteran netminder is 17-11-3 while sporting a 2.72 goals-against average and also has three shutouts. Backups Rick DiPietro (now in AHL) and Kevin Poulin are a combine 0-5-0.
John Tavares leads an offense that ranks in the league’s top ten in goals scored, and a trip to the playoffs would be the first of his career. He continues to show he is one of the league’s best forwards, and has 22 goals and 37 points this season. While Nabokov and Tavares will get a lot of credit if the Islanders do make the playoffs, the team should also be thankful for its depth and steady contribution from its role players. The ability of this team to be a contender when getting contributions from everyone was incredibly evident in a Monday win over the New Jersey Devils. Tavares had a power play goal, but the Islanders also got goals from Josh Bailey and defenseman Travis Hamonic, as well as two assists from Frans Nielsen.