The New York Islanders had waited a long time to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but in their series-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins they looked like a team that didn’t belong. The Islanders lost in regulation for just the second time in a month, and had a hard time getting through the Penguins’ defense to get shots on Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins had clearly done their homework, and figured out to shut down Islanders scoring star John Tavares, and it is now up to the Islanders to watch some tape and try to figure a way to get back into this series.
Tavares was held without a shot all night, as the Penguins did a great job of keeping Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray busy hounding him. The Islanders were able to win games this season by outscoring opponents, but on Wednesday they could not capitalize on any of their 26 shots or four power play chances.
Goaltending was a major concern for the Islanders heading into the playoffs as well, and starter Evgeni Nabokov did little to inspire confidence. The veteran netminder gave up four goals in the first 22 minutes of the game, and was eventually pulled in favor of backup Kevin Poulin. The Islanders rode Nabokov hard all season, and while coach Jack Capuano said it was too early to talk about who would start game two there is little question who it will be. Poulin played in just five games this season after trading places with Rick DiPietro, and won just one game. He may be inexperienced enough that he won’t get caught up in the moment, but he didn’t look great in relief on Wednesday and Nabokov still gives the Islanders their best chance to pull even on Friday.
Whoever ends up in net, there is little question that they need help from the rest of the team. If the Islanders aren’t scoring, they won’t be winning this series. While Nabokov looked rough in game one, some of the goals were not his fault and he can hopefully bounce back and get the Islanders a few wins.