With the 2013-14 season set to begin tomorrow night for the New York Islanders, there are a few things to look at. Sure the Islanders are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference and around the NHL. They have the talent to roll four lines, all while playing the same up-tempo style of hockey from every single line. Scoring goals doesn’t look, on paper at least, like it’s going to be a problem. What scares me, as an Islanders fan, is the goaltending.
Think about this. Evgeni Nabokov was brought back for another season in net on Long Island, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He was a big reason for the Islanders getting into the playoffs, but once the playoffs started, Nabokov looked a little below average. Sure he has the talent to be a No. 1 netminder, but you need your top goalie to make the big saves at the right time during both the regular season and the playoffs. Nabokov didn’t do that during the playoffs.
Plus you have to factor in his age. Nabokov is 38 years old and won’t be able to play more than about 65 games a year. Nabokov is getting older. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s part of life to get old. Some goalies have done really well at an older age, so there is still a chance Nabokov can perform well. What I want to know is how set are the Islanders behind Nabokov.
Right now it’s going to be Kevin Poulin to handle the duties in net when Nabokov needs a night off. Now there’s nothing wrong with Poulin, he is a very good netminder, but he’s played only 21 games spread out over the course of three seasons. If he can play well in the roughly 20-25 games he starts, then I will change my tune. But for right now I’m a tad nervous about it. With that little experience, there’s no way to really gauge how well Poulin could do this season.
The other big puzzle to solve here is what are General Manager Garth Snow and Head Coach Jack Capuano going to do if Nabokov gets injured this year? I hope that doesn’t happen, but if somehow it does, they are going to have to go with two unknowns in net with Poulin and Andres Nilsson. If that happens, don’t be surprised if Snow finally tries to make a move and acquire another goalie.
I would have wanted Snow to try and spend a little money to get another solid netminder to tandem with Nabokov. I have no idea what kept Snow from going out and doing that over the offseason. It would have been nice to see another solid goalie, but right now it is what it is. Don’t be surprised, though, if at some point this year, Snow tries to make a move to get another goalie.
However things play out during the course of the season, if the Islanders are to be a playoff bound team for the second year in a row, the team’s goaltending is going to be what makes or breaks the success.