Evgeni Nabokov is set to appear in his first game as a New York Islander when the Rangers travel down the Long Island Railroad tonight. Nabokov was a healthy scratch in the Islanders’ first two games of the season, but was given the back-up nod on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With Isles head coach Jack Capuano giving Al Montoya a night off and Rick DiPietro out (shocker) with an early season concussion, Nabokov will get a chance to show his stuff with new team.
The regular season start is the final step in a crazy path Nabokov has taken over the last 17 months. As part of the San Jose organization, he helped lead the Sharks to the Western Conference finals in 2009-10; only to fall to the eventual Stanley Cup champs in Chicago. After the season, the Sharks chose to go in a different (cheaper) direction and the Russian netminder couldn’t find any takers for his contract demands. He ended up signing a $6 million (per season) contract with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL—only to leave after only 22 games due to “family circumstances.”
He signed with the Detroit Red Wings to serve as a backup insurance policy for Jimmy Howard. The only catch was that he had to clear re-entry waivers upon returning to the NHL. The struggling Islanders took the opportunity to claim the well-established Nabokov which threw a wrench into everyone’s plans. Nabokov wasn’t coming back to North America to play with just anyone (for $570,000)—he was coming back to play with the Red Wings. He decided that he’d rather sit out of the NHL than play for the Islanders—which means his one-year contract that he signed last season is applied to this season. Long story short, he’s Islanders property this season.
Got all that?
The best case scenario for all parties involved is for Nabokov to perform well to increase his trade value. When DiPietro is healthy (don’t laugh), the Islanders have three NHL goaltenders and only roster space for two. No one will take DiPietro’s contract that expires next decade and Montoya is starting to separate himself as the #1 option. If Nabokov can provide strong backup minutes over the first half of the season, he’d be an ideal candidate to be moved at the trade deadline to a contender that’s looking for goaltending depth. The Islanders did the exact same thing last year when they traded veteran Dwayne Roloson to the Lightning in a mid-season deal.
The first step in the plan is for Nabokov to play well tonight against the rival Rangers.
You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.
Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.
“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?
Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.
Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.
It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.
Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.
On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?
It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?
* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.
It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.
His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:
These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”
Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.