While playing a team clawing for a wildcard position in the playoffs with less than three weeks before they begin is a prospect to be feared, never underestimate the power of a team with nothing left to play for but pride. Pride often turns out to become the most powerful motivation of all.
After an embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on home ice Tuesday night, the New York Islanders took on the Columbus Blue Jackets proving that not all wins come while a team is in search of the Stanley Cup.
Although the Islanders’ hopes for the playoffs are over for good this season, the team took a defining 2-0 victory over the Blue Jackets while goalie Evgeni Nabokov held on for a 41 save shutout.
What makes the shutout for Nabokov on Sunday afternoon even more impressive is Columbus’ current position in the standings. For the second year in a row, the team is on the cusp of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and due to their current predicament, it’s of no surprise that the Blue Jackets are a force to be reckoned with these days on the ice.
Columbus brings in an offensively-charged battalion backed up by one of the greatest goaltenders in the NHL, Sergei Bobrovsky, night in and night out. In addition, the Blue Jackets have found a new depth to their lines that certainly wasn’t a factor earlier in the year. It’s a depth that by no means matches that of the St. Louis Blues or Chicago Blackhawks, but as the Blue Jackets battle for the playoffs, their scoring is finally coming from all angles.
Statistical knowledge might have handed Columbus the victory before it happened today, but it wouldn’t have factored in what New York has left to fight for this season — the logo on the front of their sweaters. And as the Islanders finish out a somewhat disappointing year, they might prove in the greatest of ways what it is to play for love of the game.