“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the New York Islanders we pick… Evgeni Nabokov.
Many people didn’t pay attention to how Nabokov played during the Islanders’ run into and during the playoffs mainly thanks to the extreme poor play of Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury. That’s probably a good thing for the 38-year-old Kazakhstan native because he was as bad, if not worse, than Fleury.
Now that the Islanders have a taste of what the playoffs are like and have a rising superstar in John Tavares to lead the way, it’s on Nabokov’s shoulders to make sure they get to return to the postseason. Fortunately for them, doing his job in the regular season hasn’t been an issue.
The past two seasons with the Islanders, he’s been steady. He hasn’t been a world-beater in goal but he’s done well enough to lock down the job. Last season saw him put up numbers similar to what he had in his final seasons with San Jose. If you’re trying to predict when his game is going to slip away, good luck.
In the postseason, however, it’s always been a different story and last year’s run with the Isles saw him have his worst playoff output in his career. That’s worrisome, but they’re fortunate he puts this stuff behind him quickly.
The Isles have enough talent up front and their defense should be a little better, but it’s up to Nabokov to be strong as they don’t have much help backing him up. If he falters at all, the Islanders will have it tough in the Metropolitan Division.
With teams like the Penguins, Rangers, Flyers, Devils, and Blue Jackets pushing for the postseason, they can’t afford to see him have an off year.
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.