Up until Thursday night’s game five, the New York Islanders had shown they were capable of hanging with the Pittsburgh Penguins and giving the Eastern Conference’s top seed a tough first-round playoff series. Then, they suffered their second-worst loss of the series as goaltender Evgeni Nabokov allowed four goals on 31 shots and the team’s offense went cold. For all the good things the Islanders have done in this series, the goaltending of Nabokov continues to hold them back and negate their attempts at moving forward.
Nabokov’s stats in the series so far are downright horrible, as a goals-against average of 4.86 and a save percentage of .847 provide an accurate representation of how little he has done for his team. The two wins he has managed came more from an offensive outburst from his teammates than his own play, as he allowed a combined seven goals in those two games. His ability to rise to the occasion was one of the biggest questions facing the Islanders heading into the postseason, and so far he has done nothing to ease their fears.
In 85 playoff appearances (most as a member of the San Jose Sharks), Nabokov has a 42-41 record, with a 2.41 goals-against average and seven shutouts. The Islanders are now facing a must-win game on Saturday to keep their season alive, and they need Nabokov to turn in one of his best performances of the season. The Penguins will counter with Tomas Vokoun, who was in net for the shutout win on Thursday. If he once again proves better than Nabokov, the Islanders will see their promising season come to an end, but know where to look to start addressing their shortcomings in the offseason.