The New York Islanders have managed to take at least a point from each of their first three games of the 2013-14 season, and the play of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is a big reason why. On Tuesday night, Nabokov turned aside 33 of the 34 shots he faced as the Islanders rolled to a 6-1 win over Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes. Where Nabokov excelled, Smith struggled and was pulled after allowing five goals. Islanders first-year captain John Tavares had two goals, while rookie Matt Donovan notched the first of his career. Nabokov has played all three games for the Islanders this season, and now has a pair of wins and one shootout loss.
The Islanders counted on Nabokov to be a workhorse last season, calling on the veteran netminder in 41 of their 48 games. They will likely do the same again this season, and he looks ready to try and lead the team back to the playoffs. A potent offense and a power play that connected twice on Tuesday have helped things, but the Russian goaltender has stood tall in each of his starts. Many thought Nabokov’s time on Long Island would come to a close after last season, but he chose to stick around and sign a one-year deal for $3.25 million. When the Islanders claimed him off waivers in 2011, Nabokov originally didn’t even want to report, but now he has been part of helping the Islanders franchise returning to prominence and deserves as much credit for that turnaround as Tavares and the rest of the offense.